2016 11 – Newsnotes

Notes On The News

by Gwydion M Williams

Labour Guilty Even If Found Innocent

“‘Although the committee heard evidence that 75% of anti-Semitic incidents come from far-right sources, and the report states there is no reliable evidence to suggest anti-Semitism is greater in Labour than other parties, much of the report focuses on the Labour Party,’ said Mr Corbyn.”[A]

The Home Affairs Select Committee, with a strong anti-Corbyn majority, must think that the public can be fooled by slurs and vague accusations. Their findings were:

  1. Hostility to Jews is no worse in Labour than in other mainstream parties.
  2. Jeremy Corbyn is to blame for this.

Sadly, past experience suggests that the public may indeed swallow this. Had they just blamed Labour, they could have been easily refuted. The lying campaign of Donald Trump could still win: but British politics is not yet so degraded. The Tories don’t want it to be. UKIP now shows signs of self-destruction: it is possible that there are infiltrators placed first to help Brexit and now to discard UKIP. Regardless, Tory and New Right untruths are subtler. You find someone correctly listing the facts and then reaching an unjustified conclusion. This creature quacks, has feathers and webbed feet: therefore it is a panda!

By contrast, Labour tends to be idealistic. The previous Labour leadership campaign had a final round between two Jewish sons of an immigrant refugee. From the 19th century, the Tories have had an attitude of ‘some Jews – but not too many‘. Disraeli remained Deputy Leader for most of his political career. Michael Howard became Leader of the Opposition only after William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith had proved hopeless. Replacing him with the bland smooth David Cameron must have helped them get re-elected.

Unjustified bias against Jews does exist, and not just because of Israel. But Labour has been the main force against this. Tories are pragmatic: give something to the Jews because they have wealth and power and political talents. Tories have never been keen to tackle prejudice: the votes of the prejudiced mostly go to Tories. It was Labour who viewed Nazi Germany as an enemy right from the start. Labour who first dared give government jobs to people who were openly gay or lesbian. Labour who brought in large numbers of woman to senior posts.

The Tories have had more female leaders. But maybe because they know the advantages of having a woman fronting cold and callous politics.

Labour idealism also means that they recognise that Jews have been largely accepted into the Anglo elite, with more top jobs than if there were ethnic quotas for such jobs. That Israel has a bad case of racism and injustice towards the Palestinians. That the entire Islamic world was offended by the failure of the deal made with Arafat and the PLO. Despite Arafat’s foolishness on many matters, they are right to be offended, even if they then choose unjustified extremism. Israel continues to take Arab lands, and will not let a proper Palestinian state emerge.

Sadly, past experience suggests that the public may indeed swallow this. Had they just blamed Labour, they could have been easily refuted. The lying campaign of Donald Trump could still win: but British politics is not yet so degraded. The Tories don’t want it to be. UKIP now shows signs of self-destruction: it is possible that there are infiltrators placed first to help Brexit and now to discard UKIP. Regardless, Tory and New Right untruths are subtler. You find someone correctly listing the facts and then reaching an unjustified conclusion. This creature quacks, has feathers and webbed feet: therefore it is a panda!

Fear of Labour

Surveys have repeatedly shown that a majority of voters prefer Labour policies to Tory policies:

“Nearly half (45%) of people surveyed by YouGov said they want the government to increase public spending and raise taxes for the wealthiest people – both of which are policies called for by Labour.

“Only 13% supported the current levels of cuts taking place under the Conservative Government, and 22% thought the cuts should continue but be scaled back.

“Yet, when asked directly which party they think has the best policies on spending and taxation, 30% said the Tories while 16% said Labour.”[B]

The media are mostly owned by a more-than-millionaire class that the Tories favour, and whose interests Tony Blair never dared oppose. They try to turn ordinary people against their own interests. When this fails, they pretend that left-wing parties have dangerous radical policies that only their Far Left actually support.

The bulk of the Parliamentary Labour Party played into their hands by panicking when Jeremy Corbyn was elected. He tried to compromise with them. But they let a biased media convince them he was unelectable, even though Labour did quite well in local government elections. Brexit was mostly a right-wing protest; but Brexit’s victory was due to many natural Labour supporters losing faith in Labour. Corbyn felt they needed to be won back by decent politics. His rivals wanted to abase themselves before a media dominated by right-wing owners who are always going to be against them.

