Democracy

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Donald Trump politicized the federal bureaucracy. The next president needs to reverse that.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 22/10/2020 - 1:00am in

Photo Credit: Lazyllama/Shutterstock.com In an effort to mitigate the political damage from failing to contain the virus and manage its...

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Britain looks like a failed state

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 21/10/2020 - 7:54am in

Where to start with Manchester? The Tories seem to think their election result based on the approval of about 43 % of the voters gives them absolute power. And that they can ride roughshod over the democratic and even clearly logical wishes of Britain’s third big city. It is instructive to read a tweet from... Read more

Court Packing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 21/10/2020 - 4:50am in

In this episode, Niki, Neil, and Natalia discuss the debate over “court packing.” Here are some links and references mentioned...

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Book on Revolutionary Trade Unionism, Fascism and the Corporative State

David D. Roberts, Syndicalist Tradition & Italian Fascism (University of North Carolina Press, 1979).

Syndicalism is a form of revolutionary socialism that seeks to overthrow the liberal state and replace it with a society based on the trade unions in which they run industry. It was particularly strong in France, and played a major role in Catalonia and the struggle against Franco during the Spanish Civil War. It has also been a strand in the British labour movement, and produced a peculiar British form, Guild Socialism, whose leaders included the great socialist writer and former Fabian, G.D.H. Cole.

Fascism Mixture of Different Groups

Fascism was a strange, heterogenous mixture of different, and often conflicting groups. These included former syndicalists, radicalised veterans from the First World War, ultra-conservative Nationalists and the Futurists, an aggressive modern artistic movement that celebrated war, speed, violence, masculinity, airplanes, cars and the new machine age. Some of these groups shared roughly the same ideas. The war veterans were deeply impressed with the corporative constitution drafted by Alceste de Ambris for D’Annunzio’s brief regime in Fiume, the Carta de Carnaro. Superficially, the Fascist syndicalists shared the same goal of creating a corporate state to govern industrial relations and run industry. However, they approached this from very different directions. The Nationalists, led by Alfredo Rocco, were ultra-Conservative businessmen, who attacked liberal democracy because of the corruption involved in Italian politics. At the same time they feared the power of the organised working class. As Italy modernised, it underwent a wave of strikes. In response, Rocco recommended that the state should take over the trade unions, using them as its organ to discipline the workers, keep the masses in their place while training them to perform their functions efficiently in the new, industrial Italy. The syndicalists, on the other hand, wanted the trade unions to play a role in industrial management and at the same time draw the working class into a fuller participation in politics. The working class had been excluded from the liberal state, but through their economic organisations, the unions, they could play a much fuller role as these governed their everyday lives. They saw the corporations and the corporate state as a means of increasing democracy and popular participation, not limiting it.

Fascist Corporativism

The corporations themselves are industrial organisations rather like the medieval guilds or trade unions. However, they included both the trade unions and employers organisations. There were already nine of them, but by the end of the regime in 1943 there were 27. Under Rocco’s Labour Charter, the Carta del Lavoro, strikes and lockouts were forbidden in the name of industrial peace and class collaboration. The corporation were required to settle labour disputes. However, if management and the unions were unable to reach agreement, then the dispute was to be referred to labour magistracy for settlement in special labour courts. Mussolini also reformed the Italian parliament, transforming the Chamber of Deputies into a Chamber of Fasces and Corporations. In practice the corporate state never amounted to very much. It never won over real working class support, and the corporations were never given real legislative power. It merely added another layer of bureaucracy and acted as nothing more than a rubber stamp to pass the policies Mussolini had already made. And he seems to have used it as ideological window dressing to give the impression that here was more to Fascism than his personal dictatorship.

The Unification of Italy and Political Alienation

The book argues that the corporate state was a genuine attempt to solve the deep problems of Italian unification left over from the Risorgimento. At the same time, it was also a radical response to the crisis, breakdown and revision of Marxist socialism and the failure of Marxist syndicalism in the late 19th and early 20th century.

