Notes On The News
by Gwydion M Williams
Snippets: Varieties of Corruption, Afghan elections, Kosovo war crimes, Surrogate Mothers, How to Raise Orphans, Hitler’s Tories, Expensive Medicines in the USA, A Jewish Refuge in Australia, Archbishop Oscar Romero, Riots in Ferguson, Missouri
Suppose people were offering you some wonderful cure-all medicine. You ask what happened to previous patients? Some are dead, and others are much worse than they were before they were given a dose of this wonderful cure-all. But the cure-all crowd have excellent explanations for all this, and show an admirable stoicism in the face of other people’s suffering.
Western politicians, and the USA in particular, have totally botched the very powerful position they had when the Soviet Union collapsed. They were callous and irresponsible in the 1991 Gulf War. Callous and irresponsible after the 1989 Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, when they should have recognised that Najibullah’s government was as good as they were going to get. Callous and irresponsible in the 2001 invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, when they refused a Taliban offer to let them present evidence under Taliban rules that al-Qaeda had indeed organised the destruction of the Two Towers. Callous and irresponsible in the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq. Repeatedly foolish in not telling Israel that it has to create a Palestinian State acceptable to Arab opinion in order to have any chance of long-term survival.
The USA and Britain sold the 2003 invasion of Iraq on the basis of a blatant lie and a foolish misunderstanding. The lie was the “weapons of mass destruction”. The misunderstanding was the belief that a better Iraq could be built on the basis of New Right wisdom.
The USA in the past had some success at nation-building, before they acquired New Right wisdom. The people who turned Japan, Italy and West Germany into reliable allies after World War Two knew what they were doing. They would never have done anything as crazy as disbanding the Iraqi Army, or letting the wonderful heritage of Iraq’s museums be looted.
War is not a large collection of individual fights, any more than an orchestra is a random heap of individual players. Individual actions must be coordinated if an army is to win. It takes a long time to create the correct culture, in which people forget who they used to be and become part of a military machine. It’s nasty, certainly, but then so is war in general. Without such a collection of odd attitudes, what you have is just the appearance of an army. Something that will collapse into a mass of armed individuals intent on their own survival as soon as the going gets tough. The collapse of the new Iraqi Army in the face of ISIS forces was exactly that.
In most of Middle Europe, there were solid memories of politics before Leninist rule, and a lot of reliance on the values of Old Europe. A silly “New Europe” flourished briefly but is now mostly extinct. In Russia, New Right values had their chance and messed up. Putin stopped the rot and prevented a probable return to power by the Russian Communist Party. But the New Right learn nothing and bitch about everything. Given a sensible offer, Putin might be their friend. They prefer to defend their own wisdom and make him their foe.
In Iraq, there was no solid tradition to fall back on, apart from two mutually hostile versions of Islam among Arabs and tribal values among Kurds. Of course it is a mess. Elementary facts are:
- a) A government cannot modernise its people if it is visibly a lackey of the West. It needs to have plausible credentials that it actually is looking after its own people and forcing compromises on whatever foreign interests may be allowed.
- b) Modernisation is never mild, tolerant or polite. It was not in Britain or the USA, or anywhere else in Europe. In Britain, it was done many decades before the society became even loosely democratic.
- c) Competitive electoral politics will normally widen the gap between existing communities. It will often create war where previously there was peace, tolerance and intermingling. The general pattern in Iraq since the invasion has been for politicians to think ‘don’t fix it, blame someone else’. Trying to get something done means you can be blamed if it fails. Criticising means you can pick up more discontented voters, or at least keep those you have.
Complaining about particular Shia politicians is irrelevant. The boot on the other foot is almost certain to kick with the same brutality. The new leaders are also pretty useless at organising anything,[A] with a lack of military helicopters particularly notable. The USA “accidentally” allowed Saddam to go on using helicopters after the 1991 Gulf War, so he was easily able to put down rebellions by people who responded to Bush Senior’s call for rebellion. Those were Religious Shia: Bush Senior wanted a rebellion by people content to be docile lackeys of the USA, and was presumably puzzled that this failed to happen. Just the sort of “insight” he might have learned as Director of the CIA! (There are people within the CIA who know what they are doing, but the New Right has mostly suppressed them and sometimes persecuted them. The dominant idea is that truth is whatever the boss-man wants it to be.)