“Now the economic mainsprings of neoliberalism are broken, social democracy’s task is to speed the invention of something else… it is ill-equipped for doing that. Most socialist elites and bureaucracies in Europe – including Britain, as the backlash against Jeremy Corbyn shows – are attuned to running a capitalism that does not work, and seem incapable of imagining any other future.”[C]

Labour members revolted against the Labour establishment, because it had failed. Had lost an election that should have been won. Ed Miliband was too timid to denounce as nonsense the Tory claim that the economic crisis was caused by overspending. He should have been saying that it was global and caused by financial deregulation. He should have been saying that the 1980s was socially liberating, but included a massive economic wrong turn. That the Thatcherite obsession with returning to the small-state system of the Victorian Era was a folly, and has also proved phoney. The state machine remains as large as ever: only its benefits to ordinary people have shrunk.

The ‘Coolheart’ era that the New Right dominated did allow a thorough demolition of ‘bourgeois values’ by cynical and ignorant commercial forces. But it did so with an attitude of ‘I just play and I don’t make the rules’. Actually each individual plays a small but definite role in making the rules, or changing them. British social life has always been fluid: how you play makes an enormous difference.

Challenge social evils and they get eroded. Ignore them and they persist.

 

Blair’s Wrong Turn

At the deepest level, Tony Blair was a weak man. He lacked the guts to break from the bad example set by Thatcher. Thatcher had been hailed as vastly successful. He wanted to be as much like her as he could get away with.

But Thatcher actually failed in most of her purposes. She did not regenerate Britain. Her only solid achievement was in creating an Economic Miracle for a greedy more-than-millionaire class. A class that Blair has now joined: but I’ll be generous and believe that he was originally sincere.

Libertarianism did a useful job in undermining social rules that we are now glad to be rid of. That the left generally wanted to be rid of. Libertarians operating within a broader Neo-Liberal framework were brilliantly successful in fooling the traditional right. I’d see Thatcher as honest and fooled. Reagan was shallow, but may have been consciously deceiving.

Blair was ready to be tolerant on racial and sexual matters in a way that Thatcher and Major were not. This meant he had an easy ride, for as long as he cringed on the matter of growing inequality.

You gain nothing by cringing in the face of an enemy. If they choose to be an enemy, then taken the blighters on. Including explaining why their hostility is foolish and based on false beliefs. It is also good to avoid extremes and leave a path open for compromise; but a compromise rather than a surrender.

The more-than-millionaire class were rattled in 1997, when they were visibly failing in their attempts to remake Russia. They should have been repeatedly denounced for it, rather than getting away with calling Putin an unexpected and unexplained evil. I’ve never liked Putin, but Russia’s income per head went down by more than 40 percent between 1989 and 1998,[D] thanks to Western advice. We are lucky not to have something much worse. Something rather worse is what we have in both Poland and Hungary: governments that might well start a world war if they had the sort of strong military that Russia still possesses.

It does not help that the Left has a habit of praising all the losers. Of not accepting that imperfect types of radicalism and socialism had huge achievements. Not recognising that imperfect socialists had gained useful reforms that were by no means certain to happen. Or that an imperfect World Communism was a major force scaring the ruling class into accepting reforms.

It would also help to make the point that the working mainstream (whether labelled working class or middle class) are not as well off as they would have been if Thatcher had been a genuine conservative rather than a demented Neo-Liberal. Even the 9% just below the richest 1% have broken even rather than gained under Neo-Liberalism.

What do the 1% have that this 9% lack? The power to set their own wages! The privileged 9% get two or three times the average wage in return for their talents and hard work, or maybe just luck and social connections. But with certainty, the 1% don’t have talents or hard work superior to this 9%. What they have is power. A power that needs state controls to stop it running wild and wrecking the whole society.

 

China’s Pragmatic Communism

“Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for renewed faith in orthodox Marxism and a revived revolutionary spirit, saying they were crucial for national rejuvenation…

“‘Xi’s enthusiasm to embrace revolutionary myths is an effort to consolidate his power and promote his position as an orthodox successor to inherit the party’s course,’ said David Tsui, an Oxford-educated party historian.