The process of unification has produced an attitude of deep alienation from the state and politics amongst Italians, and Fascism was partly a response to this. This alienation isn’t confined to Italians, but it is particularly acute. Social studies in the 1970s showed that Italians are less likely than Americans, Brits or Germans to become politically involved. They regard the state as distant with little interest in them. At the same time, there is also an expectation that the bureaucrats in Rome will help them.

Like Germany, Italy was unified by military force and the invasion of the other, constituent states. However, for reasons of speed and a determination to preserve the new nation’s fragile unity, the other Italian states were simply annexed by Piedmont to be governed from there. There was supposed to be a constituent assembly in which the other states were to have their say in the creation of the new Italy, but this simply didn’t happen. At the same time, the industrialisation promoted by Italian liberals was concentrated in the north, so that the south remained backward and agricultural. The franchise was extremely restricted. It excluded illiterates, so that originally only 2 per cent of the population could vote. This was later extended to 7 per cent. At the same time, Italy’s leaders prevented the formation of proper political parties by taking over individuals from different parliamentary factions in order to form workable governing majorities. At the same time there was discontent and widespread criticism of the protectionism imposed to help the development of Italian heavy industry. Middle class critics believed that this unfairly benefited it at the expense of more dynamic and productive sectors of the economy. This led to the belief that Italy was being held back by class of political parasites.

This backwardness also led to an acute sense of pessimism amongst the elite over the character of the Italian people themselves. The Americans, British and Germans were disciplined with proper business values. Italians, on the other hand, were lazy, too individualistic and defied authority through lawlessness. This meant that liberalism was inadequate to deal with the problems of Italian society. ‘This English suit doesn’t fit us’, as one Fascist said. But this would change with the adoption of Fascism. One of Mussolini’s minions once declared that, thanks to Fascism, hard work and punctuality were no longer American, German and British values.

Syndicalism, Marxism and the Revision of Socialism

By the 1890s there was a crisis throughout Europe in Marxist socialism. Marx believed that the contradictions in capitalism and the continuing impoverishment of working people would lead to eventual revolution. But at this stage it was evident that capitalism was not collapsing. It was expanding, wages were rising and the working class becoming better off. This led to the reformist controversy, in which socialist ideologues such as Bernstein in Germany recommended instead that socialist parties should commit themselves to reforming capitalism gradually in order to create a socialist society. The syndicalists were originally Marxists, who looked forward to the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism. However, they became increasingly disenchanted with Marxism and critical of the leading role of the working class. They originally believed, as with the French syndicalist Georges Sorel, that the class-conscious workers would be a new source of values. But they weren’t. They also believed that this would only be achieved through a long process of education through general strikes. They were horrified by the biennio rosso, the two years of strikes and industrial unrest that came after the end of the war, when it seemed that the Italian labour movement was going to follow the Russian Bolsheviks and create a revolution for which Italy and it working class were not ready.

At the same time, they came to reject Marxism’s doctrine that the political was determined by the economic sphere. They believed that Italy’s political problems could not be reduced to capitalism. Hence they believed that capitalism and private industry should be protected, but made subordinate to the state. Work was a social duty, and any industrial who did not run his company properly could, in theory, be removed and replaced. They also sought to give the workers a greater role in industrial management. This led them to go beyond the working class. They found a new revolutionary group in the Italian war veterans, who were radicalised by their experiences. These would have joined the socialists, but the latter had been strongly neutralist and as a result rejected and ridiculed the former soldiers for their patriotism. These found their ideological and political home with the syndicalists. At the same time, the syndicalists rejection of Marxist socialism led to their rediscovery of other, non-Marxist socialist writers like Mazzini, who also rejected liberalism in favour of a tightly knit Italian nation. Their bitter hatred of the corruption in Italian politics and its parasites led them to join forces with anarchists and other sectors of the Italian radical tradition. They believed that for Italy truly to unite and modernise, the workers should join forces with properly modernising industrialists in an alliance of producers.

