Economics

The importance of Europeans sticking together to achieve a progressive Europe

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 11/09/2017 - 5:55pm in

Speech written for an international audience
at the Bozar in Brussels at last week-end's DiEM25 event on the ‘Real State of the
European Union’ and what to do about it.

lead lead Screenshot: Bozar Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels, Saturday, September 9.You
don’t need me tell you BREXIT is a dangerous mess. Ever since Theresa May ­­–
in that common sense tone which is a sure sign of ideology in Britain
– uttered the fateful words “BREXIT means BREXIT!” – we have been trapped on a
roller-coaster of unknowing. Rumours that the UK might become “the tax haven of
Europe” or the “hostile environment” apparently preferred by the Home Office,
come and go like flashes of lightning over our benighted landscape. The process
hitherto seems designed to show us and everyone else just how deeply polarized
but also poorly represented we are as a people, and how broken our democratic
system.

On
the eve of the EU referendum, I happened to find myself in a showing in London
of David Bernet’s quintessentially European film, ‘Democracy’, about the heroic struggle within the European
Parliament to secure key digital laws protecting citizens and consumers from
big data mining. Katarzyna from whom we heard earlier, stars in this epic tale,
alongside the heroic German Greens Jan Philipp Albrecht and Ralph Bendrath and
Joe McNamee, Director of European Digital Rights. This David and Goliath story
is actually a rare, gripping account in all its multilayered complexity, of a
triumphant democratic law-making process.

Remember
that Dr. Schauble mantra from the Eurogroup meeting that Yanis quotes – that “elections
cannot be allowed to change an economic programme of a nation state”? Well for
those who haven’t seen the film, Albrecht’s mission as rapporteur is the direct
opposite. He argues, “99% of the lobbying in Brussels is by companies…  but millions of citizens have their interests
too… No one has the right to claim their interests are worth more than that of
the citizens.”

"Democracy", David Bernet, 2015. All rights reserved.Asked
to raise our hands at the end if this film gave us more confidence or less in
the EU that night, a large majority of that London audience said yes. I wanted
everyone I knew and didn’t know to see it. Indeed there could be no better
introduction to what is worth fighting for as Europeans. Not because, for Brits
reared on tabloid anti-EU propaganda, it was brilliant counter-propaganda.
Let’s be clear – the picture it paints is of a democratic process in deep
jeopardy from giant vested interests. Yet exactly because it was such an
unflinching record of the odds we are up against and the space for a political
alternative that really exists – here
was everything that was missing from our BREXIT debate, and everything that we
Europeans must be doing over the next two years, leading into the 2019
elections and beyond.

Why the
urgency? Because all over Europe there are people like the British majority who
voted for BREXIT, who need to know what is possible in politics and that they
can do something about it, people who associate the threat to their jobs, security and daily
lives with the European institutions, simply because, for far too long, we have been
told over and over again what is not possible, due to the out-of control forces that we are
encouraged to believe are all the more irresistible at the transnational level. 

“Take
back control” was the message of the 2016 Brexit referendum, seized on at the
first opportunity, to express how fed up people were at the lack of accountable
agency, the lack of empathy, the technocratic disavowal of responsibility
before the socio-economic forces of globalisation. As if on cue, only days
after Theresa May lost her majority, in June, Grenfell Tower in the country’s
richest borough of Kensington and Chelsea, went up in flames ­– its blackening
hulk an instant monument to the gulf between the authorities’ shameless
neoliberal negligeance, and a disenfranchised global working class who could
get no-one to listen to or do anything for them.

This
rejection of impotence that was BREXIT, might have remained at the level of a
finger towards a world where all is said to be inevitable, had it not been for
the snap elections in June. Here, not only did the Labour party come up with
one of the most progressive social democratic manifestos in living memory, but
their new cohorts of activists launched a process of large-scale engagement
with local publics, complemented by a wave of party and non-party grassroots supporters
of an emerging progressive alliance politics. Ordinary people stopping other
ordinary voters in the street to talk about politics is not something many have
seen before in much of the UK. But now we too had a glimpse of the energies
unleashed in the Scottish independence referendum, or emerging out of the 2011 social
movements into frontline innovative politics in Ada Colau’s international
network of fearless cities. Watching the Grenfell Tower survivors organise
their fightback for political and existential recognition was another lesson in
dignity and democracy for us all.

Labour
and their progressive allies, using their initiative to salvage a recognisable,
bottom up ‘politics’, have given Britain a chance to pose a supremely political
question: what is the room for manoeuvre for advancing social justice, turning
the tide against the worst effects of the financial crash and its extractive
neoliberal aftermath?

One
key factor in this room for manoeuvre we are beginning to understand better has
only emerged in recent months. Research
on both sides of the Atlantic shows how
susceptible
our mainstream press has been to an alliance of big data,
billionaire friends of Donald Trump and the disparate forces of
the Leave campaign in
both the US elections and the BREXIT referendum, and how fear-mongering over
immigration and Islam, targeting different parts of the population with their
radical right messaging, was successfully fomented on a major scale by some of
the most sophisticated communicators of our era.

What
are these people up to we might ask? As has been pointed out, among others by Alan Finlayson in a groundbreaking
essay
in the London Review of Books, much
of the political content of Brexit demands – ethnicised nationalism, economic
protection – is in flat contradiction to their political outlook. They are
globalists through and through. Take Arron Banks, the insurance millionaire who
funded Leave.EU, who describes his as a “very simple agenda: to destroy the
professional politician”. The politics of continuing referendums and recalls
they advocate aims at stalling action by elected politicians and public service
professionals alike, “draining the swamp” to leave the way clear for a new kind of nihilistic governmentality, where the ebb and flow of
mood and opinion in big data can be surfed and any useful wave amplified and
capitalized upon. In this hyper-political
anti-politics
,
politics reduces to perpetual theatre.

For
them, Brexit will make it easier to remove legal and political obstacles to the
establishment of this new regime, through an increase in the power to win
support of those who own the data. (Can we be sure that a Ukipised Tory
Government intent
on hijacking
the Brexit binary referendum choice for a ‘hard Brexit’, will
scruple to misuse the inordinate powers they have given themselves to amend EU
laws as they are converted into UK law, for example, on the
retention, processing and sale of our personal data? Will we see those Democracy digital rights agreed in 2016, coming into effect across Europe in 2018, in full force in the UK? This vulnerability
of 40 years’ worth of lawmaking is at the centre of this
week’s key battle over parliamentary scrutiny
of the ‘Repeal Bill’.)

My
point is this. The anti-politics I’m talking about is predicated on one key
assumption about the relationship between people and knowledge. That in this
digitalised world, the people do not need to know and understand about their
own conditions of existence, as they are the thing to be known about and
manipulated accordingly!

If
this is the enemy, then a politics dedicated to what people as agents of their
own fate can make possible together, overcoming the barriers of fearmongering
and hatred, is what I believe DiEM25, ably led by that generator of political
alternatives, Yanis Varoufakis, wishes to serve. So I am here to ask, can the BREXIT rebuff to the mainstream
political agenda in Britain and Europe be turned into an opening for the
transformation that we all so urgently need?

We in
DiEM25 are glad that recommendations for a substantial transitional post-Brexit
referendum period, backed by our movement’s entire membership from London to Warsaw,
have been embraced by key players in Britain’s political class, starting with
Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party.

