coups

Tony Benn: Socialism Needed to Prevent Massive Abuse by Private Industry

In the chapter ‘Labour’s Industrial Programme’ in his 1979 book, Arguments for Socialism, Tony Benn makes a very strong case for the extension of public ownership. This is needed, he argued, to prevent serious abuse by private corporations. This included not just unscrupulous and unjust business policies, like one medical company overcharging the health service for its products, but also serious threats to democracy. Benn is also rightly outraged by the way companies can be bought and sold without the consultation of their workers. He writes

The 1970s provided us with many examples of the abuse of financial power. There were individual scandals such as the one involving Lonrho which the Conservative Prime Minister, Mr Heath, described as the ‘unacceptable face of capitalism’. Firms may be able to get away with the payment of 38,000 pounds a year to part-time chairmen if no one else knows about it. But when it becomes public and we know that the chairman, as a Conservative M.P., supports a statutory wages policy to keep down the wage of low-paid workers, some earning less than 20 pounds a week at the time, it becomes intolerable. There was the case of the drug company, Hoffman-La Roche, who were grossly overcharging the National Health Service. There was also the initial refusal by Distillers to compensate the thalidomide children properly.

There were other broader scandals such as those involving speculation in property and agricultural land; the whole industry of tax avoidance; the casino-like atmosphere of the Stock Exchange. Millions of people who experience real problems in Britain are gradually learning all this on radio and television and from the press. Such things are a cynical affront to the struggle that ordinary people have to feed and clothe their families.

But the problem goes deeper than that. Workers have no legal rights to be consulted when the firms for which they work are taken over. They are sold off like cattle when a firm changes hands with no guarantee for the future. The rapid growth of trade union membership among white-collar workers and even managers indicates the strength of feelings about that. Not just the economic but also the political power of big business, especially the multinationals, has come into the open.

In Chile the ITT plotted to overthrow an elected President. The American arms companies, Lockheed and Northrop, have been shown to have civil servants, generals, ministers and even prime ministers, in democratic countries as well as dictatorships, on their payroll. The Watergate revelations have shown how big business funds were used in an attempt to corrupt the American democratic process. In Britain we have had massive political campaigns also financed by big business to oppose the Labour Party’s programme for public ownership and to secure the re-election of Conservative governments. Big business also underwrote the cost of the campaign to keep Britain in the Common Market at the time of the 1975 referendum. (pp. 49-50).

Benn then moves to discuss the threat of the sheer amount of power held by big business and the financial houses.

Leaving aside the question of abuse, the sheer concentration of industrial and economic power is now a major political factor. The spate of mergers in recent years in Britain alone – and their expected continuation – can be expressed like this: in 1950 the top 100 companies in Britain produced about 20 per cent of the national output. By 1973 they produced 46 per cent. And at this rate, by 1980, they will produce 66 per cent – two-thirds of our national output. Many of them will be operating multinationally, exporting capital and jobs and siphoning off profits to where the taxes are most profitable.

The banks, insurance companies and financial institutions are also immensely powerful. In June 1973 I was invited to speak at a conference organised by the Financial Times and the Investors Chronicle. It was held in the London Hilton, and before going I added up the total assets of the banks and other financial institutions represented in the audience. They were worth at that time about 95,000 million pounds. This was at the time about twice as much as the Gross National Product of the United Kingdom and four or five times the total sum raised in taxation by the British government each year. (p.50).

He then goes on to argue that the Labour party has to confront what this concentration of industrial and financial power means for British democracy and its institutions, and suggests some solutions.

The Labour Party must ask what effect all this power will have on the nature of our democracy. Britain is proud of its system of parliamentary democracy, its local democracy and its free trade unions. But rising against this we have the growing power of the Common Market which will strip our elected House of Commons of its control over some key economic decisions. This has greatly weakened British democracy at a time when economic power is growing stronger.

I have spelled this out because it is the background against which our policy proposals have been developed. In the light of our experience in earlier governments we believed it would necessary for government to have far greater powers over industry. These are some of the measures we were aiming at in the Industry Bill presented to Parliament in 1975, shortly after our return to power:

The right to require disclosure of information by companies
The right of government to invest in private companies requiring support.
The provision for joint planning between government and firms.
The right to acquire firms, with the approval of Parliament.
The right to protect firms from takeovers.
The extension of the present insurance companies’ provisions for ministerial control over board members.
The extension of the idea of Receivership to cover the defence of the interests of workers and the nation.
Safeguards against the abuse of power by global companies.

If we are to have a managed economy-and that seems to be accepted – the question is: ‘In whose interests is it to be managed?’ We intend to manage it in the interests of working people and their families. But we do not accept the present corporate structure of Government Boards, Commissions and Agents, working secretly and not accountable to Parliament. The powers we want must be subjected to House of Commons approval when they are exercised. (pp. 50-1).

I don’t know what proportion of our economy is now dominated by big business and the multinationals, but there is absolutely no doubt that the situation after nearly forty years of Thatcherism is now much worse. British firms, including our public utilities, have been bought by foreign multinationals, are British jobs are being outsourced to eastern Europe and India.

There has also been a massive corporate takeover of government. The political parties have become increasingly reliant on corporate donations from industries, that then seek to set the agenda and influence the policies of the parties to which they have given money. The Conservatives are dying from the way they have consistently ignored the wishes of their grassroots, and seem to be kept alive by donations from American hedge fund firms. Under Blair and Brown, an alarmingly large number of government posts were filled by senior managers and officials from private firms. Both New Labour and the Tories were keen to sell off government enterprises to private industry, most notoriously to the firms that bankrolled them. And they put staff from private companies in charge of the very government departments that should have been regulating them. See George Monbiot’s Captive State.

In America this process has gone so far in both the Democrat and Republican parties that Harvard University in a report concluded that America was no longer a functioning democracy, but a form of corporate oligarchy.

The Austrian Marxist thinker, Karl Kautsky, believed that socialists should only take industries into public ownership when the number of firms in them had been reduced through bankruptcies and mergers to a monopoly. Following this reasoning, many of the big companies now dominating modern Britain, including the big supermarkets, should have been nationalized long ago.

Tony Benn was and still is absolutely right about corporate power, and the means to curb it. It’s why the Thatcherite press reviled him as a Communist and a maniac. We now no longer live in a planned economy, but the cosy, corrupt arrangements between big business, the Tories, Lib Dems and New Labour, continues. Ha-Joon Chang in his book 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism argues very strongly that we need to return to economic planning. In this case, we need to go back to the policies of the ’70s that Thatcher claimed had failed, and extend them.

And if that’s true, then the forty years of laissez-faire capitalism ushered in by Thatcher and Reagan is an utter, utter failure. It’s time it was discarded.

‘I’ Newspaper Publishing Economist Articles to Promote Economic Orthodoxy?