Syndicalist Opposition to Mussolini’s Rapprochement to the Socialists

Looking at the development of Italian Fascism, it can seem that there was a certain inevitability to the emergence of Mussolini’s dictatorship and the totalitarian Fascist state. But this argues that there was nothing inevitable about it, and that it was forced on Mussolini in order to stop his movement falling apart. When Mussolini entered parliament and took over as prime minister, he seemed to be transforming what was originally a movement into the very type of party that the Fascist rank and file were in revolt against. Fascism was reconstituted as a party, and when the future Duce met the kind, he wore the top hat and frock coat of an establishment politician. Worse, Mussolini had started out as a radical socialist, and still seemed determined to work with them and other working class and left-wing parties. He signed a pacification pact with the Socialists and Populists, the Roman Catholic party, stopping the Fascist attacks on them, the trade unions and workers’ and peasants’ cooperatives. This horrified the syndicalists, who saw it as a threat to their own programme of winning over the workers and creating the new, corporatist order. As a result they pressurised Mussolini into rescinding that pacts, Mussolini and Fascism moved right-ward to ally with the capitalists and industry in the destruction of working class organisations.

Syndicalists and the Promotion of the Working Class

But it seems that the syndicalists were serious about defending the working class and giving it a proper role through the corporations in the management of industry and through that, political participation in the Italian state. Left Fascists like Olivetti and Ugo Spirito believed that the Italian state should operate a mixed economy, with the state running certain companies where appropriate, and the trade unions owning and managing cooperatives. Some went further, and recommended that the corporations should take over the ownership of firms, which would be operated jointly by management and the workers. This never got anywhere, and was denounced by other left syndicalists, like Sergio Pannunzio, one of their leaders.

From Internationalism to Imperialism

The book also raises grim astonishment in the way it reveals how the Syndicalists, who were initially quite internationalist in outlook, came to support Fascist imperialism. They shared the general Fascist view that Italy was being prevented from developing its industry through British and French imperialism. The two powers blocked Italy from access to trading with their colonies. They were therefore also critical of the League of Nations when it was set up, which they saw as an attempt by the great powers to maintain the international status quo. The Nationalists, who were formally merged with the Fascists, went further and demanded that Italy too should have an empire to benefit its industry, but also to provide land for colonisation by the surplus Italian population. Without it, they would continue to be forced to emigrate to countries like America and Britain, where they would become the lowest and most despised part of their working class. The syndicalists were also acutely aware of how low Italians were regarded and exploited in these countries, even by other members of the working class.

The syndicalists during the war and early post-war years criticised the Nationalists for their militarism and imperialism. Instead of looking forward to perpetual war, as the Nationalists did, they wanted to see instead the emergence of a new, federal European order in which nations would cooperate. This new federal state would eventually cover the world. They also looked forward to a new, equitable arrangement over access to the colonies. Pannunzio did support colonialism, which he believed was bringing civilisation to backward areas. But he also believed that colonies that were unable to become nations in their own right should be taken over by the League of Nations. Pannunzio declared ‘Egotism among nations is a material and moral absurdity; nations … cannot lived closed and isolated by must interact and cooperate’. This changed as time went on and Mussolini established the corporate state. This was always fragile and tentative, and accompanied by concessions to other sectors of Fascism on the right. In order to defend their fragile gains, the syndicalists gave their full backing to the Second World War and its imperialism, which they saw as a crusade to bring the corporate state, the great Italian achievement, but a backward world.

Workers Should Have a Role In Government, But Not Through Totalitarianism

I have to say I like certain aspects of the corporate state. I like the idea of trade unionists actively involved in the management of industry and in a special department of parliament, although as Sidney and Beatrice Webb point out in their Constitution for the Socialist Commonwealth of Great Britain, there are severe drawbacks with it. But any such corporatist chamber would have to be an expansion of liberal democracy, not a replacement for it. And I utterly reject and despise Fascism for its vicious intolerance, especially towards socialism and the working class, its rejection of democracy, and especially the militarism, imperialism and racism. Like Nazism it needs to be fought everywhere, in whatever guise it arises.

And the book makes very clear that the corporate state was an exaggerated response to genuine Italian problems, problems that could be solved within liberal, democratic politics.