A quick reality-check on the current crisis in Palestine:
- a) Three Israeli teenagers are kidnapped and murdered in the West Bank.
- b) Israel blames the Hamas government of the West Bank, ignoring evidence that it might be someone harder-line, possibly supporters of the self-styled Caliphate (formerly ISIS).
- c) Rockets are fired from Gaza – probably by someone harder-line than Hamas.[B]
- d) Israel inflicts disproportionate punishment on Gaza as a whole.
- e) Any suggestions that this is unfair gets denounced as anti-Semitism. Even when it comes from people who had previously been quite favourable to Jews and/or Israel.
Does this sum it up correctly?
It seems a repeat of the earlier cycle, when Israel undermined the authority of Arafat and the PLO because they failed to control their own hard-liners. This helped the rise of Hamas, who however became more moderate when they became a government with something to lose.
What’s really puzzling is what Israel and the USA think they can achieve. The idea of a new sort of Arab government friendly to the West was a major factor behind the invasion of Iraq. It has been a pathetic failure. Exactly the same thing was tried in the Arab Spring and visibly failed (with some ambiguity in Tunisia, which however was never active against Israel).
The most plausible explanation is that they think they can create continuous chaos and then thrive in it. This is a ludicrous misreading of politics – chaos in a society almost always produces in the end a highly authoritarian movement with a strong ideology hostile to the outside world.
I suppose a failure to realise this would be consistent with the gross misunderstandings of politics that became fashionable when large elements of 1960s radicalism were absorbed into existing power structures in the West. They see the emergence of highly authoritarian movements as pure evil that happens for no reason at all. Their preferred script – head-on confrontation with all manifestations of ‘evil’ – might have come from visions of Armageddon. And quite possibly did.
And it is highly likely to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Within Israel, there is also an understandable ambition to re-Judaise places with strong historic meaning to Jews via their scriptures. This would amount to most of the West Bank, and contradicts the idea of a viable Palestinian state. Of course Israel can’t be overtly against the land-for-peace deal they have signed up to. But if they were serious, they would have done what they could to build up the various Palestinian authorities rather than undermining them. Instead every action by hard-liners is blamed on those authorities.
They are not reading the right lessons from the growth of Islamic extremism. It is used as another excuse for a hard line, rather than a trend that will be fatal for Israel unless they compromise now with whatever regimes are there.
“In a 1938 speech, ‘Our Debt to Zionism’, he said: ‘I should much rather see reasonable agreement with the Arabs on the basis of living together in peace than the creation of a Jewish state. My awareness of the essential nature of Judaism resists the idea of a Jewish state with borders, an army, and a measure of temporal power, no matter how modest. I am afraid of the inner damage Judaism will sustain—especially from the development of a narrow nationalism within our own ranks, against which we have already had to fight strongly, even without a Jewish state. … If external necessity should after all compel us to assume this burden, let us bear it with tact and patience.”[C]
In 1948 he went further, noting that fascist ideas had become part of the Zionist mix. Mussolini’s fascism was widely admired throughout the world, including the USA and the UK. Churchill, though hostile to Hitler from very early on, was an enthusiast for Mussolini in the 1920s. Italian Jews were found both among the Fascists and anti-Fascists, and there was nothing inherently anti-Jewish in fascism until Hitler became dominant. George Orwell remarks in one of his letters that Sir Oswald Mosley had a bodyguard of Jewish boxers early on, before his movement became mindlessly anti-Jewish. (It could be argued that Fascism failed because it became mindlessly anti-Jewish, losing useful friends and making huge numbers of influential enemies.)