Can’t
we take this new opportunity for adequate democratic process and scrutiny far further
in generating European alternatives and the experience of democracy in action? The UK must play a key role in the
open-sourced, democratic, transparent and radical transformation that Europe needs.

Will
we succeed? I'm not sure. But I am sure that what is possible, including a
referendum on a transformed UK rejoining a transformed democratic EU, will only
come about if we are in this fight together.

Sideboxes
'Read On' Sidebox: 

Fix the Bill on the UK's Repeal Bill

Sidebox: 

DiEM25's Real State of the Union event. ( three hour video )

Brexit2017

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The bail out industry finds its new crisis opportunity: Brexit

A Treatise on European Government: on a constitution and the transnational

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The Financial Reporting Council has been nationalised

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 11/09/2017 - 4:02pm in

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Economics

Tim Bush of Pensions and Investments Research Consultants (who I advise) drew my attention to an article in the Institute of Chartered Accountant’s magazine, Economia, late last week. The article does in effect say that the UK’s accounting regulator, the Financial Reporting Council (FRC), has been brought back under state control. This is the consequence of a decision by the Office for National Statistics that the FRC should now be considered a non-departmental public body for the purposes of its treatment in the national accounts. The FRC has fought this process since 2014 but has finally relented.

It is obvious why the FRC fought. Being a non-departmental public body subjects it to greater public accountability. It also requires that permission be sought before it can pay anyone more than the prime minister, which is not going down well at the FRC’s London Wall headquarters, where it is claimed that this will result in a loss of suitable talent to undertake its mission, which it says is ‘to promote transparency and integrity in business’.

I suspect Tim would join me in saying that he has doubts about the quality of the FRC’s work. I have been consistently underwhelmed by it. But I suggest that this is not the key issue to consider at this moment because the bringing of the FRC back under direct government control lets questions be asked that its quasi-independent status prevented. I will just offer some of these.

First of all, if the responsibility for UK accounting standards now passes with the FRC directly to the government will we now see the public interest being taken into account when these standards are set? It is very clear that this is not the case at present when the only issue of concern in these standards is that of the suppliers of capital to companies and so the interests of all other stakeholders are very largely ignored.

Second, will the interest of those other stakeholders now be represented at the FRC? Right now it effectively represents the professions and this is not acceptable. Those professions are neither the centre of all wisdom in the issues that the FRC regulates or the place where understanding of user need is to be found, precisely because the professions act in the interests of producers of data and suppliers of services. New appointments must radically broaden the expertise on which it calls. In particular pensioners, trade unions, civil society and small business (and not those who think they are small business but actually work for quite large firms) need much better representation.

Third, in that case can we now expect that the FRC might act more appropriately in the interests of the communities it supposedly serves but of whom it seems to have such limited understanding? So will we, for example, see accounting standards that users might understand, which is simply untrue of the new UK accounting standard FRS 101, which will supply data alien to the vast majority of recipients of that information?

And, fourthly, might we finally also see the FRC supply country-by-country reporting, which they have so far simply refused to engage with based on my engagement with them?  It is now readily apparent that parliament and the public want this data but so far the accounting profession and the FRC, to the discredit of both, claim it is ‘just tax data’, as one accountant involved in the accounting standard setting process in this country told me recently.

I welcome this move to bring the FRC under better control, but if it is only a symbolic move it will mean nothing. The time has come for financial regulation in this country to be undertaken in the public interest. Only real change at the FRC will deliver that.

How Much the US Economy Has Recovered for Most Workers

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 11/09/2017 - 7:57am in

Basically, not at all.


Labor Force Participation Rate

So, around 1980, wages go off a cliff. Americans respond by increasing the number of two earner households, because from 1980 onwards, the Federal Reserve deliberately limits wage increases for most workers so they always come in under the inflation rate.

Then the 2008 financial crisis happened, and those jobs went away. Wages haven’t improved, for most people they are even or down.

In 2009, I predicted a collapse in incomes. I got it partially wrong. I held the labor force participation rate steady and expected reductions to come out of wages. Instead, the reduction came mostly from jobs just going away. (In retrospect this was a clumsy mistake.)

So, lately you’ve been hearing about how wonderful the economy is. It isn’t. It’s still shitty for most people and has been shitty since 2008.

Obama’s didn’t fix the economy. He froze it at approximately where it was after the financial collapse, minus a dead cat bounce, which is to be expected since he and the Federal Reserve and Treasury did everything they could to not allow price discovery to happen and to not allow capitalism to do one of the things it does well, when left alone: make bankrupt companies go bankrupt and wipe out bad loans.

Instead they made sure that companies and people who had caused the financial collapse, in most cases deliberately, were made whole and prevented from losing everything, while pushing the losses down onto homeowners who were minor participants compared to Wall Street and large banks.

This has played out as stagnation. It is exacerbated by a host of other issues, like monopolization, corruption and the declining era of oil, but at heart it is a simple refusal to let large, politically powerful actors take their losses and lose the economic power they misused.

Having done everything wrong from 2000 to 2008 except buy Congress, financial interests afterwards kept doing everything wrong except buying politicians, because they won big-time, and the most important rule of capitalism is: “If you’re making lots of money, keep doing what you’re doing.”

When making money is, in effect, guaranteed, capitalism stops working in anything close to a beneficial fashion.

This was, again, Obama’s decision. When TARP was first proposed it failed to pass and only did so because Obama bent arms, viciously, to make it happen. He was 100 percent on side with everything Bernanke did, and not only did nothing to stop him, but aided and abetted him in what were crimes by any reasonable definition of the word.

The economy is bad. It is has never recovered from the financial collapse, and it will not do so until both austerity and crony capitalism are dealt with.

The results of the work I do, like this article, are free, but food isn’t, so if you value my work, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.

Dr Gerald Horne on Trump as the Product of the Racist History of the US

This is another fascinating video from Telesur English. It’s from an edition of the Empire Files, in which the host, Abby Martin, interviews Dr. Gerald Horne, the chair of History and African American Studies at the University Houston. Dr. Horne is the author of 20 books on slavery and black liberation movements. The blurb for the video on YouTube states that his most recent work is The Counterrevolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States.

The video is just over half an hour long, and it completely overturns the entire myth of the founding of the United States, in which the Founding Fathers were noble idealists, intent on bringing about a truly democratic state in which all men would be free. In fact the opposite was true. The Founding Fathers were either slave-owners, or else otherwise deeply connected to slavery and slave trade through their business interests. Instead of noble liberators for everyone, they were deeply opposed to granting Black Americans their freedom.

Dr. Horne argues that they were the products of British imperialism and its slave trade, which was first introduced into the Caribbean and then shifted north to the English colonies in North America. He traces the history of Black enslavement and anti-Black racist movements from the American Revolution to the American Civil War, and thence to the formation of successive waves of the Klan. His intention is to show that Trump is not an historical aberration, a strange historical throwback on America’s long progress to freedom and liberty, but a product of America’s racist history and the mass support anti-Black movements have enjoyed and exploited throughout it.