Perhaps one day we shall see the return of trade unionists to parliaments reformed to allow them to play their proper role in government and industry. I make this recommendation in my booklet, For A Worker’s Chamber. But it should never be through any kind of autocratic, totalitarian regime.

Cartoon: Endgame

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 20/10/2020 - 10:50pm in

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Book Review: Me the People: How Populism Transforms Democracy by Nadia Urbinati

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 20/10/2020 - 10:28pm in

In Me the People: How Populism Transforms DemocracyNadia Urbinati examines populism as a form – and deformation – of representative democracy. This is a rich work, brimming with ideas about the nature of representative government, how we conceive of it and how populism interacts with these, writes Ben Margulies, and is recommended to university students and scholars seeking to learn more about democratic and populist theory.

Me the People: How Populism Transforms Democracy. Nadia Urbinati. Harvard University Press. 2019.

Populism is more than an ideology or an object of study; it is the news. So it is not surprising that scholars writing about populism face a problem common to journalists: trying to find a new angle on a topic everyone is talking about. For political scientists and other academics, this may be more challenging now that definitions of populism are starting to converge around the importance of the conflict between ‘the [good] people’ and ‘the [illegitimate] elite’. Some academics focus on defining populism as an ideology, like Cas Mudde and Cristobal Rovira Kaltwasser; others, like Benjamin Moffitt, talk about the populist style of communication; while Catherine Fieschi talks about populist epistemology, the ways populists decide what is authentic knowledge.

Nadia Urbinati, who holds a chair in political theory at Columbia University, finds her own perspective in Me The People: How Populism Transforms Democracy. Urbinati examines populism as a form – and perversion – of representative democracy. Her work is an examination of populism as political theory, comparing it to the (idealised) theory of representative democracy that we associate with the ideal democracies of the late-twentieth-century West. Though some of her observations are echoed by other authors, her work stands out for its explanation of democratic theory and the ways populism both fits into and deforms our representative systems.

Urbinati devotes the heart of the book to explaining how representative democracy is meant to work and the political theory that underpins it. Urbinati evokes ‘an interpretation of democracy that has political liberty and pluralism at its core’ (91). In a true democracy, the idea of the ‘sovereign people’, the community of citizens who hold ultimate power and legitimating authority, is a fictio iuris [a legal fiction] (88). The actual body of citizens is an assembly of multiple interests engaged in permanent contestation. Majority rule is a decision-making process that grants one particular constellation of interests the power to govern (which is not the same as sovereignty) for a set period of time, but not forever. Democracy must permit the possibility of a loyal opposition and new, different majorities. Citing Hans Kelsen, Urbinati writes that:

In order for majority rule to avoid violating political autonomy, all citizens must be equal before the law and must have an equal right to determine the politics of the commonwealth and be heard […] they cannot be frozen in any specific social determination, such as ‘‘the few’’ and ‘‘the many’’ (89).

Urbinati distinguishes between deliberation and decision-making in representative democracy. She separates ‘will’ (voting) and ‘opinion’ (assessment and judgment) (7). This is necessary, because it allows the majority to change its shape and change its mind. ‘Representative democracy has an endogenous disposition to generate dissent and conflict along partisan lines; voting regulates this dissent and conflict, but it never resolves it’ (166). In this arena, most actors claim to speak in the name of the people, but they rarely claim that only they can speak for the people, or that they are the people. This would rob democracy of its open-endedness, its ‘indeterminacy’ (92) – ‘the people’ is a symbol that sanctions majority decisions, but has no permanent identity.

Populism is dangerous because it denies and attacks this pluralism. In populism, the majority is no longer a way to make temporary decisions in a diverse society. Rather, the majority becomes the people itself. Urbinati cites Aristotle, who distinguished between majority rule – a way to make decisions – and ‘the regime of the majority’, in which the majority simple governs and ‘does not tolerate opposition and tries to conceal it as much as it can, when it does not liquidate it altogether’ (98). Populists claim that the majority is the people, including the legal sovereign.