What’s remarkable is not just what Einstein said, but also how today’s Israelis are resistant to his message. Consider this from The Jerusalem Post:
“Einstein believed Palestine should be a model Jewish settlement focusing on social justice, yet he refused to work at Hebrew University, remarking he had a ‘negative attitude’ of the institution in 1933. He disliked the Revisionist Zionists, who he claimed in 1935 ‘lead youth astray with phrases borrowed from our worst enemies.’
“Had he stopped there, one could argue he was simply a slightly naïve scientist casting himself as a political activist. But on December 4, 1948, he signed his name to a letter in The New York Times that should tarnish his reputation.
“‘Among the most disturbing political phenomena of our times,’ read the letter, ‘is the emergence in the newly created state of Israel of the ‘Freedom Party’ (Tnuat Haherut), a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties.’ He and his fellow signatories were referring to Menachem Begin’s Herut party. The letter used the word ‘fascist’ nine times in several paragraphs. Einstein accused Begin of supporting the ‘doctrine of the fascist state’ and running a ‘terrorist party.’
“The letter continued: ‘The people of the Freedom Party have had no part in the constructive achievements in Palestine. They have reclaimed no land, built no settlements, and only detracted from the Jewish defense activity. Their much-publicized immigration endeavours were minute, and devoted mainly to bringing in Fascist compatriots.'”[D]
Begin was Prime Minister from 1977 to 1983. He did make peace with Egypt, giving up the Sinai Peninsula, which in Jewish tradition was part of the wilderness they wandered before getting the Promised Land. But he also began the failed policy of intervening in Lebanon, which has created some dangerous enemies, notably Hezbollah. And like most other leaders, he encouraged settlement in the West Bank, making a stable peace unlikely.
Sowing the wind. The whirlwind is likely to be nuclear, and with people on the Arab side from whom nuclear weapons are a good opportunity for mass martyrdom.
After the death of the Prophet Muhammad, political power passed to a series of successors called Caliph. And did so very messily, with several assassinations and the beginning of the Sunni / Shia split. Still, most Sunni recognise a continuous line of Caliphs that included the later Ottoman Emperors. When the last of these was deposed by Ataturk in 1924, the creation of a new caliphate was considered but never agreed on. The British-supported Sharif of Mecca claimed the title in 1924 but got little support and was driven into exile by the Saudi dynasty. After his death in 1931 there were no more serious claimants.
ISIS, the Sunni insurgent movement in Syria and Iraq, expanded its claims to declare itself the Islamic State and its leader as Caliph after its spectacular victories over a demoralised Iraqi army, a mostly-Shia force in a mostly-Sunni area. Many Muslims, some of them radical Islamists, support the general idea of a restored Caliphate that might in principle constitute a single state for all Muslims. But the right of ISIS to do this is another matter: it is still a relatively small movement. It is insignificant outside of Syria and Iraq, with possibly an extension into Lebanon, where Sunni Muslims as a whole are less than 30% of the population. It could not be viewed as a valid Caliphate in Sunni Muslim terms unless it could get a lot more support of the estimated thousand million Sunni Muslims throughout the world.
Which makes it odd that the BBC and other Western media are referring to the former ISIS as the “Islamic State” and Caliphate, as if these claims were solid. “Self-Styled” would be the normal language to use for governments or religious leaders whose status is strongly disputed by those they claim authority over.
It also gives the movement legitimacy in the eyes of the mass of disaffected Muslim youth, both in the Middle East and in Western countries. You give people a hell on earth, one likely result is a lot of religious extremism. And today’s youths of all creeds and colours no longer have the same chance of decent, respected and well-paid work that the West managed to provide from the 1950s to 1970s.
In the West, it is not so much a failure to be assimilated. Many people have noted that the Radical Islamists can assimilate as much of the West as they find useful. In many ways they have exactly the same aggressive gun-flaunting culture that’s become so popular, only with themselves as heroes in an Islamic cause, since the West treats them as marginal.