The programme begins by explaining the background to the Confederate monuments, which the Unite the Right stormtroopers marched to defend in Charlottesville the week before last. These were not simply memorials to great generals or valiant soldiers, as the myth around them says. Most of the Confederate monuments in the US were erected in two periods – the period of Jim Crow in the 1920s and ’30s, when the segregation laws were being introduced, and the 1950s when the Civil Rights movement was beginning. They were set up to convey a very specific message: that while Black Americans were technically free, the ‘Negro’ had better know his place beneath the White man. Or else.

He then goes on to describe the emergence of slavery in the US. He states that Britain at the end of the 16th century was ‘a failed state’. The British Civil War of the 1640s between Charles I and parliament was a quasi-bourgeois revolution, which gave some rights to the British merchant and middle classes. The real bourgeois revolution was the Glorious Revolution of 1688, which allowed the middle classes to exert more political control, and allowed British merchants to wrest control of the slave trade away from the Crown as a royal monopoly.

The most important part of the British empire in the New World at the time was the Caribbean, and particularly Jamaica. These colonies became immensely profitable due to sugar. However, in the 1720s there was an economic crisis in Caribbean slavery, so some of the major Caribbean slaveowners moved north, to Carolina and other parts of the US. It was from these slave-owning families that the Founding Fathers were descended.

Horne also briefly discusses the role north American slavery played in the definition of White identity. Back in Europe, the different European peoples saw themselves as members of separate nations – English, Irish, Scots, French, Germans and so on. it was only when they crossed the Atlantic to America that they created an overarching racial identity to differentiate them from their Black slaves.

Horne then goes on to argue that the major catalyst for the American Revolution was the American colonists’ frustration at the British governments attempts to limit slavery and stop further colonial expansion beyond the Alleghenies. One of the critical moments in this was the Somerset Case, which ruled that slavery was illegal in England. The ruling was expanded to Scotland a year later. The taxes against which the Boston Tea Party was staged included those levied on slaves. They had been imposed by the British government as a deliberate anti-slavery measure. The British government was also tired of expending men and treasure in the various wars against the continent’s indigenous peoples. This angered the colonists, who longed to expand and seize native American land to the west. One of those, who stood to make a profit from this, was George Washington, who was a land speculator. As indeed, in a curious historical parallel, is Donald Trump. The Founding Fathers also feared and hated Black Americans, because the British had given their freedom to all Black Americans, who remained loyal. As a result, the Black Americans were solidly behind the British against the emerging independence movement.

Dr. Horne then goes on to talk about the American Civil War, and Lincoln’s emancipation of the slaves held by the Southern states. Horne points out that it was felt at the time that Lincoln had somehow broken the rules of war, and done the unthinkable by arming the slaves. As for Lincoln himself, he didn’t have much sympathy with them, and was considering deporting them after the end of the war. Horne goes on to discuss how the deportation of Americans of African descent continued to be discussed and planned at various periods in American history afterwards. It was yet again discussed in the 1920s, when there was a movement to deport them back to Africa.

After the ending of slavery in American following the defeat of the South, many of the American slave-owners and traders fled abroad, to continue their business overseas. Several went to South America, including Brazil, while others went to Cuba.

After the Civil War came the period of reconstruction, and the foundation of the Ku Klux Klan in the late 19th century. Horne also talks about the lynching movement during this period of American history, which continued into the early 20th centuries. Not only were these intended to terrorise Black Americans to keep them in their place, but at the time they also were also almost like picnics. Photographs were taken and sold of them, and White spectators and participants would cut the fingers off the body and keep them as souvenirs. Dr. Horne remarks that, sadly, some White homes still have these digits even today.

He also talks about the massive influence D.W. Griffith’s viciously racist Birth of a Nation had on the Klan, boosting its membership. Klan groups began to proliferate. In Michigan, one branch of the Klan concentrated on fighting and breaking trade unions. Later, in the 1950s, the Klan entered another period of resurgence as a backlash against the Civil Rights campaign.

Horne makes the point that in this period, the Klan was by no means a marginal organization. It had a membership in the millions, including highly influential people in several states. And the Klan and similar racist organisations were not just popular in the South. The various pro-slavery and anti-Black movements also had their supporters in the North since the time of the Civil War. He also argues that the campaign against segregation was extremely long, and there was considerable resistance to Black Americans being given equality with Whites.

He also states that one of the influences behind the emergence of the Alt-Right and the revival of these latest Fascist and White supremacist movements was the election of Barak Obama as the first Black president of the US. Obama was subject to rumours that he was really Kenyan, with the whole ‘birther’ conspiracy theories about his passport, because he was Black, and so couldn’t be a proper American. And it is this bitter hostility to Obama, and the perceived threat to White America which he represents, that has produced Trump.

Watching this video, I was reminded of Frederick Douglas’ great speech, What To the Slave is the Fourth of July? Douglas was a former slave and a major voice for abolition in America. His speech noted how hollow the rhetoric about the Founding Fathers protecting Americans from slavery under the British, when they themselves remained slaves in reality.

He’s right about the rule of the sugar economy in saving the British colonies in the Caribbean, though from my own reading about slavery in the British Empire, what saved these colonies first was tobacco. It was the first cash crop, which could easily be grown there.

The role opposition to the British government’s refusal to allow further colonial expansion in provoking the American Revolution has also been discussed by a number of historians. One book I read stated that British colonial governors were encouraged to intermarry with the indigenous peoples. Thus, one of the governors on the British side actually had cousins amongst one of the Amerindian nations. The same book also described how the British granted their freedom to Black loyalists. After their defeat, the British took them to Canada. Unfortunately, racism and the bleak climate led them to being deported yet again to Sierra Leone. There were also Black loyalists settled in the British Caribbean colonies. One report on the state of colony instituted by its new governor in the early 19th century reported that the former Black squaddies were settled in several towns, governed by their own N.C.O.s under military discipline. These Black Americans were orderly and peaceful, according to the report.

As for the former American slave traders, who emigrated to Latin America, this is confirmed by the presence of one of the witnesses, who appeared before the British parliament in the 1840s, Jose Estebano Cliffe, who was indeed one of the émigré merchants.

Cenk Uygur and The Young Turks have also described the horrors of the lynchings in the Deep South, including the picnic, celebratory aspect to these atrocities. They made the point that if news reports today said that similar lynchings had been carried out by Arabs in the Middle East, Americans would vilify them as savages. But that attitude doesn’t extend to those savages in the US, who carried out these atrocities against Blacks.

It’s worth mentioning here that Blacks weren’t the only victims of lynching. Tariq Ali in an interview in the book Confronting the New Conservatism about the Neocons states that in Louisiana in the 1920, more Italians were lynched than Blacks.

The video’s also worth watching for some of the images illustrating Dr. Horne’s narrative. These include not only paintings, but also contemporary photograph. Several of these are of the slaves themselves, and there is a fascinating picture of a group of Black squaddies in uniform from the Civil War. I found this particularly interesting, as the photographer had captured the character of the soldiers, who had different expressions on their faces. Some appear cheerful, others more suspicious and pessimistic.

There’s also a very chilling photograph of people at a lynching, and it’s exactly as Dr. Horne says. The picture shows people sat on the grass, having a picnic, while a body hangs from a tree in the background. This is so monstrous, it’s almost incredible – that people should calmly use the murder of another human being as the occasion of a nice day out.