“Tsui said Xi wanted to rally party leaders around him ahead of next year’s crucial power reshuffle.

“The four-day meeting starting on Monday will set the agenda for next year’s 19th party congress, which will see five of the seven members of the innermost Politburo Standing Committee – all except Xi and Premier Li Keqiang – step down after reaching the compulsory retirement age of 68.”[E]

After the death of Mao, Chinese Communists took a look at what the West had achieved. Particularly Japan: in the late 1970s the Japanese economy was larger than the Chinese economy, for the first and last time in history. So they decided to relax – but not to surrender to Neo-Liberal values, as was later disastrously done in Russia.

This didn’t reject their past. Mao’s original ‘New Democracy’ policy had been for a long period of capitalism tolerated by a Marxist party, to modernise a very poor country. He went for more radical measures when the USA refused to recognise People’s China: treated it as an illegal regime for more than two decades, with an invasion always possible. Until Nixon made peace in the early 1970s, it was understandable that Mao would treat everyone with Western connections as a potential traitor. And had good reason to want to abolish anything capitalist, moving to a version of total collectivism way ahead of what orthodox Marxist would have seen as possible.

The Cultural Revolution was a real attempt to empower the people, in the way we are always being told is good. It didn’t work well, but perhaps deserved better than the total rejection that happened under Deng. But Deng also had no reason to discard the wider Marxist and Leninist framework. He did let corruption flourish. But Xi as his heir isn’t breaking with Deng’s legacy in re-emphasising that China is still Marxist:

“Following the Long March, the CPC realized that the fundamental principles of Marxism-Leninism must be combined with the real conditions of China’s revolution, enabling the Party to solve major problems in the revolution independently, and lead the revolutionary cause to victory, Xi said.”…

“During the Long March, the Red Army not only transcended the barriers of ‘thousands of mountains and waters,’ but also climbed over the barriers of the mind, Xi said, referring to overcoming the dogmatic belief that Marxism is immutable.

“The most important message from the Long March is that China must combine the fundamental principles of Marxism with the real conditions of China, and march along the path of revolution, construction and reform as suitable to China’s conditions.”[F]

This includes limiting the role of the market:

“Financial juggernaut China Development Bank is spearheading a government-backed drive by the country’s three policy lenders to stimulate economic growth through stealth.

“The government is deploying the lenders to make low-profile, targeted cash infusions into specific areas, rather than adjusting monetary and fiscal levers in headline-grabbing manoeuvres that affect the whole economy.

“And unlike listed state-owned commercial banks that have to keep an eye on the bottom line and answer to investors and auditors, policy lenders can put their full loan weight behind state or local government goals.

“In theory the three lenders – including the Export-Import Bank of China and the Agricultural Development Bank of China – need to turn a profit to stay in business but in practice they undertake a lot of responsibility for public spending.

“‘The days when Beijing called on the policy banks to become more market-oriented are gone,’ said Guo Tianyong, a banking professor at the Central University of Finance and Economics in Beijing. ‘By shifting quasi-fiscal functions to the banks and allowing the banks to boost leverage, the government can keep its own account book looking healthy.'”[G]

We keep getting told that China is at risk, because its economy includes a lot of debt. But almost all of this is owed by Chinese to other Chinese. Chinese savers get much less than Neo-Liberals would view as a proper return: but the vast majority of Chinese work for a living. Average Chinese incomes in 2012 are nearly three times what they were in 2000,[H] and the trend continues.  And China’s Gini coefficient (measure of inequality), while high, has been stable since about 2002.  Stable since the leader before XI made it a matter of policy to stop growing inequality.

The proper response would be, ‘you know nothing, Neo-Liberals’.

 

Bankers as a Protected Species.

If someone goes gambling in a casino, they may wreck their own life, but not mine and not those of the vulnerable (except maybe their own dependents). That’s the big difference between a casino and the sort of financial gambling legitimised by Bank Deregulation

They ought to pay if they break the rules. In some countries, they do:

“There are many reasons to admire Iceland, but here is another one: it has just sentenced five senior bankers and one prominent investor to prison for crimes relating to the economic meltdown in 2008. And with these two separate rulings made last month in the Supreme Court and Reykjavik district court, the nation that gambled so heavily on the markets and lost so disastrously in the consequent crash has sent 26 financiers to jail for combined sentences of 74 years.