This majority is by definition not identical with everyone in the polity. Rather, the majoritarian people are the ‘good’ people who are worthy of holding sovereignty. This is a point Jan-Werner Müller makes in What is Populism?, speaking of distilling a sort of pure people from the body of citizens or nationals. As Urbinati argues, populism ‘makes politics consist in a part that declares itself, as such […] to be at the center of state power, and to claim that it is the “good part” entitled to rule’ (151). Furthermore, populism rules solely in its own interest, ‘pars pro parte’  [‘the part acting for the part’, as opposed to for the whole] (152), and not for all society (also an argument Müller advances).

To summarise, Me the People depicts populism as a machine for collapsing the distinctions that make representative democracy work. It annexes the abstract sovereign to the voting majority, getting rid of deliberation and opposition. It merges the space of opinion and the space of decision, which leaves the people nowhere to gather and assess what the leader is doing. That new demos merges with its leader, and then this composite juggernaut absorbs the state. This also means the erasure of ‘the distinction between ordinary political and constitutional politics’ (133), since the sovereign is the only possible actor.

Urbinati has some interesting arguments and observations about the nature of populist leadership. She rejects Mudde and Rovira Kaltwasser’s claim that populism does not necessarily require a charismatic leader. Instead, she aligns with the camp that argues that populism needs a single leader to embody the homogenous people (120). Furthermore, that leader must never seem like part of the establishment, the elite. Populists are installing new elites, but must never appear to be doing so. Populist leaders avoid this through an unremitting campaign against the never-quite-vanquished elites (124-25).

More intriguingly, Urbinati proposes that populist leaders take advantage of their roles as merely an instrument of the people. Since the leader is just the people incarnated, ‘the leader is never truly responsible, for better or worse’ (128). (Urbinati could have gone on to say that the people, being sovereign, cannot be held responsible either.)

Where did populism come from? Urbinati tends to blame two developments. The first is the erosion of the middle class, again citing Aristotle (102). The other is the rise of what Richard S. Katz and Peter Mair (1995) called cartel parties  (see also Mair (2013)). Katz and Mair described how parties sidelined their already declining mass memberships to become professional organisations dependent on state funding in the late twentieth century. Partly because parties had grown weaker, electorates became fragmented assemblies of interest and identity groups and parties had to construct majorities ad hoc through media appeals and attractive leaders. This created an opening for populists, who construct their electorates in similar ways

Me the People is primarily a work of theory, and as such it does not engage deeply with political science literature about specific parties or electoral patterns. This is not a fatal flaw, but it does create some problems. In talking about populism as a largely theoretical construct, Urbinati has no space to really examine one of its most worrying features, which is its tendency to unite with radical right ideologies. In Europe and much of the rest of the world, the populist radical right is often dominant, with its ethnonationalism and authoritarianism. Although Urbinati does discuss the distinction between fascism and populism, we do not see any examination of the broader relationship between populism and radical-right ideology.

Me the People does examine the internal mechanisms of populist parties in some detail, choosing The Five Star Movement in Italy and Podemos in Spain as examples due to her interest in how these parties try to combine internet-based direct participation and competent electoral leadership, which in practice centralises authority in the leadership. However, these examples are not really representative of populist parties or electorates in Europe. The Five Star Movement lacks any clear ideological grounding, while Podemos is left-wing. Many, if not most, populist parties in Europe are radical right and far less concerned with democratic internal procedures.

Occasionally, Urbinati’s definitions feel slightly confused. On the one hand, she describes populism as a mutation or ‘disfigurement’ of democracy. But she also argues that ‘a democracy that infringes basic political rights – especially the rights crucial for forming opinions and judgments, expressing dissents, and changing views – and that systematically precludes the possibility of the formation of new majorities is not democracy at all’ (8). So is populism the negation of democracy or merely its disfigurement? This is not entirely clear and may not be a fully resolvable question.

Me the People is a rich work, one brimming with ideas about the nature of representative government, how we conceive it and how populism interacts with these. Close students of populism will recognise some of these ideas in other works, but this presentation is novel. Unlike What is Populism?, this is not a book aimed at general audiences. But for university students and scholars, Me the People is a good tool for learning about democratic and populist theory, especially if theory is not your area of expertise. I have not been able to summarise all of Urbinati’s thinking here, so if you are intrigued, read the book.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics.