This is the history the Republican Party and the Libertarians very definitely do not want people to read about. Indeed, I put up a piece a little while ago at a report on one of the progressive left-wing news programmes on YouTube that Arizona was deliberately suppressing materials about racism, slavery and segregation in its schools, and making students read the speeches of Ronald Reagan instead. As for the removal of Confederate monuments, right-wing blowhard and sexual harasser Bill O’Reilly, formerly of Fox News, has already started making jokes about how ‘they’ want to take down statues of George Washington. Nobody does, and the joke shows how little O’Reilly really understands, let alone cares about the proper historical background behind them. I’ve no doubt that Dr. Horne’s interpretation of history would be considered by some an extreme view, but it is grounded in very accurate historical scholarship. Which makes it an important counterbalance to the lies that the Republicans and Libertarians want people to believe about the country and its history.

Its time for the GERS debate to move on: everyone with any sense now agrees that it’s just not good enough

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 10/09/2017 - 9:15pm in

I have already noted my submission of evidence to the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee of the Scottish Parliament on the quality of Scottish Economic Data.  Given that I will be appearing before the committee I have now, at least briefly, read all the other submissions. Some I will ignore, not because they are not interesting but because they do not touch on the issues in which I am interested but focus instead on local economic data in Scotland. Another, from Common Weal, I will; look at separately because it is so distinct from all the others. My concern here focuses on GERS (Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland) data, as did my own submission. In this respect the most important submissions in my opinion are those of Margaret Cuthbert, The Fraser of Allander Institute, The Scottish Fiscal Commission and 4-Consulting, who advised the committee. I apologise to those omitted: there is not time to review them all here.

Margaret Cuthbert provides, to me, the most amusing submission, and in some ways the most telling. She says in her summary of that submission:

Despite the appalling and verging on ignorant comment by Richard Marsh in the Sunday Herald that “GERS data is what I technically describe as crap”, GERS data continues to improve. The original quality of the data was comprehensively examined line by line in 1977 and thereafter statisticians in the Scottish Government have made considerable efforts with UK departments to work with them and obtain reliable estimates for Scotland.

In a strange way she makes my case for me. First, the review was in 2007: GERS did not exist in 1977. Second, I made the comment about ‘crap’ (which I carefully defined as ‘completely rubbish approximations’) that she says is ignorant . Richard Marsh is director of 4-Consulting. Marsh is a ‘crap’ (completely rubbish approximation) to Murphy, just as 1977 is to 2007. I am aware, of course, that it could be said that I am nitpicking in saying so, but I am doing so for a reason. The evidence is clear that approximations will not always do. They no more than inadvertently undermine what Margaret Cuthbert has to say here; they massively undermine GERS for reasons I have already explained.

Nor am I in the slightest bit apologetic for using the term crap, to which Margaret (who I have never met) takes offence, I suspect on the grounds that she has been invested in the GERS process. I used it to highlight an issue to draw political and public attention to the significance of a concern that requires the focus of the parliament and the Scottish media. If by doing so the issue got more attention – and the comment reached the front page of the Sunday Herald – I call that a success. I have been involved in the process of seeking change on dry technical issues for a long time. The comment was not ignorant or appalling: it served a purpose and I am unapologetic for that. Sometimes effecting change requires a lack of subtlety: that’s the nature of political economics.

What is more it is a purpose Margaret Cuthbert clearly supports. As she says in her submission:

However, it is time to assess what the Scottish Parliament needs as its powers continue to grow. This is particularly the case as the fiscal settlement holds many ill-advised conditions that will now face Scotland.

The first problem is the publication of data by NDPBs and their offshoots where it is nigh on impossible to find out how the data given are derived. What checks are being made by the relevant central government departments on the quality of the data and its definitional fit with main government statistical data regarding the economy?

Second, there are departments within the Scottish government that produce statistics where it is difficult to understand what the statistics actually mean, where it is difficult to get a handle from the staff themselves on the meaning of the data, and it is therefore wide open for reporters and non-government researchers to get the wrong picture.

Third, there are departments and NDPBs which produce statistics that are equivalent to their turning a handle year after year, and where the statistics given shine no light on the performance of Scotland, particularly with relation to where the government says it wants to be going.

Fourth, and possibly due to policy groups within government, the frontline publications covering economic matters have tended to become glossies showing how well the government is doing.

And, finally, there is the personal experience that statistics collected, collated and analysed do not appear to be given due importance when the policy makers set to and devise their policies. It is difficult to find mention in the published policy documents of detail of how, in describing the creation of new policies and their implementation, the policy people have been using statistics to help define their policy, or how they are going to collect and publish statistics to monitor and evaluate their policies.

The role of both economics and statistics in the Scottish Government needs to be substantially extended. There is a need for a strong central statistics unit that is capable of fighting its corner for resources and relevant place in the decision making of policy, and the necessary schedule of monitoring and evaluation.

What can I say? We seem to be singing from the same hymn sheet, especially given the comments in my own submission, noted here. I’d almost say that, despite her comment about me, we’re in harmony in saying that the data is just not good enough, because her evidence is that it clearly is not. She also agrees with Common Weal on the need for a statistics unit, which I endorse.

Let me move to the Fraser of Allander Institute then. They say:

Significant progress has been made since devolution to improve the coverage and quality of economic statistics in Scotland. Scotland is much better served than the other devolved nations (and English regions) in terms of economic statistics. However, there is work still to be done. In particular –

 There are a number of gaps – for example, we lack robust statistics on things like Gross National Income, capital investment, inter-regional trade and prices that independent governments would routinely collect.

 Some of the data that underpin core elements of Scottish economic statistics rely upon apportionment of UK figures rather than bottom-up Scottish-specific data. Whilst this is understandable given resource constraints, more be-spoke estimates would be beneficial.

 Like the UK as a whole, there remain ongoing challenges in sampling and response rates to surveys. Some response rates – e.g. the Labour Force – are falling whilst for others – e.g. the Living Cost and Food Survey – the sample size for Scotland is small.

The Scottish Government should be commended for investing in a distinctly ‘Scottish’ economic statistics unit in government. Further investment would be welcome however, particularly in the light of the new economic and fiscal powers coming to Holyrood.

New investment on its own will not deliver the step-change that many people would like to see. For this, other reforms – for example around how UK businesses report their activities – would be needed. At the same time, as ONS continue to make better use of administrative data it is important that data sharing and access arrangements are established to enable the Scottish Government to also benefit from these reforms.

Let’s be clear about this. What the FAI is saying is that there are serious gaps in Scottish economic data, and what data there is may not be Scottish data at all, but apportionments of unknown quality from the UK, whilst many of the estimates used may be unreliable because of small sample sizes. I hate to suggest that they’re agreeing with what I said, but candidly I cannot see that any other conclusion can be reached. And they do in fact imply support for many of the recommendations I make in my submission on improving data capture: I just spell it out in detail and they do not.

I also think it important to note just what the FAI say really is missing:

That being said, there are a number of important gaps.

 Gross National Income (GNI) – is arguably a preferable measure of economic prosperity than GDP. This has only been produced once – on an experimental basis – for Scotland. GNI is particularly difficult to measure and will require a much better understanding of how income is produced and distributed across the Scottish economy. Data on financial flows in and out of Scotland are largely unknown. We have for example, despite its importance in the policy landscape, very little in the way of robust data on international investment (FDI) to Scotland.