“The authorities pursued bank bosses, chief executives, civil servants and corporate raiders for crimes ranging from insider trading to fraud, money laundering, misleading markets, breach of duties and lying to the authorities.”[I]

In Ireland also, three former senior Irish bankers have been jailed for their role in the collapse of a bank during the 2008 financial crisis.[J]  But in Britain and the USA?  ‘Quantitative easing’ is a fancy name for the government giving cheap loans to banks that maybe deserved to collapse. The New Right want to continue the Economic Miracle for the Rich in a stalled economy.  Maybe also they believe that wealth is something that appears mysteriously by money breeding with money in a mystery overseen by expert bankers.

To bail out the rich, and to avoid inflation, there had to be austerity for normal people. They expect the public to put up with it. And so far they have been quite successful.

“Average wages for self-employed workers are lower than in 1994-95, researchers say.

“The Resolution Foundation said that while the UK’s self-employed workforce had grown by 45% since 2001-02, their weekly earnings had fallen by £60.”[K]

But most of them still vote Tory.

 

Snippets

Aberfan

Fifty years after the Aberfan disaster, people need to be reminded about the irresponsible attitude of Lord Robens. He did nothing bad, but he was in charge and was guilty for having done nothing. And showed massive insensitivity by being installed as Chancellor of the University of Surrey at the time, showing no concern for having failed to do his main job.

His main achievement was to cut a lot of the coal mining industry: one step in its annihilation.

The BBC had a good documentary about Aberfan. There was a known problem with water flooding from the coal-tip that later slid down the mountain and killed children. Warnings were ignored. And a relief fund for the victims was made to pay part of the cost of removing the dangerous tips.[L]

Seeing life as a burden on money applied even to nationalised industries in the 1960s.

***

Fined Heavily For Being Il

With all of the justified concern over overstretched hospitals, a quiet buy-out of parts of General Practice is being overlooked.

Doctors traditionally ran their own small businesses. They made money, but also had a genuine belief in public service. When it becomes commercial, who knows?

“Healthcare provider Virgin Care has been forcing patients to attend extra appointments to boost profits, says former employee and the Labour MP for Dewsbury, Paula Sherriff.

“Speaking in the House of Commons, where she was protected from possible legal action by parliamentary privilege, Sherriff accused Virgin Care of insisting on ‘extra consultations before surgery, boosting their profits at the expense of the taxpayer and patient safety’.”[M]

***

Protect Our Military Thugs

Mrs May thinks it outrageous that British troops should be prosecuted merely because they are guilty.

“The change in policy, announced at the Conservative conference, would mean parts of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) could be suspended during future conflicts.”[N]

The army itself has punished some of the more extreme cases. But probably not enough.

Meantime former soldiers no longer useful to the ruling class get discarded.

***

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.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-37656197Y

[B]              http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/jeremy-corbyn-media-policies-labour_uk_57fe651be4b0010a7f3da76b?ncid=engmodushpmg00000004

[C]              https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/oct/03/europe-centre-left-spain-socialist-party-leader-coup

[D]              Milanovic, Branko. Global Inequality, page 165.

[E]              http://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/2039017/xi-calls-staunch-belief-communism-ensure-national

[F]               http://en.people.cn/n3/2016/1022/c90000-9131160.html

[G]              http://www.scmp.com/news/china/economy/article/2022491/china-deploys-policy-banks-stealth-mission-stimulate-growth

[H]              Global Inequality, page 177.

[I]               http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/iceland-has-jailed-26-bankers-why-wont-we-a6735411.html

[J]               http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/ireland-bankers-jailed-financial-crisis-2008-anglo-irish-bank-a7163711.html

[K]              http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-37678065

[L]              https://www.healthandsafetyatwork.com/aberfan

[M]              https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/oct/12/virgin-care-patients-being-forced-to-make-appointments-to-boost-profits-says-labour-mp-paula-sherriff

[N]              http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-37544280