The I proudly announced yesterday, 5th January 1919, that it had now made an agreement with the Economist to print articles from that magazine. Now the Economist has a reputation for excellent journalism, and for clearly explaining complex issues for a lay readership. But it is, unsurprisingly as a business magazine, firmly behind the current economic orthodoxy. Which is that capitalism is great, and state intervention and the unions are to be strongly resisted.

The I started out as a digest version of the Independent, which adopted its name in order to show that it was independent of party political bias. The I undercut its parent paper, which has now, I believe, gone on the internet. As for the I itself, while it is supposedly free of overall political bias, it has shown itself to be consistently and fiercely biased against Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters in the Labour party. If followed the rest of the press, for example, in promoting the anti-Semitism smears against the Labour leader and his supporters.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that capitalism in the west is now in serious trouble. In Britain a quarter of a million people now have to rely on food banks to fend off starvation, a sizable proportion of whom are actually working. Tens of thousands of people are homeless, and the present generation of young people in Britain and America are now looking at a future in which they will never be able to afford to buy their own home. Even rented property may be out of their reach. Recent polls show that 55 per cent of American young people now have no faith in capitalism.

And in Britain this is all set to get worse, much worse, with Brexit. Which is why Tweezer has set up a department to deal with food shortages, and has prepared to put 3,500 squaddies on Britain’s streets in the event that Britain crashes out without a deal with the EU.

This must worry the ruling elite, which worked hard throughout the Cold War to stop the peoples of the world taking up Communism and has consistently attacked, destabilized and overthrown liberal and left-wing governments and political leaders around the world. This has not prevented the business papers in the past recognizing that there were profound problems with current economic policy. In the 1990s, for example, the Financial Times carried a number of articles demonstrating very clearly that poverty was increasing, and that the majority of the new poor in America and elsewhere were actually working, not unemployed. This was when the newspaper supported the Lib Dems, though that didn’t stop one of its columnists telling his readers that he supported workfare. According to Private Eye the FT is, like the rest of the lamestream press, losing readers. It has tried to reverse this by switching its support to the Tories, but this hasn’t stopped its readers from leaving it.

Looking at this arrangement between the I and the Economist, it seems that these journals are also in trouble. The I‘s management seems to hope that this arrangement will encourage some of the Economist’s readers will also start reading the paper, while it can be inferred that the Economist’s management probably hope that some the I’s will start looking at theirs.

Now this doesn’t mean that the I will start having a strong political bias towards one party, although it has always attacked Corbyn and his supporters in Labour. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t have a political bias at all. It does. Like the Groaniad, it is biased towards the current worn-out Thatcherite political and economic consensus. Hence both magazines’ attacks on Corbyn because he and his supporters have rejected it and are determined to overturn it.

It seems to me very strongly that the I has therefore made this arrangement with the Economist, not just to boost sales, but also to try to reinforce and promote the popular acceptance of Thatcherite economic orthodoxy, an orthodoxy that is accepted uncritically by the Blairites and the Lib Dems outside the Conservative party, but which is rejected by the Corbynites. An economic orthodoxy that is increasingly shown to be wrong, and catastrophically wrong, to an increasingly large number of this country’s citizens.

The I and its owners, like the press, are terrified of this, as is the rest of the press. Hence the decision to try and bolster Thatcherite capitalism through the republication of Economist articles, even when claiming still to be politically independent. But it’s only independent of particular parties. Ideologically, it’s still Thatcherite.

Tweezer’s Threat to Post-Brexit Democracy

Last Wednesday, the 19th December 2018, Mike put up a truly alarming article. May, he reported, was planning on putting 3,500 squaddies on the streets of Britain if the country crashed out of the EU without a deal.

Mike in his article made the point that it looks like the Tories are desperate to get the country out of Europe before new tax legislation comes in, which would force the millionaires she serves to pay more tax. It’s a very strong argument. The only reason we are due to leave the EU on the date May set is because May set it. If negotiations with the EU take longer to secure a deal, it’s possible for May to postpone it. But she clearly doesn’t want that. And Tory policy, and for that matter, New Labour’s, has been for us to become a low wage tax haven off Europe, for the benefit of the extremely rich. Hence the continuing scandal of the City of London becoming one of the major centres of global money laundering. For further information, see the ‘In the City’ column in Private Eye.

Mike also commented that May appeared to be deliberately running down the clock to Brexit, perhaps due to being deliberately influenced with the hard right European Research Group and Jacob Rees-Mogg. And low taxes mean that not enough money is available for social policies that benefit ordinary people. Mike therefore concluded that

Put these elements together and it may be easier to understand why Mrs May is planning to deploy 3,500 soldiers onto the streets of the UK in the event of a “no-deal” Brexit. Martial law would preserve her government – sorry, dictatorship – against the civil unrest that her policies seem certain to provoke.

Mike then supports his conclusion with further arguments – that Tweezer knows she’s on borrowed time, but is determined to cling on to power, that the government wishes her to stay in power to continue the harm she’s doing to our country and society, and the complicity of the media in this, distracting the country in order to stop them realizing how they are being stripped of their rights and forced into debt.

Mike’s commenters are also extremely alarmed at the idea of Tweezer calling in the armed forces, and some of their comments are very well worth reading. Dan Delion, for example, said

If you want to know what may be in the pipeline, I urge you to read part 2 (Emergency Powers) of the Civil Contingency Act 2004 (it’s not long ~ 10pp) which describes the legislatiion that already exists – set up by Tony Blair, as it happens.
This is nothing to do with the replacememnt for Emergency Planning (that’s part 1 of said Act), but is intended to deal with any form of civil strife – just like Brexit.. Makes me wonder if May found what was up her sleeve and has been planning to keep the law in reserve, just in case Remoaners (or any other bodies) get uppity!

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/12/19/brexipocalypse-may-threatens-martial-law-if-she-doesnt-get-her-contradictory-way/

This really is monstrous. The last time I can remember the army being called on to the streets of Britain was back in the 1970s, when there was a widespread fear that the country was on the verge of collapse, mostly due to strikes. And members of the establishment, including the Times and the editor of the Mirror, were definitely planning a coup in the mid-70s to overthrow Harold Wilson’s minority Government. This was partly because he was feared – and smeared by MI5 – as a KGB agent. Ken Livingstone discusses the proposed coup in his 1987 book, Livingstone’s Labour. Left-wing activists, including journalists, were to be rounded up and interned in one of the islands off Scotland. This was no mere fantasy. Francis Wheen also describes the proposed coup and the plotters in his book, Strange Days: Paranoia in the ’70s. And Lobster has discussed several times MI5’s smears against Wilson.