 Prices – there are no separate price indices for Scotland. This is a limitation in compiling real-terms series such as trends in earnings, poverty or changes in government budgets.

 Imports – there are only limited official estimates of imports to Scotland from overseas or the UK. In the National Accounts, rather than being measured directly they are estimated as a balancing (residual) item.  Capital investment – there is little in the way of data on investment for Scotland either in the aggregate or by sector.

 Treatment of the North Sea – the Scottish Government has invested significantly to improve its coverage of the North Sea. This has included more robust estimates of the share of revenues raised from the profits of offshore oil and gas operators, output, investment and exports. However, much less is known about the linkages between the onshore and offshore Scottish economies.

 Longitudinal data – there is very limited data on a longitudinal basis of Scottish households – particularly in terms of issues like income, wealth and spending

If I might be blunt, what that really admits is that much of the key data required to appraise the macroeconomy of Scotland simply does not exist. And to go back to my very first comment on GERS, in March this year, that cannot be by chance: someone in London decided not to supply that information. We again seem to be in remarkable agreement.

So what about the Scottish Fiscal Commission? From April 2017 the Scottish Fiscal Commission has been responsible for producing the independent and official economic and fiscal forecasts for Scotland that will support Parliament’s Budget process. They say:

 In general, the statistics available for Scotland are more comprehensive than available in other countries and regions of the UK and this is to be welcomed.

 We accept that the depth and breadth of available economic statistics are to some extent limited by the surveys that are conducted in Scotland on both the household and business side. These surveys could be expanded, or the way data is collected could be changed, but this is an expensive and long-term ambition, and may have implications for burden on businesses.

 Given the information that is available, and accepting the uncertainty inherent in it, the Commission strongly encourages the Scottish Government to produce more information in certain instances which would support the Commission’s activities.

 We believe more could also be gained by considering statistics that could be published by the ONS based on existing surveys, and again this is something the Scottish Government should be pursuing.

 The Scottish Government should also seek to access administrative data, such as that held by HMRC, to ensure that the statistics produced are the best quality possible given the limitations on the survey data collected.

To the first comment, I admit I just despair of the data available elsewhere. To the others, yet again it seems that the points I have made are agreed: there are poor approximations, limited surveys and limited data access available to support what information Scotland gets. I hate to say that the result might be what I define as ‘crap’, but I think that possible.

And so to 4-Consulting. They say in the summary to their report:

It‟s likely that Scottish Government statisticians would describe themselves as more opportunistic, but relatively powerless, statistical scavengers. It is important that Scotland takes up the challenge laid down by the Bean Review and looks at new approaches to develop the next generation of economic statistics.

Do I need add more?

In summary, I inadvertently joined this debate and seem to have helped fuel it since doing so. I do not regret that fact, if it is true. During it I have been subject to considerable criticism. That seems to be continuing, as noted above. Back in March in my first comment on this issue I made these points on Scottish economic data:

Why might the data be misstated? First, there simply isn’t enough data to reliably estimate Scottish GDP. We have no figures for where sales take place in the UK, for example. VAT returns are an utterly unreliable source for this: a UK company does not submit data separately on sales in Scotland from elsewhere. The same is largely true on spending. So forget Scottish GDP data: we just don’t know what it is.

Then there are tax revenues. That VAT point still stands. And the truth is Scottish Revenue are struggling to be sure who is resident in Scotland whilst on corporation tax there is no way of knowing where revenues are earned at present. And so on.

So we come to spending. The allocation of government spending to Scotland will be arbitrary: how much defence should it pay, for example? Or interest? The arbitrary areas will be too great for this number to really be reliable.

In which case what of Scottish imports and exports? Let’s be blunt: no one has a clue what crosses the borders from Scotland to England and Northern Ireland. These numbers are literally made up in that case.

So two further issues, both serious. One is Westminster could pretty much manipulate this data at will. And two, nothing will be the same if Scotland leaves: a government of an independent Scotland will have a very different structure to that imposed now.

My point? Simply this: if there is to be meaningful debate on this issue then the SNP have a lot of work to do to produce best possible data.

The reference to the SNP is as the government as well as the party. What I can say now is that the submissions made to this committee suggest that I was right to make those comments in March and that, as I said then, a lot more work is needed to produce reliable data. I trust that those who have said otherwise (who did not seem keen to submit evidence, I note, despite having the opportunity to do so) will now rest their case. Let’s move on and discuss what might be done about it, as I did in my submission. 

My proposals for improving Scottish Economic Data suggest there could be life after GERS

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 10/09/2017 - 8:00pm in

I am appearing before the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee of the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood on September 19. The committee is reviewing the quality of Scottish economic data with a focus in these issues:

  • Accuracy (how reliable is the data)
  • Utility (how useful is it)
  • Interpretation (how to make sense of it)
  • Scrutiny (what are we measuring and does it encourage effective scrutiny)

That committee published the submissions made in advance of that hearing yesterday, my own included. My submission is available in sightly extended form is also available here (some introductory material has been removed by the committee).

In that submission I have focused on a number of what I think are the key issues, with an emphasis on GERS (because  this is the issue on which I have focussed to date).

The first is the argument, now fairly well rehearsed on this blog, that the methodology of this statement, which claims to be based in the accruals principle but which it is not, renders the data reported not just misleading but quite simply wrong.

Second, having noted that this effectively renders GERS redundant as useful economic information I focus on the reforms that are required. In this area it is only the proposals from me and Common Weal that seem to really address this fundamental issue (I will be reviewing the other submissions in another blog, soon).

I took the opportunity to lay out quite specific proposals on data could be improved now. I was not making a proposal for an independent Scotland: that is another, separate issue. As I said in my submission my concern was to suggest data that:

  1. Reveals either its source or the body responsible for managing it;
  2. Indicates the degree of control over that issue that any decision maker might have as a result;
  3. Suggests the degree of uncertainty in the data in question;
  4. Provides comparisons between periods;
  5. Provides comparisons with equivalent data sources;
  6. Is designed to be accessible.

In every case the aim is to make the data accessible to those who need to use it. As a result I suggested the following reforms that I hope show that my interest in this issue is wholly positive and solution focussed:

 

Scottish Government Expenditure

With regard to GERS reporting should start with expenditure because:

  • Government exists to spend and not to raise revenue and so spending data is of higher priority;
  • More spending is under Scottish control than not at present;
  • Most scrutiny will be on this issue as a result.