It doesn’t help that Western policies have repeatedly favoured Israel at the expense of Arab and Muslim interests. Or that any Muslim who had the idea of expressing their natural adventurousness in a Western army would soon find that they were really not wanted. The dominant attitude of “there ain’t no black in the Union Jack” was noted long before the current troubles started.
Muslims in Britain have absorbed British values, but with themselves as heroes rather than marginalised. All wholly avoidable, but only if New Right ideas had been junked.
Ukraine in its current form was invented by the Bolsheviks in 1922. It lumped together people who had been part of the Tsarist Empire with others who had been ruled by Austria-Hungary. And after 1945, further territory of a broadly Ukrainian nature were taken from Poland, Czechoslovakia and Romania.
A territory known in Tsarist times as New Russia was included, despite being a mix of Russian speakers and Ukrainian speakers that might have been more logically made into a separate Union Republic, or just included in Russia. It did serve to increase the pro-Soviet elements in the new Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.
In 1954, Khrushchev decided for trivial reasons to add Crimea, hitherto included with Russia.
The Orange Revolution, taking its cue from the USA, successfully polarised Ukraine between West and East, and gained enough of the mixed population to make a credible claim to have won. It then made a total mess of ruling, meaning that the mixed population surged back and Yanukovych returned to power in 2010.
In 2013, Yanukovych rejected a very bad deal offered by the European Union. One which would have destroyed the industry of East Ukraine. This led to protests by a new movement, including the failed forces of the Orange Revolution, but also some outright fascists, Svoboda and Right Sector. Yanukovych unwisely tried a compromise back in February, which was used as a pretext for a complete take-over by his enemies. This could be called the Blood Orange Revolution.
Crimea had already been considering secession. This tipped the balance. The vote was irregular, but Kiev showed no interest in a proper referendum to settle the matter, of the sort that is happening soon in Scotland. They denied that there was any right of secession, but Russia moved in and annexed the territory regardless.
There were similar but weaker sentiments in parts of East Ukraine. Russia chose to encourage those sentiments, which was irresponsible. Putin got authorisation to invade, which he later got cancelled. This led on to the fragmentary secessions that are currently being slowly crushed by the Kiev government.
The West won the propaganda war, convincing people that a move to help people who preferred Russia to a semi-fascist regime in Kiev was actually the start of a return to Russia to the lands it gave up in 1989-91. They seem now reconciled to staying out of it and letting East Ukraine be crushed. They were probably pressurised by China to do this, since China values stability and respect for existing borders. If you watch China’s English-language channel, it has never been at all sympathetic to the rebels.
The aid convoy must reflect genuine concern for the mostly-Russian population of the seceding areas, who are being bombed and shelled without much concern for their safety.[E] Kiev might be glad to get rid of as many as possible, while Russia would want to help them where they are. Still, it plays well in Russia and with those sympathetic to them.
The European Union had been pushed into sanctions, quite possibly causing the setback in German economic growth for the latest quarter.[F] The USA has less trade and is hurt less. It has done nothing about cooperation in space, where it will be dependent on Russian vehicles until the promised private-enterprise US rockets come through.
Russia retaliated with a ban on imports of food, which it can get from elsewhere. If the European Union will not be friendly, it is best to reduce links and go somewhere safer.
Meantime there has been a “deafening silence” in recent weeks over the Malaysian airliner that was shot down. The USA initially blamed the separatists, but has notably failed to come through with detailed evidence. There are good grounds for suspicion.[G]
And the Kiev government is in trouble over the deal they signed with the European Union. This is likely to get worse. Good little lackeys get patted on the head, but then find that their wallets have mysteriously vanished.
Ever since they elected Ronald Reagan, the “great middle class” of the USA has been voting itself into oblivion. Their “idyllic” suburbs are now in decline.[H]
The Mixed Economy as it existed from the 1940s had done very well for those people. A lot of people who’d rate themselves working class in Britain felt they belonged to it and maybe did. But they had also never lost their suspicion of the government. The big cultural changes of the 1960s and 1970s included a lot of blame for the government for not fixing everything at once.