Image Credit: Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay.

 


Now they are gaslighting business

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 20/10/2020 - 7:11am in

This is not just that old joke about how many Tories does it take to change a lightbulb? (Answer: none – they prefer gas lighting). This is about the private industry who, they actually tell us, that by paying their taxes create the money to pay for ‘our’ NHS. Mr Gove said on Marr: “Make... Read more

Is Sweden the promised land for sensible covid-policies? Reluctantly. 

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 19/10/2020 - 8:13pm in

Sweden is a rich, spacious country famous for IKEA, ABBA, dark cold winters, and its unique covid-policies. We escaped London for a few days to see for ourselves what the deal was with this Scandinavian country of 10 million. It is as rich and well-run as the statistics say it is: Stockholm is full of sporty Swedes, spacious parks, shiny public transport, cyclists, and prams. Getting to talk to Swedes requires alcohol and patience, but once they do talk, you find their English is excellent.

In terms of the statistics, Sweden has had a relatively good covid-experience. The number of covid-attributed deaths is 0.06% of the population, average for the EU, without the huge anxiety and mental health disaster befalling other countries. Also, their economy is now estimated to shrink by only 3% in 2020, with the government running a surplus in September. It did not give up civil liberties and had a well-publicised large glut of infections in April-July that got them close to herd immunity. Whilst measured infection rates are rising again in the autumn, there are very few new deaths, suggesting the vulnerable population is either already immune or by now well-protected in a voluntary manner. Did this relative ‘success’ reflect some unique Swedish attribute or was it just luck?

On the one hand, Stockholm is everything a Covista wants to see. You see virtually no masks, the full pubs have minimal distancing, the generations walk together outside, the theaters are open and sold out, children play in packs, and there is a relaxed vibe in the air with people reacting in horror when you tell them of the descent into authoritarianism elsewhere. The place also has quite a few covid-refugees from the rest of Europe who deliberately came to Stockholm to breathe in a bit of sanity and fun. But….

On the other hand, football stadiums are still closed, you see signs everywhere asking you to socially distance, the crowds in shops are not that huge, distancing is stricter outside of the capital, and the city employs hundreds of covid-marshalls who check on rule compliance in restaurants and pubs. So whilst we did manage to sing to live-bands and even managed to dance, we cant tell you where because venues are not supposed to allow this. It is hence a mixed bag.

You also see this mixed bag in opinion polls and in the election campaigning. Many Swedes work from home, would like to see stricter rules on movements, and are attracted to the narrative that the whole population should give up things to protect the elderly. Ericsson, one of the biggest employers, for instance just announced its employees should wear masks at work.

The Swedes are also about the most politically-correct people on the planet, calling themselves a moral superpower, exactly the types who in other countries are at the forefront of lockdowns. The shops sell organic ice cream and oatmilk cappuccinos, and their national history museum tries to claim that the slave business run by the Dutch and the English was actually the fault of the Swedes. I think if there had been a referendum in April, the vast majority would have been pro-lockdowns and even now, many companies and groups want things to be stricter.

So what explains that the Swedes have gone the herd immunity route? I think the honest answer is sheer luck and a willingness to stick to their previous resolutions on how to handle such crises.

The Swedes were lucky that the health authority charged with running things in a health emergency was a group wedded to the herd immunity idea. It wasn’t just Tegnell, but also Giesecke and others close to the agency: they had a group of scientists and public servants strongly committed to what they sincerely thought was the right thing to do, willing to ignore the large swing in opinion and behaviour among public health people elsewhere in Europe. They have had to hide their early expressed opinion that herd immunity was the sensible long-run strategy and simply stuck to the mantra that they needed to take a long-run view and could not justify the experiment of lockdowns.

The Swedes also got lucky with their constitution which I understand forbids the kind of compulsory social distancing and lockdown policies the other countries in Europe and America went for. The thing the Swedes can be proud of is that during the height of the panic, they stuck to their constitution whilst in other countries they did not: my current understanding is that many American governors and European governments have violated their constitutions, though it will take a while for that to be widely established by constitutional courts (several cases been lost already though by governments, such as in Germany and Pennsylvania).