For each category of spend GERS should report:

  1. Who has made the spend i.e.:
    • The Scottish government;
    • A Scottish local authority;
    • Another Scottish agency;
    • The UK government or an agency of it in Scotland;
    • The UK government or an agency outside Scotland;
  2. The spend by each agency;
  3. The budget set by the government or agency making the spend for that item or a note that no budget was set and that the spend in question is uncontrolled;
  4. A comparison between spend and actual by agency unless there is no budget when a note of the uncontrolled spend should be made instead;
  5. A comparison in total for the sum spent, budget and actual spending with the addition of a note on uncontrolled spending in total.
  6. A comparison with the previous year;
  7. Any narrative notes required to explain:
    • Any changes in the basis of calculating sums noted over time and their impact;
    • Any item requiring additional information to ensure proper scrutiny can be undertaken;
    • The degree to which the sum expended is based on actual data and the extent to which it is based on estimates and the considered likelihood that the estimates in question are robust, with reasons stated;
    • The estimated impact in terms of tax revenue and GDP lost to Scotland as a result of expenditure being incurred outside and not within the country and how this sum has been estimated (the ‘multiplier effect’ of spending outside Scotland);
  8. If the expenditure is on capital items these should be categorised sufficiently to allow ensure that the nature of the spend can be readily understood by someone subjecting the spend to scrutiny with the following additional information being disclosed:
    • How these sums will be accounted for in the UK’s national accounts;
    • The estimated life of the assets in question;
    • Any specific capital funding (such as PFI) associated with the acquisition of these assets; the sum raised as capital funding as a result and the total cost to be incurred over the life of the assets in paying for the items funded during the year;
    • The depreciation to be charged over each of the following five years as a result of the spend incurred in the current year.
  9. If the spend relates to capital sums other than the acquisition of assets:
    • The nature of the spend;
    • The reason why it was incurred;
    • Any associated costs e.g. in terminating financial arrangements.

If this data is presented the design criteria should be met.

Reporting Scottish government income

With regard to Scottish government income the most important issues to be addressed are:

  • Identifying income in Scotland;
  • Identifying income for Scotland directly arising on activity undertaken for it outside the country;
  • Identifying the revenue lost to Scotland because of the multiplier effect of economic activity for Scotland being undertaken outside the country.

At present of these three only the first is attempted, and, as has already been noted, it is usually done by extrapolation from reports for the UK as a whole. As the consultant to this review noted[i]:

Compared to ONS statisticians, it’s more likely that Scottish Government statisticians would describe themselves as more opportunistic, but relatively powerless, statistical scavengers. The economic statistics published by the Scottish Government tend to pick out relevant data from UK wide surveys and administrative data where possible.

This failure to collect relevant, reliable, complete, comparable and comprehensible data that this represents is the single highest priority issue that the Scottish parliament needs to address with regard to the Scottish economic data. Unless there is a willingness to address this issue no reliable economic data for Scotland will be available.

This will, in particular, mean that the Scottish government agree with the UK government and with HM Revenue & Customs that the UK national tax authority be asked to:

  1. Reliably identify those persons tax resident in Scotland, which is a task that is underway but that cannot be said to have been completed as yet;
  2. Reliably identify businesses trading in Scotland, which tax gap data suggests is an incomplete process[ii];
  3. Reliably identify those companies that are trading in Scotland, for which there is very little available evidence at present and where there are numerous issues with the management by the Registrar of Companies of the Scottish company register, which along with the register for the UK as a whole sees more than 400,000 companies ‘struck off’ each year, mainly for failing to comply with their regulatory obligations to file accounts and other data[iii];
  4. Reliably apportion the income of these people and entities to Scotland over the whole range of taxes for which they might be liable, only a few of which are directly administered in Scotland;
  5. Appropriately apportion the cost of tax reliefs and allowances (such as the more straightforward ones for pensions and ISAs, to the much more complicated issues of inheritance tax reliefs for agricultural land) to Scotland so that the cost of these to the Scottish economy can be appraised and decisions can be taken on them.

This requires change in HMRC procedure with regard to tax returns. If the principles of country-by-country reporting as now adopted by the OECD[iv] were applied to the apportionment of data between UK constituent countries then a sufficiently reliable apportionment formula for sales and business income could be computed if the following were disclosed on tax returns:

  1. Sales within or from each constituent country of the UK were required to be disclosed on a tax return. For businesses turning over less than, say, £10 million with more than ninety per cent of their activities within one constituent country this disclosure may not be necessary. This data is not onerous data to collect: almost all existing accounting software systems could be easily adapted to supply it;
  2. Sales to each constituent country of the UK were required to be disclosed on a tax return, with similar points to those made in the previous paragraph being repeated in this case;
  3. The location by constituent country of the staff employed (on an averaged basis) by the business during the year;
  4. The location of the tangible assets of the business by constituent country during the year: again, if more than 90% were in one country no further disclosure would be needed.

Using this data:

  1. VAT data could be directly apportioned to constituent countries on a destination basis;
  2. Income tax and corporation tax revenues from trade could either be directly apportioned in many cases or could be apportioned on a weighted formula basis in others using the principles of unitary taxation[v]. The suggested weighting would be to allocate one third of tax adjusted income weighted on sales by origin, one third by location of employees and one third by location of assets. For large groups the weighting would have to be based on consolidated data;
  3. Income tax from employment and investment income could be directly attributed, as could most other direct taxes;
  4. National insurance liabilities could be appropriately apportioned.

That said:

  1. Existing methodologies could be used for devolved taxes;
  2. Other methodologies would need to be reviewed to bring them into line with this new method of working.

The result would be that an internationally accepted method of estimating the location of where economic value arises from tax data would be in use for attributing revenues to Scotland and other UK countries. Simplified data might assist English regional accounting.

This would then only need the estimated tax due on expenditure for Scotland to be calculated, along with its multiplier effect. Detailed methodologies for this would not be difficult to construct.

It should however be noted that the appraisal of Scottish government revenue on this basis should be explicitly adjusted to allow for:

  1. The tax gap, i.e. the revenue which HMRC is unable to collect for Scotland;
  2. The cost of allowances and reliefs, especially if decisions upon those allowances and reliefs are not made in Scotland.

This means that both the gross potential and net actual tax revenues for Scotland could also be estimated, resulting in an estimate of the policy and compliance tax gaps for Scotland also being available, allowing functional decision making on the resources to be allocated to tackling such issues to be made within Scotland when at present it has almost no say on such matters.

Reporting surpluses or deficits

The reporting of surpluses and deficits for Scotland has been undertaken to date by comparing accrued incomes with accrued expenditure, with or without allowance for capital spending depending upon the balance reported. As has been noted there are deficiencies in this approach which space does not allow to be fully addressed. It would however, and in summary, be desirable that any new statement of this type be supported by:

  1. A Scottish balance sheet, but if this could not be prepared, then,
  2. A statement on the movement in the net investment made in government funded infrastructure in Scotland during the period, and
  3. A statement of how the surplus or deficit reported impacts on the liabilities of the Scottish government, Scottish local government, other Scottish government agencies and other government agencies and the likely impact that these liabilities (if any) might have on the agencies in question.

To ensure that this data can be properly appraised the impact of funding accounted for within any GERS statement resulting in any enhanced asset worth in Scotland, whether tangible or intangible, must also be estimated so that the net impact of spending on likely future income streams can be appraised. Only then is appropriate information for genuine economic decision making likely to be available for use by those working on these issues in Scotland.