The plotters did try to get the generals at Sandhurst interested, but they did their duty to Queen and country instead and send them packing. but there is nevertheless a real threat there. The Trotskyite writer, Ernest Mandel, in his book From Stalinism to Eurocommunism (New York: Schocken Books 1978) argued that democratically elected socialist and Marxist regimes have always been prevented from fully carrying out their dismantlement of big capital by the military. Mandel’s book is an attack on the ‘Eurocommunist’ direction western European Marxist took as they broke from the Stalinism and rigidly bureaucratic politics of the Soviet Union and turned instead to democratic elections and multiparty politics. It was a strategy intended to avoid a violent confrontation between the workers and capital. Mandel writes

Now, the essential aim of the Eurocommunist strategy is precisely to avert this confrontation at any price. Its capacity to influence the behaviour of the bourgeoisie, however, is virtually nil. The coups of Kapp, Mola-Franco, De Gaulle, Pinochet and Eanes have never been warded off by the pledges of Ebert-Noske, Otto Wels, Prieto, Thorez, Allende, or Mario Soares that the army is ‘national’ and ‘democratic’ and ‘stands above the class struggle’ and ‘respects the constitution’. (pp. 196-7).

The Kapp putsch was an attempt by parts of the army to overthrow the Weimar coalition government of post-WW I Germany headed by Ebert, the head of the SDP, the German equivalent of the Labour party. Thorez was the head of the Communist party in France when De Gaulle briefly seized power to govern by decree. Allende was the democratically elected Marxist president of Chile who was overthrown by Pinochet. General Franco was the Fascist leader of Spain, who overthrew the Republican government. I’m not familiar with the other names. Mandel is here discussing Marxist politicians, who were unable to stave off coups or coup attempts. Jeremy Corbyn very definitely isn’t a Marxist, but the Tories and mainstream media have been trying to smear him and his followers as Communists, Trotskyites and Stalinists. I can easily believe that some Tories would want him overthrown militarily if he did become prime minister.

I was talking a few months ago to one of the priests at our church, who also has strong left-wing beliefs. He lived and ministered for a long time in Australia, and told me that he wondered if Corbyn would ever be allowed to take power. He considered it possible that the Tories here would do what their counterparts Down Under did. They invoked the Queen to have the definitely democratically elected Gough Whitlam removed from office. I think if that happened here, it would utterly discredit the monarchy, though I can see a very carefully crafted story being concocted by the political establishment and the media to justify such an outrageous abuse of the monarchical prerogative.

And even if May’s preparations to put the army on the streets in the event of a No Deal Brexit is only to prevent rioting, there’s still more than element of self-interest about it. It was rioting over the poll tax in 1989 that forced Thatcher to retire, even though she won the vote of No Confidence in the Tory party with a slightly higher majority than Tweezer. And she nearly went eight or nine years previously, in 1981-2, with the rioting then.

And she clearly is concerned that rioting will occur if Britain leaves the EU without some kind of deal. Rioting no doubt caused by lack of food, medicine and other essential services caused by her shoddy negotiations with the EU.

May is a direct threat to British democracy, and the lives and livelihoods of Britain’s citizens. She works only for the rich, and would like to use the army to keep herself in power. Just like Thatcher’s friend, the mass murderer and torturer General Pinochet, and the other Latin American fascists the Tories supported.

Adolf Hitler on Lord Rothermere’s Support

Here’s another interesting snippet from Hitler’s Table-Talk (Oxford: OUP 1988). The Daily Mail is rightly notorious for having supported the Nazis and Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists in the period before the Second World War. It’s why it’s got the unaffectionate nickname the Heil, from the Nazi salute.

And every so often that past comes back to bite them. Several times over the past few years the peeps on the internet have dug out articles from the rag from the 1930s supporting the Fascists to show what a vile newspaper it is. They did when the paper tried to attack the former Labour leader Ed Miliband, by running an article smearing his father, the respected Marxist intellectual Ralph Miliband, as ‘the Man Who Hated Britain’. Miliband was a Jewish refugee from Belgium, who fled here from the Nazis. And while he hated British capitalism, its class system and the public schools, he joined the army and fought bravely to defend this country against Nazi tyranny. Unlike the father or grandfather of former Mail editor, Paul Dacre, who was well out of the line of fire as a domestic showbiz correspondent.

The Mail also got sharply reminded of its anti-Semitic past when it again tried smearing another Labour leader, Miliband’s successor, Jeremy Corbyn, as an anti-Semite. And then two months ago Private Eye had fun when it revealed that the newspaper had spiked an article on a 1930s German tennis star, who had opposed the Nazis. This courageous athlete had been blackballed by the Wimbledon tennis club because he was gay. And the people, who led the campaign included Dacre’s father and Geordie Greig, the present editor of the paper. It also revealed that Greig’s father or grandfather was also a member of one of Oswald Mosley’s wretched think tanks, founded to spread Fascist and corporate state thought.

Hitler had personally met the Heil’s notorious owner, Lord Rothermere, several times, and mentions the support the newspaper magnate had given him in his after dinner conversation, which was recorded in the pages of the Table-Talk. The Fuhrer said

The first time the Princess ___ visited me, she brought a letter from Rothermere. I asked Neurath if he considered it advisable for me to receive her. His reply was that, if we could get Rothermere on our side, it would be a terrific accomplishment; and that, at all costs, I must hear what she had to say. When the scarecrow appeared, I muttered “For God and Fatherland” and braced myself to receive her.

In his letter Rothermere said he would gladly use his Press to further a rapprochement between Britain and Germany. We subsequently exchanged a series of letter, one of which was very important. I had written to Rothermere to say that I had no grounds for hostility towards Italy, and that I considered Mussolini to be an outstanding personality; that if the British thought they could ride roughshod over a man like Mussolini, they were greatly mistaken; that he was the incarnation of the spirit of the Italian people (in those days I still had illusions about the Italians); that attempts to strangle Italy were futile; and that Italy, as Germany had done before her, would look after herself, and finally, that Germany could be no party to any action directed against Italy or Italian interests.

Thereupon Rothermere came over to see me, and the Princess accompanied him. I must admit I prefer a friendly little kitchen wench to a politically minded lady! Nevertheless, the fact remains-the attitude of the Daily Mail at the time of our re-occupation of the Rhineland was of great assistance to us, as it was also over the question of our naval programme. All the British of the Beaverbrook-Rothermere circle came to me and said: “in the last war we were on the wrong side.” Rothermere told me that he and Beaverbrook were in complete agreement that never again should there be war between Britain and Germany. (p. 685).

The Heil always has been a viciously right-wing, racist rag, and Hitler appreciated the support it, and the press barons Beaverbrook and Rothermere had given him. Its claims to support this country against immigrants and the Left are grotesque and disgusting. In the 1970s various Tories, including the Times, were considering launching a coup to overthrow the minority Labour government of time. I’ve no doubt that if Corbyn did get into power, the Mail would also enthusiastically support anyone who would try to overthrow him. They’d smear him as a Communist and Trotskyite to justify the coup, of course, just as the Americans have smeared as Communists the democratically elected Socialist and left-wing leaders of the foreign governments they’ve toppled. And the Tory BBC would be willingly complicit.