In short, I think the Swedes are reluctant poster-children for the Covistance. Their policies are not as sensible as those of the Tanzanians or South Dacotans, but they are a shining example to the rest of Europe anyway.

So that’s what rating agencies are for…

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 19/10/2020 - 7:27pm in

In this case it was Moody’s, which, in downgrading UK debt, according to the FT : The agency also specifically pointed to what it called “the weakening in the UK’s institutions and governance”. “While still high, the quality of the UKʼs legislative and executive institutions has diminished in recent years,” it said. Now we know... Read more

RT America’s Lee Camp Raises Questions about Starmer’s Connection to British Deep State

Mike’s put up a number of pieces discussing and criticising Starmer’s demand that Labour MPs abstain on the wretched ‘Spycops’ bill. If passed, this would allow members of the police and security services to commit serious offences while undercover. Twenty Labour MPs initially defied him and voted against it, with several resigning in protest from the shadow cabinet. The Labour whips’ office has also broken party protocol to issue written reprimands to the rebels. If they defy party discipline, they will face a reprimand period of six months, which will be extended to twelve if they continue to break the whip. These letters have also been shared with the parliamentary committee, a group of backbench MPs elected by the parliamentary Labour party and currently dominated by the right. This committee will decide whether or not to inform the rebel MPs’ constituency parties and the NEC. The information could then be considered if an MP seeks reselection in preparation for a general election. As one MP has said, it’s intimidation, pure and simple. And a number of those MPs, who received the letters, are talking to union officials.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/10/17/starmers-tory-supporting-crackdown-on-his-own-party-makes-him-a-danger-to-people-with-disabilities/

Starmer’s conduct shouldn’t really be a surprise. He’s a Blairite, and Blair’s tenure of the Labour leadership was marked by control freakery as he centralised power around himself and his faction away from the party’s ordinary members and grassroots. But Starmer is also very much an establishment figure. He was, after all, the director of public prosecutions. In this video below, comedian and presenter Lee Camp raises important and very provocative questions about Starmer’s connections to the British establishment and the deep state. Camp’s the presenter of a number of shows on RT America, which are deeply critical of the corporate establishment, and American militarism and imperialism. The video’s from their programme, Moment of Clarity. The questions asked about Starmer are those posed by Mac Kennard in an article in The Gray Zone. RT is owned by the Russian state, as it points out on the blurbs for its videos on YouTube. Putin is an authoritarian thug and kleptocrat, who has opposition journalists, politicos, activists and businessmen beaten and killed. But that doesn’t mean that RT’s programmes exposing and criticising western capitalism and imperialism and the corrupt activities and policies of our governments aren’t accurate and justified.

Camp begins the video by explaining how there was a comparable battle in the Labour party over Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership as there was in the American Democrat party over Bernie Sanders’ candidacy for the presidency. Just as Sanders was opposed by the Democrats’ corporate leadership and smeared as a Communist in a neo-McCarthyite witch hunt, so Jeremy Corbyn – a real progressive – was opposed by the corporatists in the Labour party. He was subjected to the same smears, as well as accusations of anti-Semitism because he supported Palestine. Camp states that there are leaked texts showing that leading figures in the Labour party were actively working to undermine him. Jeremy Corbyn has now gone and been replaced by Keir Starmer, about whom Kennard asks the following questions:

1. why did he meet the head of MI5 for drinks a year after his decision not to prosecute the intelligence agency for its role in torture?