[i] http://www.parliament.scot/S5_EconomyJobsFairWork/Inquiries/Economic_statistics_report.pdf page 14

[ii] https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/measuring-tax-gaps

[iii] http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Documents/Intheshade.pdf

[iv] http://www.oecd.org/tax/automatic-exchange/about-automatic-exchange/country-by-country-reporting.htm

[v] https://www.taxjustice.net/2014/01/14/towards-unitary-taxation-transnational-corporations-sol-picciotto/

Guy Debord’s Cat: Violence to Fascists Is Justified

Following the violent clashes between the White supremacists, neo-Confederates and outright Nazis and the counter-protesters in Charlottesville the week before last, there have been a series of articles and denunciations of the Anti-Fascists for their physical attacks on the marching hordes of the extreme Right. One of those criticizing them is the veteran critic of capitalism, racism and imperialism, Noam Chomsky, who stated that by using violence, Antifa handed them a ‘propaganda coup’. Others have gone further, and complained that Antifa are against free speech, and so are as bad, or worse, as the Nazis they attacked.

The French philosophical feline strongly rejects this attitude, and has written a blog post explaining just why he supports violence against Fascism. This includes two videos, both of which are well worth watching. One is about the 43 Group, a band of Jewish ex-servicemen, who had seen for themselves the horrific results of Nazi anti-Semitism when they were among the troops, who liberated Auschwitz. After the War, they were disgusted to find the kind of people, who had committed such monstrous atrocities were not only at large, but preaching their murderous doctrines and hatred. They resolved to treat them as they deserved, and hit them time and again force them off the streets.

The second video is presented by Mensi Mensforth, a member of the eighties band Angelic Upstarts. He also talks about the long history of anti-Fascists using physical violence, from struggles in the 1930s against Mosley’s BUF, to today’s battles with the NF and related Nazi gangs. Mensforth and the others speaking on the programme make the point that the people the Antifa are fighting are themselves extremely violent. They talk about Asians in the poorer parts of Britain being firebombed out of their homes. Mensforth himself describes how his stance against the NF so infuriated them, that they tried to silence him by attacking him at one of the Upstart’s gigs. He was saved by Antifa, who were there to defend him.

The Cat starts off by making the point that Antifa is a position, not an organization. The word stands for Anti-Fascist Action, and while later in the article he states that Anti-Fascist Action was set up in 1985 by Red Action and other anti-Fascist groups, he makes the point that if you are opposed to Fascism, then you are Antifa. He also makes the point that Nazis and related organisations in the US have been allowed to march by claiming free speech as their defence, and supported by the local law enforcement agencies and Libertarian organisations, some of whom have their own, very dubious agendas.

Buddy Hell is particularly annoyed by the middle class liberals, who are defending the Nazis’ right to say the unspeakable. He makes the point that Fascists are capitalism’s shock troops. Their leaders come from the middle and upper classes, and they and their vile doctrine emerge when capitalism is in crisis. And they don’t march through White, middle class areas. Their purpose is to divide the working class, and they march through working class and immigrant neighbourhoods as a display of triumphalism and a provocation.

He also makes the point that Fascists are also supported by the petite bourgeoisie and sections of the free press. The free world has tolerated the seizure of power by innumerable right-wing dictatorial groups, but the moment a left-wing government appears the supposed free world immediately tries to destabilize it.

And Fascists themselves are extremely violent. He states very graphically that if you turn the other cheek to a Fascist, they’ll slash it with a razor, and says

I support the activities of militant anti-fascists because I think their use of force is a necessary tactic to counter the violence of the far-right on the streets. If you think allowing neo-fascists a platform to say whatever they like is necessary because you believe everyone has a right to free speech, just imagine what would happen if the far-right ever came to power. The free speech, that you cherish so dearly, would be taken away and you’d be carted off to prison or worse. Now you can accuse me of histrionics if you like, but you’ll have to name a country in which the far-right have gained power and have allowed people to criticize them. I can’t think of one.

See: https://buddyhell.wordpress.com/2017/09/05/militant-anti-fascism-why-i-support-it/

Now I don’t support violence against anyone, and don’t wish to encourage any more of it, even against the Far Right. Real violence is anything but fun, and people have been seriously hurt and killed in the battles between Fascists and anti-Fascists.

But the Cat is right on several points. Fascists are and have always been extremely violent. They’ve been so every since George Sorel wrote his ‘Reflexions sur la Violence’ as a militant 19th century anarcho-syndicalist. Sorel later rejected syndicalism in favour of extreme right-wing nationalist and monarchist groups, but his book remained popular and influential amongst right-wing intellectuals like Mussolini. The kernel of Fascism in Italy were the Fasci di Combattimenti, bands of demobilized ex-servicemen, who went around beating up Socialists, Communists and anyone they thought that was insufficiently patriotic, or just didn’t like. One of their symbols, was the fasces – the bundle of rods with an axe sticking out, which symbolized the power of the lictor, the Roman official, who could have citizens beaten and beheaded. The other, rather less official, but very widely used, was the manganello. This was the club with which Fascist gangs used to beat their opponents in street battles, after which the victims were dosed with castor oil to humiliate them by making them soil themselves.

Before the Nazis seized power in Germany, they also used to go round fighting street battles and beating up Jews and leftists. One of their songs in Berlin was all about how they were going to carry on beating people up, ‘until the Jew lies bleeding at our feet’.

And they weren’t any better in Britain. Mosley’s BUF lost its support partly because it was notorious for its violence, particularly after the infamous Olympia rally, where the BUF’s stewards savagely beat a number of left-wing protestors. And after the war, the BNP, NF and related groups deliberately recruited ‘bovver boys’ and football hooligans. Or as one of their leaders themselves said at the time, ‘robust young men to defend Britain against Communism’. And the evidence for their extreme violence is extremely plentiful. If you go on YouTube, there are a number of videos from World In Action and other documentaries showing just how brutally violent they are. And more often than not, their victims are the weak and defenceless. One of the speakers in one of these documentaries is a female teacher, who describes how she and her colleagues were attacked without provocation by a group of NF thugs when they were having a meeting in a pub. Matthew Collins in his book, Hate, describes how he participated in an attack on an anti-Nazi meeting in one of the rooms above the local library. Those they attacked were mostly women, including a pregnant Asian lady, who was so terrified she tried to barricade herself in the toilets. These are not thugs attacking other thugs. They’re bullies. And when they do meet concerted, violent resistance, as one of the speakers in one of the videos says, they run away.

The decision of the ’43 group to give a dam’ good hiding to the Fascists is entirely understandable. One of the speakers in the video describes how he and the other old comrades put their hands together with Rabbi Hardman, the Jewish army chaplain, and swore ‘Never again’ when they saw the sheer carnage and barbarity at Auschwitz. Rabbi Hardman states he saw bodies piled as high as the surrounding buildings. Another squaddies tells how he met one woman, one of the death camp’s inmates, who had been driven mad because the Nazis had snatched her baby away from her, thrown it up into the air, and then shot it. This treatment wasn’t unique to the Jews. The Beeb a little while ago screened a programme about the Nazi occupation of Poland. One of the incidents that occurred there was when Polish mothers were required to take their children to be examined by the reich authorities. One woman’s child was deemed biologically unfit. It was snatched out of its mother’s arms, thrown onto the floor, and shot.

Most normal people would have felt horror and anger if they had witnessed what these servicemen had seen. And when it is done to one’s own ethnic or religious group, when one thinks how it could have been one’s own spouse, parents, children, or other relatives and friends lying down there among the bodies, those feelings are naturally going to turn into an intense rage, or in this case, a steely determination to do everything they could to stop it ever occurring again.