Brady’s Warning of the Rise of Fascism in Britain and America

I’ve put up a number of quotations from the book The Spirit and Structure of Germany Fascism by the American economist Robert A. Brady, published over here by Victor Gollancz in 1937. Brady was concerned to show how the Nazis in Germany had allowed the German business classes to seize power and crush and exploit the workers, as well as creating and exploiting a murderous hatred of Jews, Gypsies and other people they consider ‘subhuman’ and an enemy of the German, Aryan race.

In the last chapter of the book, ‘The Looming Shadow of Fascism’, Brady shows that many of the attitudes of German business were identical to those businessmen elsewhere in Europe. The chapter includes passages from other publications, including those by explicitly pro-Nazi American writers, whose ideas are similar or even identical to those of the Third Reich. And he warns that a Fascist seizure of power from organized, monopoly capitalism was a real threat in America. A threat that would result in the persecution of ethnic minorities like the Japanese, Jews, Mexicans and Blacks. He writes

In all the complicated, confused, and myth-charged experiences of the human race, there can be no more curious spectacle than that which is taking place along this line before our very eyes in every capitalistic land to-day. Here we have the business enterprise, perhaps the most completely amoral and materialistic single-purpose institution the human mind has yet devised, governed by a class of men who may be ever so sentimental with their children and ever so “kind and gentle with their wives,” but who, in order to maintain their position unimpaired as the prime material beneficiaries of economic activity, are compelled to resort to the wholesale promotion of one of the most incredibly jejune, intellectually and emotionally shallow, and crudely primitive “faiths” known in the iridescent annals of myth and fable.

The doctrinal position of business evangelism has two faces, an inner and an outer. The first is that which business men believe concerning themselves and their human kind. The second is that which they wish the remainder of the population to believe about the business-military hierarchy-the “leaders’-on the one hand, and about the proper role each , and every member of the rank and file should expect to play in this “best of all possible worlds: on the other.

Both these propaganda faces are the same in all nations ordered on a capitalist basis. There is a veritable mountain of literature obtainable in every one of these countries which could be used to illustrate the close parallels in the programme, the doctrine, and the mood of their respective business communities. The variations which one will find are in the form of adaptations of the same doctrinal positions to local or national circumstances; they do not indicate differences in doctrine. As was shown in many different places in the preceding chapters, almost the entirety of the German Nazi programme and line of argumentation is identical in content and point of view with that of the American business community. Such elements as the persecution of the Jews is different, not in intent, but only in the fact that such persecution could serve Nazi ends in Germany in the particular circumstances of the years 1933-6. When the American situation has ripened to that of Germany in 1933, there will be race terror in the United States as well, and it will be anti-negro, anti-Jew, anti-Mexican, and anti-Japanese. (pp. 337-8, my emphasis).

Brady was clearly afraid of Fascism seizing power in America within a few years of his writing the book. Mercifully, he was wrong. But only just. A group of businessmen did meet various generals in the 1930s with the intention of organizing a coup to overthrow F.D. Roosevelt after he launched his New Deal. And those businessmen were the literal parents and ideological founders of modern Libertarianism.

Big business has been gaining increasing power in America and Britain since the days of Thatcher and Reagan. Trade unions have been smashed, welfare programmes destroyed, the state provision of healthcare also cut back. Wages have been frozen under the guise of curbing inflation. The result is growing poverty, job insecurity, homelessness and starvation. 330,000 Brits are homeless. A quarter of a million are keeping body and soul together through food banks. And over a thousand disabled people have died because they’ve been thrown off benefits in what Mike over at Vox Political has described as cheque book genocide.

And with poverty has come increasing racism, stoked by fears over mass migration and affirmative action/positive discrimination programmes. In Britain Tweezer and the Tories set up posters and sent vans round to Black areas telling illegal immigrants to hand themselves in. Windrush migrants, who have every right to live in this country, were illegally deported. Islamophobia is on the rise, partly caused by the suicide bombings that have occurred as blow-back from the Islamist groups aided and abetted by the West as allies in our wars in the Middle East, and by migrants forced out of the region and elsewhere by the very same wars. So we’ve had UKIP, Brexit and the lies of the ‘Leave’ campaign in Britain. While in America there’s Trump and his friends and supporters in the Alt-Right. He wants to build a wall with Mexico to protect American from further immigration. Armed troops have been sent down to the border to shoot unarmed illegal immigrants, and the Republicans are stoking up fears about the migrant caravan from Honduras. Quite apart from the increase in White Supremacist domestic terrorism, including the massacre of the worshippers at a synagogue because they were closely linked to a Jewish charity aiding asylum seekers come to the US, and therefore, to the perpetrator, enemies of the White race.

We’re not at the level of an imminent Fascist takeover yet. But the signs are there, and Brady’s warning remains chillingly relevant.

Maoist Rebel News on Nazi Coup Plot in Germany

I’ve absolutely no respect for Chairman Mao. Far from being a liberator, the former Chinese dictator was a ruthless butcher, who killed and brutalized millions during the ‘Cultural Revolution’. Over 60 million people died in the artificial famine his regime created. He and his comrades were also vandals and barbarians, who tried to destroy China’s millennia old culture by smashing monuments and priceless art treasures, as well as the ruthless persecution of religion, including Buddhism and Taoism, as well as Christianity.

But Jason Unruhe of Maoist Rebel News says some very interesting things and makes some very acute observations of contemporary capitalism. In this piece, he discusses reports, found only in the Mail and RT, that the German authorities discovered a Nazi plot by serving members of the armed forces to overthrow the government. The plot including 14,000 soldiers, who were members of Nazi organisations. It’s a trivial number compared to the vast numbers in the German armed forces, but it’s serious because they were genuine Nazis. In the event of widespread unrest, the plotters in the military planned to leave the civilian government to its fate, and start re-opening concentration camps, in which they would incarcerate leftists and members of ethnic minorities.

Unruhe notes that this story seems to have been comprehensively buried by all of the media, with the exception of the two above, because of its explosive nature. He also states that we don’t know how many people have been arrested. This is a serious threat to democracy and justice in Germany. It means anti-Fascists have to become better organized and equipped, with German antifas now in a dangerous position. This plot means that they are Europe’s first and best line of defence against a real Nazi resurgence.