Anarchists protest at everything and liberate nothing. The most significant thing they can achieve is to create social voids that are reliably filled by people much more authoritarian than those the original protest was made against. There was a lot of anarchism in the broad Hippy movement, and it transmuted easily enough into Libertarianism. The New Right found an opening in the mix of cynicism and anti-state feelings that dominated 1960s radicalism.
Hippy sympathisers did at least see the collapse of the conventional morality they had been protesting at. Mainly because the New Right used the votes of the respectable or conservative middle class to undermine the basis for its existence.
Pure capitalism was promised. Pure capitalism has never actually existed. It was nearest to being achieved in Britain and the USA in the 1920s, which led on to the Wall Street Crash and then the Great Depression.
From the 1940s to 1970s, the West was committed to the Mixed Economy, capitalism permitted it but with the state required to regulate it and to replace it where it seemed to be failing. This was also the system for Japan and the “Tiger Economies” of East Asia.
From the 1980s, pure capitalism has been the official ideal in Britain and the USA and much more popular in Western Europe. But the reality has remained a Mixed Economy. This even extended to the state underwriting the gambling debts of the rich during and after the crisis of 2008.
The Thatcher / Reagan policies of the 1980s did not in fact boost GDP growth above the levels achieved in the “disastrous” 1970s. They were way below the 1950s and 1960s, the prime years of the Mixed Economy. And since the 1980s there has been a decline, even before the disastrous crisis of 2008, which has seen a virtual standstill in Western growth.
Meantime China moved cautiously from a highly state-run system to their own form of Mixed Economy, one that is vastly more state-dominated than the West ever had at the height of enthusiasm for the Mixed Economy.
Russia was persuaded to try pure capitalism, but this actually caused a sharp economic decline and a great loss of productive industry. Putin stopped the rot, but they are still heavily dependent on the export of raw materials.
“Taxpayers may have lost out on about £1bn from the undervaluing of Royal Mail, a committee of MPs has said.
“The government feared failure and acted on bad advice over the Royal Mail stock market flotation, reports the Business, Innovation and Skills select committee.
“The Department for Business said the MPs’ report contained “factual errors and misunderstandings”.
“Royal Mail shares were priced at 330p, but jumped as high as 618p per share, and now stand at around 473p.”[I]
That’s been very unsuspicious. If the public have lost a million, someone else must have gained it. People similar to those who set up the deal.
And it’s not even as if there have been real benefits, except for the rich. A recent article in The Guardian puts it nicely:
“Privatisation isn’t working. We were promised a shareholding democracy, competition, falling costs and better services. A generation on, most people’s experience has been the opposite. From energy to water, rail to public services, the reality has been private monopolies, perverse subsidies, exorbitant prices, woeful under-investment, profiteering and corporate capture.
“Private cartels run rings round the regulators. Consumers and politicians are bamboozled by commercial secrecy and contractual complexity. Workforces have their pay and conditions slashed. Control of essential services has not only passed to corporate giants based overseas, but those companies are themselves often state-owned – they’re just owned by another state.
“Report after report has shown privatised services to be more expensive and inefficient than their publicly owned counterparts. It’s scarcely surprising that a large majority of the public, who have never supported a single privatisation, neither trust the privateers nor want them running their services.
“But regardless of the evidence, the caravan goes on. David Cameron’s government is now driving privatisation into the heart of education and health, outsourcing the probation service and selling off a chunk of Royal Mail at more than £1bn below its market price, with the government’s own City advisers cashing in their chips in short order.”[J]
Why is there no coherent political opposition to New Right ideas? The “missing link” is to see it as the flip size of the very successful spread of personal and sexual freedoms since the 1960s.
1960s radicalism was brilliant at destroying what existed; much less successful at replacing anything. A widespread fault was to condemn the past for being less than perfect, rather than recognise that there had been substantial achievements.