The speakers in the video make the point that they didn’t reject non-violent persuasion. They tried it, and found that it didn’t work. They state that it was a case of ‘both…and…’ rather than ‘either…or…’. But it didn’t work on the convinced Fascists. And so they resolved to disrupt their meetings and force them off the streets.

At the time there were 40 or so Fascist meetings every month in London, and the BUF, or Mosley’s successor organisations, were not opposed, and indeed supported, by the London police. This has been corroborated by other historians. Larry O’Hara wrote an article in Lobster back in the 1990s about how the metropolitan police turned a blind eye to Fascist meetings, even when they openly broke the law. Such as drinking a toast to the destruction of the Jews. Indeed, it was quite often anti-Fascist protesters, who were arrested, rather than the stormtroopers.

Not all police forces were as tolerant as London’s, however. One of the speakers describes how they heard that the Blackshirts were planning to go down and hold a rally in Brighton. So the ’43 Group let the Brighton fuzz know they would also be down there to disrupt the meeting. The rozzers duly replied that the Fascists were quite within their rights, and the police would allow them to go ahead following the principle of free speech. But in practice, they only sent one officer. He was obviously just a token presence, and the former servicemen were able to give their opponents a sound beating.

They describe how, when they attacked a Fascist gathering, their intention was to seize and overturn the podium. Among those, who got what they deserved was Hamm, Mosley’s second in command. They also reveal that they had considerable information given to them about the location of meetings and so on from informers within the Fascists’ own ranks. These were people, who had joined the party, and found out it wasn’t what they thought it was. Ultimately, the ’43 group were successful. They point out that due to their attacks Mosley couldn’t appear in public, and they talk about their pride as Jews and citizens in closing him down.

Mensforth’s video also begins with people from the East End describing the antics of Mosley’s Blackshirts in their day, and their role in the Battle of Cable Street. This was when the BUF tried to march through the East End, but were beaten off by a group of trade unionists, Communists and Jews. The speakers describe how they also fought the police, who were protecting the Fascists.

Describing the activities of contemporary Nazis, they point out that they want to keep the working class divided, and encourage racial hatred to that end. When there are no ethnic minorities available for them to whip up hate against, as in Glasgow, they find another outsider group to serve the same purpose, like Roman Catholics. One of the speakers is a Glaswegian, who was a former member of one of the Fascist groups in Scotland, as well as a Protestant supporter of one of the very Unionist football clubs. One of the songs their supporters sing is ‘Billy’s Boys’. He states most of the supporters think it’s about William of Orange, but in fact it’s about one of Mosley’s lieutenants in that part of Scotland in the 1930s. This particular speaker was drawn into it through the sectarian politics of Scots football clubs. He left when he started getting leaflets from the organization telling him to support their policies against Israel, and supporting South American dictators and death squads.

Watching these videos, it struck me that some, at least, of the violent antifa, aren’t thugs using violence for the sheer pleasure of it. They’re just people, who actually take Fascism seriously. Very seriously. To many people, the Fascist fringe are so grotesque that they’re a joke, and the numbers involved in their marches are so trivial that there’s absolutely no danger of these morons gaining power. They’re figures of fun, like the American National Socialist White People’s Party in the Blues Brothers. And it’s because they aren’t taken as a serious threat, that they and their wretched marches are tolerated. Despite considerable, and very vocal opposition, I hasten to add.

And indeed there is a certain amount of grim humour to be found there. They are so twisted, that they can be unintentionally hilarious, and mocking them does have the right effect. Hope Not Hate a few days ago put up a piece about how one of the squadristi was upset with the organization, because it was taking the mick out of him. And Private Eye also reported how members were leaving the BNP after it had been mocked in the pages of Ian Hislop’s mighty organ. The Third Reich was long ago, and so were the various Fascist dictatorships in Central and South America, as well as all the other brutal right-wing regimes that have seized power around the world.

But if you’ve seen what Fascism has done, and your family and friends have been attacked or worse by its supporters over here, your attitude might be very different. The Klan and the neo-Confederates really aren’t a joke to Blacks, Jews and other minority groups, because of the lynchings and the use of terror and extreme violence. Over in Britain, the British Fascist groups supported not only the Unionist paramilitaries in Northern Ireland, but they also gave sanctuary to a group of Italian Fascists in the 1980s following the Bologna railway bombing, which killed more than a hundred people. And given the horrific atrocities the death squads committed in Latin America – things so revolting that they cannot be decently described in a family blog, it becomes a very good question why the members of various Conservative and Libertarian societies weren’t attacked or beaten when they decided to invite these scum to their annual dinners.

I don’t support violence, let alone vigilanteeism, but the Cat has done a good job in explaining why violent resistance against Fascism may be justified. As he points out, this is violence against those, who are absolutely serious in their intention to imprison, torture and kill millions, if they came to power. Their tolerated at the moment because they aren’t a significant threat. But that can change. Free speech is not an absolute, and there have to be limits to toleration. It’s why we have laws against hate speech, no matter how they right may decry them as ‘political correctness’.

Economic ideology

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 09/09/2017 - 6:27pm in

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Economics

La force de l’autorité scientifique, qui s’exerce sur le mouvement social et jusqu’au fond des consciences des travailleurs, est très grande. Elle produit une forme de démoralisation. Et une des raisons de sa force, c’est qu’elle est détenue par des gens qui ont tous l’air d’accord entre eux — le consensus est en général un […]

Paul Krugman: Dreamers, Liars and Bad Economics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 09/09/2017 - 5:33pm in

"Trump and company tell a lot of lies about economics":

Dreamers, Liars and Bad Economics, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: Does it matter that Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, tried to justify Donald Trump’s immigration cruelty with junk economics?

It’s definitely not the main issue. Trump’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy is, above all else, immoral. The 800,000 beneficiaries of DACA — the so-called Dreamers — have done nothing wrong; they came to the United States illegally, but not of their own volition, because they were children at the time.

They are, according to all available data, an exemplary segment of our population: hard-working young people, many seeking to improve themselves through higher education. They’re committed to the values of their home — because America is their home.

To yank the rug out from under the Dreamers ... is a cruel betrayal. ...

Still, Sessions chose to put economics front and center in his statement, declaring that DACA, which allows the Dreamers to work legally, has “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.” That’s just false...

Trump and company tell a lot of lies about economics (and everything else). ...

The truth is that letting the Dreamers work legally helps the U.S. economy; pushing them out or into the shadows is bad for everyone except racists.

To understand why, you need to realize that America, like other advanced economies, is facing a double-barreled demographic challenge thanks to declining fertility.

On one side, an aging population means fewer workers paying taxes to support Social Security and Medicare. Demography is the main reason long-run forecasts suggest problems for Social Security, and an important reason for concerns about Medicare. Driving out young workers who will pay into the system for many decades is a way to make these problems worse.

On the other side, declining growth in the working-age population reduces the returns to private investment, increasing the risk of prolonged slumps like the one that followed the 2008 financial crisis.

It’s not an accident that Japan, which has low fertility and is deeply hostile to immigration, began experiencing persistent deflation and stagnation a decade before the rest of the world. Destroying DACA makes America more like Japan. Why would we want to do that? ...

In short, letting Dreamers work is all economic upside for the rest of our nation, with no downside unless you have something against people with brown skin and Hispanic surnames. Which is, of course, what this is all really about.

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