Camp uses the term ‘deep state’ for the secret services, and realises that some of his viewers may be uncomfortable with the term because of its use by Trump. He tries to reassure them that the deep state, and the term itself, existed long before Trump. It’s just something the Orange Generalissimo has latched onto. Camp’s not wrong – the term was used for the network of covert intelligence and state law enforcement and security services long before Trump was elected. Lobster has been using the term for years in its articles exposing their grubby activities. More controversially, Camp believes that the deep state was responsible for the assassinations of JFK, RFK and MLK. JFK was supposedly assassinated because he was about to divulge publicly the deep state’s nefarious activities. This is obviously controversial because the JFK assassination is one of the classic conspiracy theories, and one that many critics of the British and American secret states don’t believe in. It may actually be that JFK really was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald, a lone gunman. But Camp’s belief in this conspiracy theory doesn’t on its own disqualify his other allegations and criticisms about the secret state.

2. When and why did Starmer join the Trilateral Commission?

The Trilateral Commission was set up in 1973 by elite banker David Rockefeller as a discussion group to foster greater cooperation between Japan, the US and western Europe. According to Camp, it was really founded to roll back the advances of the hippy era as the corporate elite were horrified that ordinary people were being heard by governments instead of big businessmen. They looked back to the days when President Truman could listen to a couple of businessmen and no-one else. The Commission published a paper, ‘The Crisis of Democracy’, which claimed that democracy was in crisis because too many people were being heard. Ordinary people were making demands and getting them acted upon. This, the Commission decided, was anti-business. They made a series of recommendations themselves, which have since been implemented. These included the demand that the media should be aligned with business interests. Camp states that this doesn’t mean that there is uniformity of opinion amongst the mainstream media. The various media outlets do disagree with each other over policies and politicians. But it does mean that if the media decides that a story doesn’t fit with business interests, it doesn’t get published. The Commission also wanted the universities purged of left-wing progressives. The Commission’s members including such shining examples of humanity and decency as Henry Kissinger and the former director general of US National Intelligence, John Negroponte.

3. What did Starmer discuss with US attorney general Eric Holder when he met him on November 9th, 2011 in Washington D.C.?

Starmer was the director of public prosecutions at the time, and met not just Holder, but also five others from the Department of Justice. This was at the same time the Swedes were trying to extradite Julian Assange of Wikileaks infamy. Except that further leaked documents have shown that the Swedes were prepared to drop the case. But Britain wanted him extradited and tried, and successfully put pressure on the Swedes to do just that.

4. Why did Starmer develop such a close relationship with the Times newspaper?

Starmer held social gatherings with the Times’ staff, which is remarkable, as Camp points out, because it’s owned by Rupert Murdoch like Fox News in America.

Camp goes on to conclude that, at the very least, this all shows that Starmer is very much a member of the corporate establishment, and that the deep state has been working to assure that same corporate elite that he’s safe, just as they worked to reassure Wall Street about Obama. At the time Obama had only been senator for a couple of years, but nevertheless he succeeded in getting a meeting with a former treasury secretary. But now the corporate establishment in the Democrats and the Labour party has won. Jeremy Corbyn has been ousted and replaced with Starmer, while Sanders can’t even get a platform with the Democrats. This is because the Democrats have surrendered the platform to the Republicans because Trump contradicts himself so much they just can’t follow him.

While these are just questions and speculation, they do strongly indicate that Starmer is very much part of the establishment and has their interests at heart, not those of the traditional Labour party. His closeness to the Times shows just why he was willing to write articles for the Tory press behind paywalls. His role in the British state’s attempt to extradite Julian Assange and meetings with Holder also show why Starmer’s so determined not to oppose the ‘spycops’ bill. He is very much part of the British state establishment, and sees it has his role and duty to protect it and its secrets, and not the British public from the secret state.

As for the Trilateral Commission, they’re at the heart of any number of dodgy conspiracy theories, including those claiming that the American government has made covert pacts with evil aliens from Zeta Reticuli. However, as Camp says, his membership of the Commission does indeed show that he is very much a member of the global corporate elite. An elite that wanted to reduce democracy in order to promote the interests of big business.

As a corporate, establishment figure, Starmer very definitely should not be the head of a party founded to represent and defend ordinary people against exploitation and deprivation by business and the state. Dissatisfaction with his leadership inside the Labour party is growing. Hopefully it won’t be too long before he’s ousted in his turn, and the leadership taken by someone who genuinely represents the party, its history and its real mission to work for Britain’s working people.

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