The general pattern was to believe in an underlying “human nature” that would automatically shine forth if artificial constraints were removed. Of course different people had utterly different ideas about what this underlying human nature actually was.
The most successful were those who believed that “underlying human nature” was greedy, but that enlightened self-interest would put natural limits on it. This allowed them to become fans of the rich and cheer-leaders for business interests.
Aligning oneself with existing powers brings short-term success, obviously. Especially for people cunning enough to present the rich and powerful and oppressed and the poor and weak as aggressive and unjust.
The minor drawback is that none of it is true. People who compare it to fascism are flattering the movement. Fascism had a coherent program that would have produced a coherent world system if it had not been militarily defeated, with the Soviet Union doing the bulk of the fighting and suffering. Fascism was also wise enough to keep money in its place and could appeal to human social feelings, though of a low, degraded and bigoted sort. This lot think money will fix everything, and it is simply not working.
In Britain, and also the USA and Western Europe, the Left failed to do its proper job. Instead it undermined the widespread popular belief that the 1945 Labour Government improved Britain and that the Soviet Union was the main force that stopped Fascism from conquering the world.
Much to their surprise, once most people had been educated in this new wisdom, mainstream Leftism collapsed.
Meantime other radical movements have flourished, most notably the Greens. There should be lots of openings.
“In emerging markets there are two types of corruption, organised and disorganised; and the difference is huge. ‘Japan is a very corrupt society, now and then in Japan big businessmen are caught, literally with suitcases carrying millions of dollars in cash. But the Japanese economy is highly efficient. Why? Because corruption is highly organised; and from a business point of view, in such cases, you can look at it simply as a tax. You ask: Can I afford it?’ and then factor it into your business plan.’
“But unorganised corruption was a killer because of its `unpredictability.’ Giving the example of a company in Bangladesh he said that a particular corporate paid a bribe for getting a licence, as there was no other option, and got it after two weeks. But the next day somebody showed up from the ministry of power supply. When the man said he’s already got the licence, he said: `Sure, but you’re going to use this much of power, and for that you need special permission.’
“‘That’s when you realise what is going on, and that this is disorganised corruption. That’s when you give up! The uncertainty associated with it is killing. In Korea too there is huge corruption, but it is highly efficient and organised. Once you pay the bribe, you know you are done, and that guy will distribute it down the line. You can make a rational business decision and ask can I afford it. Of course you can choose not to do it, but then you don’t have a business. Indonesia today is a high cost economy because corruption is disorganised there.'”[K]
“The mountains trembled – and gave birth to a ridiculous mouse.” That’s an old English saying.
In the case of Afghanistan, the much-vaunted electoral process hasn’t even produced a mouse. Two mediocre politicians squabble over the prize.
The problem arose because of a suspicious reversal of fortunes in the second round of the election. In Round One, Abdullah Abdullah got 45% and his main rival just under 32%. In Round Two, there were more than a million extra votes and his main rival had leapt past him to claim victory. Naturally Abdullah Abdullah objected.
The solution was supposed to be a recheck of the votes. At the time of writing (27th August), Abdullah Abdullah has rejected this as well,[L] when it seemed about to confirm the same suspicious result.
Competitive electoral politics only leads to a successful democracy when the main politicians are broadly honest and prefer compromise to confrontation. Not qualities that Afghans are noted for.
“Leading political figures in Kosovo face indictment by a special EU court for crimes against humanity, including killings, abductions, sexual violence and other abuses of Serb and Roma minorities, according to the chief prosecutor leading a three-year special investigation.