I can’t say I’m surprised at the high number of real Nazis in Germany’s military. The Baader-Meinhof Gang in the 1970s were spurred on to carry out their terror attacks from the realization that the denazification campaign after the War had only affected a comparatively small number of those serving Hitler’s vile regime. Many others had escaped, and despite their horrific crimes were living peaceful, comfortable lives. The British and Americans recruited Nazi agents and collaborators, including men responsible for vicious pogroms and massacres against Jews, for the intelligence agencies during the Cold War. It thus really wouldn’t surprise me if they let many Nazi members of the armed forces keep their jobs in the Cold War as part of Europe’s defence against Stalin. Just as they set up Gladio, a left-behind resistance network that would fight Communism if the Warsaw Pact successfully invaded and conquered the West. The feared invasion mercifully never happened, but various elements of the Gladio network were involved in far right-wing terrorism. It’s possible something similar could have been behind the persistence of real Nazism in the armed forces. Also, the neo-Nazi papers on sale in the eastern parts of the Federal Republic after the War styled themselves as the newspapers for soldiers and peasants.

Fascism is now a very real threat in Europe, with the election of Far-right wing parties to power in Poland, Hungary and other countries in eastern Europe, Marine Le Pen’s Front National in France, and the Fascist Alternative fuer Deutschland on the rise in Germany. The leaders and senior members of the latter do have Nazi, or neo-Nazi connections. They’ve made speeches denouncing Germany’s Holocaust memorial as a ‘national shame’, and declared that if they got into power they’d open an underground railway to Auschwitz.

But I’m not as pessimistic as Unruhe is here. I got the distinct impression that young Germans are very anti-totalitarian, and that German anarchists, who are very ready to fight Fascism on the streets, are very well organized.

This is, of course, if there’s anything to this story at all. I think it probably is true, but it may be fake news concocted for some strange reason, and released only by those two sources. I also wonder about the figures involved. 14,000 sounds very high. I’m not sure that the National Democrats or the German Republican Party, two of the main neo-Nazi parties before the AfD a few years ago, had anywhere near that number of members. They certainly didn’t have much popular support, as they always came very low down the list in German elections, although the NDP did manage to get something like four members elected to the Reichstag or somewhere in Germany before they were banned.

But if this is true, then it’s a frightening demonstration of how serious a threat Fascism now is. It has to be fought wherever it’s found, right across Europe, before it seizes power again and begins another Holocaust.

Fascism Based on the Values of Business and the Military

On Saturday I put up a number of extracts from Robert A. Brady’s The Spirit and Structure of German Fascism (London: Victor Gollancz 1937) to show that, contrary to what the Republicans in America and the Tories in this country would have us believe Nazism was firmly capitalist, not socialist. Brady argued that Nazism was, economically, monopoly capitalism with businessmen put in charge of the economy, very much like the corporatist capitalism introduced by the Tories, the Republicans and Blair’s New Labour.

Brady also argued that the autocratic social structure of Fascism was based very much on the hierarchical structure of business and the armed forces, including the businessmen’s contempt for the low paid. He wrote

With respect first to the condition, it has been pointed out in the first chapter of this study, and illustrated in subsequent chapters, that the German business community did not depart one iota from tried and true “business principles” when they underwrote the Nazi programme. Every business practices towards its own staff the “leader” and the “authority” principles, and it undeviatingly aspires towards the “total” principle. That is to say, all officers and staff members are appointed and removed from on top entirely at the discretion of management (leader principle), and authority is from the top down, responsibility from the bottom up (authority principle). And every employer attempts to control so far as humanly possible the attitudes, beliefs, and points of view (weltanschauung) of his employees and every section of the public with which he comes in contact (total principle).

Every business establishment is, in other words, completely autocratic and completely undemocratic in structure, ideology, and procedure. It is, by the same token, completely intolerant of all opposition within or without, or of any criticism which does not redound to the advantage of the profit-making possibilities of the enterprise. The enterprise may be compelled, it is true, to make important concessions on all points, but it should not be forgotten that these are concessions, not departures from principle.

Furthermore, every employer regards the gradation of pay and authority amongst the staff over which he presides as being essentially just and sound, because each indicates the relative ability he or she possesses by the position occupied. The criteria are not productive, but acquisitive. Each is paid according to his ability to acquire or “get ahead”, not according to his contribution to output. If the two – contribution to output and contribution to acquisition – happen to go together, well and good. If they do not, it matters little, since their juxtaposition is a matter of accident, not of interdependence.

The condition of society in which the business men would rule would be that one which is natural to them. It would, as a matter of course, be centralized, autocratic, and intolerant, and it would be so constructed that each would get exactly what he deserves for the simple reason that according to the rules he deserves whatever he can get. It is the well accepted business view that most, if not all of the unemployed are shiftless, worthless, irresponsible, and undisciplined. it is taken as axiomatic that the lowest wage-earner receives all that “is coming to him,” since if he could get more by any means which does not disturb business routine it is obvious that he would. His failure is the measure of his incompetence, and with that all has been said about it that may be mentioned by gentlemen of good breeding and respectable station!

This condition is one that would normally appeal to the conventional army officer. The military is the only other completely undemocratic, completely autocratic, and completely intolerant – completely “leader”, “authoritarian”, and “totalitarian” – organization in modern society. Provided due allowance is made for recognition of the military hierarchies of “authority” and “duty” in the fascist state, it can be fitted into the pattern of the businessman’s ultima thule without a single tonal jar. The moods, attitudes, points of view, values, and appraisals of human worth are fundamentally the same.

It is for this reason that it seems so easy for the military and business hierarchies to get together as they have in Italy, Germany, Portugal, Hungary, and many other places. But the significance of this natural alliance is that the military holds the key to political power. Once the alliance takes place, fascism is here unless the elements arrayed against it-as in Spain-possess superior force. It does not follow that the army rank and file will follow their officers any more than it does that labourers will follow their employers. But, if they do, fascism is practically certain to gain the ascendancy. (pp. 335-7).

The shared values of business, the military and Fascism helps explain why the British stock exchange applauded at the news of the Fascist revolt in Spain, at least according to Orwell, and why sections of Conservative party have always overlapped with the Fascist fringe, such as the National Front and the BNP. And why the Libertarians, like the Freedom Association, formerly the National Association for Freedom, or NAAF – make your own jokes up – backed murderous Fascist regimes in South and Central America. Of course, Milton Friedman, the founder of Monetarism, Thatcher’s favourite economic theory, and the Chicago School supported right-wing dictators like General Pinochet because they reasoned that it would only be through a Fascist coup that their programme of completely destroying the welfare state and state economic interference could be implemented.

And it exactly explains the Conservative and New Labour hatred of low wage workers and the unemployed, and why Thatcher was so keen on supporting the police and military against strikers. And it’s also a very strong argument for introducing some measure of industrial democracy – workers’ control – in order to make this country truly democratic.

And this is quite apart from the imperialism that is at the heart of Fascism – the wars fought for the benefit of American and western multinationals, from the coups in Latin America to the latest, so-called humanitarian interventions in the Middle East.