“The threat of indictment comes in a progress report published on Tuesday morning in Brussels by Clint Williamson, an American prosecutor appointed by the EU in 2011 to investigate ethnic cleansing committed in Kosovo since the 1999 Nato intervention brought an end to the conflict there.”[M]
Independent Kosovo was the West’s creation, remember. The official position was that the six Federal Republics of Yugoslavia were sovereign and could secede at will. Also that majority-Serb areas were forbidden to secede in turn. But though Kosovo was not a Federal Republic, it was decided that it somehow gained the right to secede when the Serbian government used standard measures of repression against armed insurgents. It was decided that NATO had somehow acquired both the right and the obligation to intervene. It might seem strange that no one suggested a similar right for the final brutal crushing of the Tamil Tiger secession in Sri Lanka. At least it might if you thought there was any real honesty in what gets called “International Law”. The bottom line is that the Kosovo insurgents were friends of the West and the Tamil Tigers were not.
In the same spirit, the majority-Serb areas in the north of Kosovo were not allowed to stay with Serbia. I’ve never seen a decent explanation as to why.
“Impoverished mother Pattaramon Chanbua told the ABC she gave birth to twins after agreeing to be a surrogate for the West Australian couple with a promised payment of about $16,000.
“She claims the couple, who have not been identified, rejected Gammy and returned to Australia with his healthy sister.
“But the baby girl’s Australian father says the clinic’s doctor only told them about the girl.
“He has told the ABC they had a lot of trouble with the surrogacy agency and had been told it no longer existed.”[N]
One of many bad cases, but they need to be set alongside many others when all has gone OK.
What I’d suggest would be UN licensing for large non-profit-making organisations that are also supervised. Make sure that would-be parents are suitable and that surrogate mothers are not exploited, and that unwanted babies get the best possible care. It would cost money, of course, but let the customers pay.
On the wider matter of child-care, it is tragic that so many children end up in orphanages and are damaged by this unnatural upbringing.
In a book about China, there was mention of an orphanage split into units of one woman and maybe six children. This seemed a good idea, so I asked about it on Quora.[O] It seems it is called the SOS Children Village, founded in 1949 by an Austrian named Hermann Gmeiner.[P] And is rare in China, as in other places, being quite expensive.
I’d have thought it money well spent. Something a decent society ought to be able to afford.
The rise of Trotskyism in Europe coincides very neatly with the general decline of the Left. A left-wing movement will always offend those with the wealth and power, and must rely on clarity and truth for its power. And also be able to taunt the right with its past failures and all of the things it used to defend that are now unacceptable.
The record of the British Conservative party is vulnerable on this. In most of Europe, new parties with a clean anti-Fascist record arose to occupy the centre-right of politics. In Britain it was the same party and mostly the same people.
Trotskyists don’t want to know, obviously. Their line was to stay neutral and plan for revolution. Obviously absurd, particularly since no Trotskyist movement anywhere in the world has ever got beyond the status of being an “armed nuisance”.
Why the rest of the left has failed is less clear. It’s been left to us in the Bevin Society to remind people that Churchill was an enthusiast for Mussolini until Italy actually chose to join in on Hitler’s side. And the public has been led to believe that characters like Chamberlain and Halifax were no worse than weak and peace-loving in the face of the terrifying Nazi beast. Not that they were moderately favourable to European fascism for as long as it seemed to serve the interests of the British Empire.
There is a whole lost heritage needing to be recovered. I remembered a song my parents had told me about, but which seems almost forgotten. After asking on Quora, I got this version:
“In Bucks there is a country house, country house
“Where dwells Lord Astor and his spouse
“And Chamberlain and Halifax
“To manufacture Fascist pacts, fascist pacts.
“Fare thee well the League of Nations
“Hail to “peaceful penetrations”
“And good bye to International law- law- law
“Adieu Democracy, adieu, adieu, adieu
“We have no further use for you, use for you
“We’ll pin our faith to fascism and war
“What is the National Government for – Government for?”[Q]
Apparently based on a traditional folk song called “There is a Tavern in the Town”, itself perhaps derived from a Cornish miner’s song.[R] A matter that someone musical should try taking up.
A lot of goods are cheaper in the USA, but not medicines. It is illegal to import them, and the prices are much higher.
“It’s no surprise that American corporations spend billions of dollars each year on lobbying, trying to gain favorable treatment from legislators. What some may find a bit unnerving is the industry that’s leading the pack in these efforts.
“You might think our nation’s defense and aerospace companies, which have legions of hired guns on Capitol Hill, are the leaders…
“Back in 2006 for example, U.S. consumers paid about 70 percent more than our northern neighbors for prescription drugs still on patent, according to the Canadian board. Five years later, in 2011, that difference had surged to 100 percent. And with drug price inflation in the United States hitting 11 percent in 2011, that gap will undoubtedly grow ever wider in the future.”[S]
A nice example of how Libertarian ideas are ignored when it suits the rich.
I’ve mentioned before that it might have been a good idea if some refuge for displaced Jews had been set up where there weren’t many people, rather than in the midst of the Arab World, with the reasonable expectation of permanent warfare.
I now learn that there was at least one, The Kimberley Scheme for Australia. This would have involved “the purchase of seven million acres in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia as a farming settlement for a potential 50 000 refugees from Nazism”.[T] No one was bothered about displacing the Aboriginal Australians, but the existing white settlers didn’t like the idea of a large block of aliens. Quite likely they didn’t particularly want Jews as such. Whatever, the scheme was definitely rejected in 1944.
For some reason, people expected Arabs to put up with something much more drastic. And still seem puzzled that they do not. Whereas I assume there would still be great trouble creating a refuge for Jews or anyone else in Australia, empty though it mostly is.
“Pope Francis has lifted a ban on the beatification of murdered Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero.
“For years, the Roman Catholic Church blocked the process because of concerns that he had Marxist ideas.
“An outspoken critic of the military regime during El Salvador’s bloody civil war, Archbishop Romero was shot dead while celebrating Mass in 1980.
“Beatification, or declaring a person “blessed”, is the necessary prelude to full sainthood.
“The bishop was one of the main proponents of Liberation Theology – an interpretation of Christian faith through the perspective of the poor.”[U]
At the time of his election, I had wondered if the new pope might have been influenced by Latin America’s Liberation Theology, even though he was strictly speaking no part of it. It looks like it could be happening.
At the time of writing,[V] the riots in Ferguson, Missouri have died down. That’s the normal pattern with riots: the anger gets discharged and people stop seeing any point to it. But the problems have not gone away.
Black people in places like Ferguson know that they have been left behind by the blacks who have managed to ascend into the middle class or the elite. Most of whom have been loyal to their new-found status than their race.
One problem is the fragmentation and local control of police forces in the USA. There may be a lot wrong with British policing, but government control and large regional police forces do maintain some standards. In the USA, police often act like an army of occupation in poorer communities. And almost anywhere, they seem to react violently to any challenge to their authority. Much more drastically if the challenger is black.
And they are defending huge inequalities:
“In the U.S., a child born in the top 20 percent economically has a 2-in-3 chance of staying at or near the top, whereas a child born in the bottom 20 percent has a less than 1-in-20 shot at making it to the top, making the U.S. one of the least upwardly mobile nations in the developed world. Our levels of income inequality rank near countries like Jamaica and Argentina, rather than like countries like Canada and Germany, but American voters, in large, believe America is just doing fine…
“The study measured actual income inequality and upward mobility versus perceived income inequality and upward mobility in a number of countries. The results are conclusive: U.S. voters don’t demand income redistribution, from the rich to the lower economic classes, because they don’t grasp how severe inequality actually is…
“Income inequality is now a problem in just about every developed nation, but America remains an outlier. In the U.S., the top 20 percent earn a whopping 16.7 times what the bottom 20 percent earn, and that gap is ever widening, given 95% of all income gains since 2009 have gone to the richest 1 percent.”[W]
[Q] [http://www.quora.com/Anyone-know-of-of-a-1930s-song-starting-There-is-in-Bucks-a-country-house]. Also apparently at [http://www.gnel.de/acolit/Acolit-Sonderheft3.pdf], but that’s a pay site.
[V] 27th August