We desperately need a programme like Corbyn’s, which offers both industrial democracy, and a better deal for the unemployed and those in work in Britain and an end to wars abroad. Because without it, as we’ve seen, is the road to real Fascism, as shown in the militantly racist and anti-Semitic parties gaining strength in Europe.

Labour’s Kangaroo Courts Are A Credibility Liability

Yesterday, Mike put up a piece discussing how he had finally got written notification from the Labour party, informing him he had been thrown out as an anti-Semite. He can, apparently, reapply for admission in something like 18 months time. The letter also informed Mike on what grounds they had decided he was anti-Semitic. As Mike points out, these were quite different grounds than the charges that were originally made against him.

The letter declared that he had been found guilty because

“Upon the balance of probabilities the charge was proved for reasons including:
◾It was not disputed that you were responsible for the posting the content that the NEC claimed breached Labour Party rules;
◾A reasonable person would find the posted content, that is the basis of the NEC’s charge, to have the propensity to cause offence, be regarded as abusive and make some feel discriminated against;
◾In posting the content you breached the Labour Party’s Antisemitism and other forms of racism code of conduct, Social Media Policy and Member’s Pledge in appendix 9 of the Rule Book.”

But the original charges were

“Mr Sivier has repeatedly posted content propogating the conspiracy that secretive networks of Jews control and have undue influence over government and other societal institutions. He uses language that is dismissive of antisemitism and that denies Jews the right to self-identify as they wish. This falls fairly and squarely within the IHRA definition of antisemitism, which the Labour Party has adopted.”

Mike states clearly that at his hearing he completely blew these charges out of the water, which is why the NCC was reduced to finding him guilty on the trumped-up twaddle in the letter. But he points out that all the letter proves is that there was someone who felt abused, offended and discriminated against.

He also makes the point that there is a huge difference between saying something and meaning it, and that the complaint was deliberately made to interfere with his attempt to run for election as a member of Powys council.

He also wondered how the reasonable people, who read his blog, and don’t believe that he’s an anti-Semite feel about how the NCC has described them. Their ruling is a clear statement that they don’t regard people like them as reasonable.

Actually, the unreasonable person(s) in the whole affair are whoever made the complaint, and Labour’s NCC, and the Vishinsky in charge of this Stalinist show trial, Maggie Cousins. The allegations that Mike’s an anti-Semite was made originally by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, and apparently supported by the Israel lobby within the Labour party, like the Jewish Labour Movement. Or Paole Zion, as it used to be called. These people aren’t remotely reasonable. They’re bug-eyed fanatics, who demand unquestioning support for Israeli policies, even when these are clearly Fascistic, such as the system of apartheid designed to contain and isolate the Palestinians, and their slow ethnic cleansing through land seizures, house demolitions, the poisoning of their water supplies and the arrest, torture and casual shooting by the armed forces, including women and children.

The Israel lobby in Britain is violently islamophobic and, like its Israeli masters, makes alliances with real Nazis and anti-Semites to further its ends. Israel has invited Richard Spencer, the head of the Alt-Right, Sebastian Gorka and Stephen Bannon from America, and Tommy Robinson, the former head of the English Defence League, onto its television and high-level political and military gatherings. The Israeli state has also allied itself with the Far Right governments of Poland and Hungary, and sold arms to the Nazis now running amok in the Ukraine.

In the UK, we’ve had Stephen Pollard, the editor of the Jewish Chronicle, tell Groaniad readers that Michal Kaminski, an MEP for the current ruling party in Poland, isn’t an anti-Semite. This is despite Kaminski’s party trying to cover up Polish complicity in the Holocaust and denying that the villagers of Jedwabne were responsible for the massacre of the Jews there. Zionists like Jonathan Hoffman turn up at anti-Palestine demonstrations in the company of members of Britain First and have links to the EDL. Which had a Jewish division, quite apart from the Jewish Defence League. Some of the members of the British Zionist movement are Likudniks, members of the Likud party’s British organization, Herut. And there are a couple, who even brazenly turn up wearing the insignia of Kach, a Fascistic Israeli organization banned in Israel for terrorism.

As for former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sachs, who was one of the leading members of the Jewish community baying for Corbyn’s removal, Sachs has absolutely no business calling anyone racist. A few years ago, Sachs took it upon himself to lead a party of Jewish Brits to join the Israel Day march in Jerusalem. This is when the Israeli equivalent of skinhead thugs march through the Muslim quarter to threaten and intimidate the indigenous residents, vandalizing their property, scrawling racist graffiti on the walls and Lord knows what else. One Israeli scientist, religious scholar and philosopher described such thugs as ‘Judeonazis’. And he’s right. They are the Jewish equivalent of the Nazis. There is no other word which properly describes them, no matter how much the Israel lobby may scream and howl with rage at the comparison.

Of the letter itself, Mike says it proves two things, that

I am not an anti-Semite (the letter makes no suggestion of any hatred towards Jews, simply because they are Jewish) – and Labour’s National Constitutional Committee is a laughing-stock.

However, the affair has also created problems for the Labour party. Labour has just launched a recruitment campaign. But they may find that a problem, as many people will not want to join a party that is so prejudiced against its own grassroots members, and which cannot correct and root out the systemic corruption in its bureaucracy. This gives the party a credibility problem with its treatment of Mike and others like him, especially as there is no appeal procedure.

He states that this also puts them in an actionable position, so perhaps the mess can be sorted out in court. He also makes the point that while he is putting a brave face on it, it is nevertheless distressing to be accused of anti-Semitism.

Labour is now particularly in a difficult position, as they wish to close the gap with the Conservatives in the polls. But that’s the party’s fault, not Mike’s.

He concludes

If Labour really wanted to gain credibility now, the party’s leaders should have thought very carefully before inflicting this particular injustice on this particular man.

They’d better do something about it quickly – don’t you agree?

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/11/18/labours-kangaroo-court-issues-details-of-its-finding-against-me-and-they-dont-even-match-the-charge/

Now I very much do agree, but I don’t think the Blairites and Zionists in Labour, who have engineered this crisis are remotely bothered about it. They have shown themselves absolutely determined to destroy Corbyn’s leadership by any means, including organizing coup after coup, smearing him and his supporters in the press, trying to pack the party with Lib Dems and Tories in order to stop themselves being deselected, or prevent grassroots Labour members getting elected to important posts. And finally they’ve threatened to split from the party and form their own, like the SDP in the 1980s.

They have, in short, shown that they are determined to destroy the party, if they can’t control it. And if it does badly in the polls, then they’re highly delighted if they can blame it on Corbyn. And in order to prevent a Corbyn Labour government, they will betray the country and their members and vote with the government to prop up Theresa May.

In short, they are the credibility. And Corbyn is assisting them, as he has shown time and again that he won’t back up his supporters against these false charges of anti-Semitism, because he thinks that if he sacrifices them to the Israel lobby, it’ll placate them. It won’t. They have made it very clear that their overriding concern is to remove him. Attacking his supporters is merely part of this overall strategy.

The Blairites and the Israel lobby are a liability, and have created a credibility gap. And the only way it can be solved is if these people are cleaned out, and Corbyn grows a backbone and stands up to them.

Maria the Witch on the Rise of Bolsonaro, Brazil’s Fascist Candidate

This is a mirror on Kevin Logan’s channel of a piece by Maria the Witch warning and explaining about the rise of Jair Bolsonaro, the Far-Right, Fascist candidate in the Brazilian elections. From what she says about herself at the beginning of the video, Maria is a Brazilian who studied in the US. However, Bolsonaro’s dangerous ascent to power has pushed her into making this video so that when the time came, she ‘wouldn’t be laughing like an Anglo’.

At the moment, Bolsonaro is only a few votes away from the Brazilian presidency, at 46 per cent he’s just shy of the 50% + 1 required for him to take power. At a 49 per cent approval rating, he’s way ahead in the polls.

As for who he is, the video has a clip of Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman explaining that he’s a former army officer, who has openly praised the country’s military dictatorship, which last from 1964 to ’85. He has a long history of making racist, misogynistic and homophobic comments, and encouraging police to kill suspected drug dealers.

Glenn Greenwalt of the Intercept explains that he’s been called Brazil’s Donald Trump, which radically understates the case. He’s much closer to Duterte in the Philippines or General Sisi in Egypt. He is far more dangerous than Trump, as democracy in Brazil is far more fragile. It lacks the political infrastructure that America and the UK have to limit the power of the president. He is likely to win against Lula’s successor – Lula da Silva was Brazil’s previous, left-wing president – because of the animus built up by the media and the business class against PT, the Workers’ Party.

As for his bigoted comments, he once said in an interview that he’d rather hear that his son died in a car accident than was gay. He defended torture and rape during the dictatorship, and when a member of Brazil’s lower house confronted him about it he told her she needn’t worry, because she didn’t deserve to be raped by him – meaning that she was too ugly for him to rape her. He’s made a whole slew of similar comments about Blacks and the indigenous peoples. More worrying are his models for dealing with crime. They’re taken from the world’s worst dictators like Pinochet. As in the Philippines, he wants to send in the army and police to slaughter indiscriminately anyone they consider to be a drug dealer or criminal without trial. He believes in military rule. He does not regard the military coup of 1964 as a coup, and wishes to replicate it. And he has the entire top level of the military supporting him.

The institutions that would constrain Bolsonaro or somebody like him in the US – a strong supreme court, the CIA or the FBI, and other political parties, don’t exist. Due to his popularity, there is a sizable part of the Brazilian population that fears he will bring back the worse elements of dictatorships, such as the summary execution of dissidents, shut down media outlets, and closed congresses.

Maria then asks how this is possible in a country that has been ruled for 14 years by the centre left PT. Back to Greenwald.

Greenwald explains that it’s similar to what is happening in America, the UK and Europe where this kind of extremism is spreading, and the media outlets that have aided its rise refuse to take any responsibility for it. The media is very oligarchical, and in the hands of a small number of very rich families. The journalists themselves are afraid of Bolsonaro and don’t support him, but continue to create the narrative that supports him: that Bolsonaro and PT are simply two sides of the same coin. PT are a left-wing dictatorship, like Bolsonaro represents a rightwing dictatorship, and both are equally bad. Greenwald makes the point that during the 14 years PT governed the country, there was a very free and open press that constantly attacked them. they impeached one of their presidents and put the other in prison, so the idea that it’s a dictatorship like that to which Bolsonaro aspires is grotesque. But this is what is normalizing Bolsonaro.

As for Lula da Silva, he was thrown in prison just as he was leading in the polls and banned all of the media from interviewing him. The Intercept/em> has tried, as have others, but there are prevented by a prior restraint order issued by the Supreme Court. He states that Brazilian institutions carry much of the blame for the rise of Bolsonaro, just as American institutions do for Trump and British for Brexit, and European globalization policies for the rise of the extreme Right on the continent.

Maria also explains that there have also been a series of events that have weakened Brazilian democracy, aimed not just at PT but also at other left-wing parties. Earlier this year councilwoman Marielly Franco was murdered, PT president Dilma Rousseff was impeached and then Lula was arrested.

There is then a segment from a report by Amy Goodman explaining that Franco was a member of Rio de Janeiro’s council, a human rights activist. She and her driver were assassinated as they returned from an event on empowering Black women. Franco was a Black lesbian, who was fiercely critical of the police’s killing of people in the favela neighbourhoods. The night before her death she had Tweeted ‘How many more must die before this war ends?’ In January alone 154 people were killed by the cops in Rio State. Goodman goes on to say that last month President Temer ordered the military to assume control of police duties in Rio. Dilma Rousseff was impeached three years ago by the Brazilian senate in a move she denounced as a coup. Lula was leading in the polls, but had been convicted of corruption and money-laundering, charges many believe were trumped up. Rousseff stated that this was the second part of the coup, after her impeachment.

The British human rights lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson, told The New Internationalist ‘Extraordinarily aggressive measures are being taken to put Lula in jail by the judiciary, by the media, by the great sinews of wealth and power in Brazil’.

Maria then goes to a Brazilian academic at King’s College, London, Anthony Pereira, the professor and director of the Brazil institute there, who explains that this is nothing new but a relapse into Brazil’s ‘fashy disease’ from the 1960s, which was never properly cured.

Pereira explains that the transition from dictatorship to democracy was unique in that it was very slow and gradual, and unlike the Chilean transition, informal. It was managed by the regime itself, which changed the rules when it feared instability, dividing the opposition and making a lot of deals. Tancredo Hernandez was the first civilian candidate to win the presidency indirectly in 1985. After he won the election, Hernandez talked to the military and many other politicians and promised that there would be no revenge, no trials for human rights abuses, and that he would make sure that the political elite could make a smooth transition from the military to the civilian. There was a church report organized by the diocese of Sao Paolo on the human rights abuses, and people knew there had been torture, but these revelations were not state policy. This informal transition kept things very much as they had been. This explains why Bolsonaro’s discourse – his rhetoric – sounds very much like what was said in 1964, talking about the unity of the Brazilian family, how the left cannot divide the country, it cannot allow women to be against men, Afro-Brazilians to be against Whites, for homosexuals to be against heterosexuals. It’s a bit like One Nation Conservatism in Britain where there is a view of an organic, hierarchical society, patriarchal, dominated by the social elite. It has a place for everyone, but it rejects what it calls ‘activism’, associated with subversion and not being really Brazilian. And it rejects the Left, because of its association with Communism, Socialism and Venezuela. It’s a unity which excludes an awful lot of people.

Maria goes on to recommend that people watch the full pieces by Pereira and Greenwald explaining the country’s relationship with the workers’ party, PT. She also recommends that people look at the videos by the Intercept and Democracy Now. She states that people should be interested in this, not just because one of the world’s largest countries is going full Fascist, not just because the US and Britain have both had a hand in Brazil’s dictatorship, but also if they don’t want her to be silence or, worse, hunted down. She also recommends another female left-wing YouTuber from Brazil for those of her viewers who speak Portuguese. The videos and links to them are shown at the end of Maria’s video.

I’ve put this up as it seems that every Fascism in one guise or another is on the rise again. And the Fascist in one part of the world embolden and strengthen the stormtroopers in others. It’s also important to know that Britain also was involved in supporting the Brazilian dictatorship.

And Greenwald is right in that the forces that are enabling the rise of Bolsonaro are the same as those aiding the rise of the extreme right over here: globalism – not just confined to the Continent, but also a part of British economic policy – and an oligarchic media that is heavily biased against the Left.

And I was talking a few weeks ago to a left-wing minister at my local church, who wondered if Corbyn would ever be allowed to take power if he was elected. If his fears are justified, then what has happened to Lula da Silva will be repeated over here to stop Jeremy Corbyn and a genuine reforming, Socialist Labour government.

Video of Three Military Robots

This is another video I round on robots that are currently under development on YouTube, put up by the channel Inventions World. Of the three, one is Russian and the other two are American.

The first robot is shown is the Russian, Fyodor, now being developed by Rogozin. It’s anthropomorphic, and is shown firing two guns simultaneously from its hands on a shooting range, driving a car and performing a variety of very human-style exercises, like press-ups. The company says that it was taught to fire guns to give it instant decision-making skills. And how to drive a car to make it autonomous. Although it can move and act on its own, it can also mirror the movements of a human operator wearing a mechanical suit. The company states that people shouldn’t be alarmed, as they are building AI, not the Terminator.

The next is CART, a tracked robot which looks like nothing so much as a gun and other equipment, possibly sensors, on top of a tank’s chassis and caterpillar tracks. It seems to be one of a series of such robots, designed for the American Marine corps. The explanatory text on the screen is flashed up a little too quickly to read everything, but it seems intended to provide support for the human troopers by providing extra power and also carrying their equipment for them. Among the other, similar robots which appear is a much smaller unit about the size of a human foot, seen trundling about.

The final robot is another designed by Boston Dynamics, which has already built a man-like robot and a series of very dog-like, four-legged robots, if I remember correctly. This machine is roughly humanoid. Very roughly. It has four limbs, roughly corresponding to arms and legs. Except the legs end in wheels and the arms in rubber grips, or end effectors. Instead of a head, it has a square box and the limbs look like they’ve been put on backwards. It’s shown picking up a crate in a say which reminds me of a human doing it backward, bending over to pick it up behind him. But if his legs were also put on back to front. It’s also shown spinning around, leaping into the area and scooting across the test area with one wheel on the ground and another going up a ramp.

Actually, what the Fyodor robot brings to my mind isn’t so much Schwarzenegger and the Terminator movies, but Hammerstein and his military robots from 2000AD’s ‘ABC Warriors’ strip. The operation of the machine by a human wearing a special suite also reminds me of a story in the ‘Hulk’ comic strip waaaay back in the 1970s. In this story, the Hulk’s alter ego, Banner, found himself inside a secret military base in which robots very similar to Fyodor were being developed. They were also controlled by human operators. Masquerading as the base’s psychiatrist, Banner meets one squaddie, who comes in for a session. The man is a robot operator, and tells Banner how he feels dehumanized through operating the robot. Banner’s appalled and decides to sabotage the robots to prevent further psychological damage. He’s discovered, of course, threatened or attacked, made angry, and the Hulk and mayhem inevitably follow.

That story is very definitely a product of the ’70s and the period of liberal self-doubt and criticism following the Vietnam War, Nixon and possibly the CIA’s murky actions around the world, like the coup against Salvador Allende in Chile. The Hulk always was something of a countercultural hero. He was born when Banner, a nuclear scientist, got caught with the full force of the gamma radiation coming off a nuclear test saving Rick, a teenager, who had strayed into the test zone. Rick was an alienated, nihilistic youth, who seems to have been modelled on James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause. Banner pulls him out of his car, and throws him into the safety trench, but gets caught by the explosion before he himself could get in. Banner himself was very much a square. He was one of the scientists running the nuclear tests, and his girlfriend was the daughter of the army commander in charge of them. But the Hulk was very firmly in the sights of the commander, and the strip was based around Banner trying to run away from him while finding a cure for his new condition. Thus the Hulk would find himself fighting a series of running battles against the army, complete with tanks. The Ang Lee film of the Hulk that came out in the 1990s was a flop, and it did take liberties with the Hulk’s origin, as big screen adaptations often do with their source material. But it did get right the antagonism between the great green one and the army. The battles between the two reminded me very much of their depictions in the strip. The battle between the Hulk and his father, who now had the power to take on the properties of whatever he was in contact with was also staged and shot very much like similar fights also appeared in the comic, so that watching the film I felt once again a bit like I had when I was a boy reading it.

As for the CART and related robots, they remind me of the tracked robot the army sends in to defuse bombs. And research on autonomous killing vehicles like them were begun a very long time ago. The Germans in the Second World War developed small robots, remotely operated which also moved on caterpillar tracks. These carried bombs, and the operators were supposed to send them against Allied troops, who would then be killed when they exploded. Also, according to the robotics scientist Kevin Warwick of Reading University, the Americans developed an automatic killer robot consisting of a jeep with a machine gun in the 1950s. See his book, March of the Machines.

Despite the Russians’ assurances that they aren’t building the Terminator, Warwick is genuinely afraid that the robots will eventually take over and subjugate humanity. And he’s not alone. When one company a few years ago somewhere said that they were considering making war robots, there was an outcry from scientists around the world very much concerned about the immense dangers of such machines.

Hammerstein and his metallic mates in ‘ABC Warriors’ have personalities and a conscience, with the exception of two: Blackblood and Mekquake. These robots have none of the intelligence and humanity of their fictional counterparts. And without them, the fears of the opponents of such machines are entirely justified. Critics have made the point that humans are needed on the battle to make ethical decisions that robots can’t or find difficult. Like not killing civilians, although you wouldn’t guess that from the horrific atrocities committed by real, biological flesh and blood troopers.

The robots shown here are very impressive technologically, but I’d rather have their fictional counterparts created by Mills and O’Neill. They were fighting machines, but they had a higher purpose behind their violence and havoc:

Increase the peace!

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