Germany

“It’s all Bullsh*t” – 3 Leaks that Sink the Covid Narrative

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 31/05/2020 - 1:00pm in

There is no science - and increasingly little rational discussion - to justify the lockdown measures and overall sense of global panic. Never-the-less, it's always good to get official acknowledgment of the truth, even if it has to be leaked. Here are three leaks showing that those in power know that the coronavirus poses no threat, and in no way justifies the lockdown that is going to destroy the livelihoods of so many.

Medical Professionals and Scientists for Health, Freedom and Democracy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 28/05/2020 - 11:00am in

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Dr Sucharit Bhakdi, and other like-minded medical professionals, have launched Medical Professionals and Scientists for Health, Freedom and Democracy. A new initiative to organise those who, based on years of experience and their own research, do not believe Covid19 is anything like the "threat" it is constantly presented as. They are concerned by the misleading press coverage and unjustified political response, both in Germany and around the world.

Boris Isn’t Churchill, He’s Neville Chamberlain

Okay, it’s finally happened. I think people have been expecting this, but were hoping that somehow it wouldn’t come true. But it has. Mike today has put up a piece reporting that the death toll from the Coronavirus has hit 62,000. 51,000 people are known to have died, according to some of the people, whose tweets about this tragedy Mike has reproduced in his article. That’s more than those killed during the Blitz.

How do I feel about this? Absolutely furious and bitterly ashamed. Britain is one of the wealthiest countries in Europe, but we now have the second worst death rate from this foul disease in the world. And it can all be put down to our leaders’ incompetence, their doctrinaire pursuit of neoliberalism and private industry at the expense of the res publica, the commonweal, the public good. And their willingness to sacrifice the health, safety and lives of the great British people for the sake of their corporate profits and the narrow interests of their own class.

Mike, Zelo Street and a host of other left-wing bloggers and activists have published article after article minute describing the Tories’ culpable negligence. They were warned in advance by scientists and medical experts that a fresh pandemic was coming sometime. As you know, I despise New Labour, but Blair, Brown and the rest nevertheless took the threat seriously. They prepared for it, setting up appropriate government and NHS departments. What did the Tories do? Shelve all these plans, because they were committed to austerity and they didn’t think the money spent on these precautions were worth it. 2016 the government wargamed a flu pandemic, and this pointed out all the problems we’ve subsequently experienced with the Coronavirus. And what happened after that? Zilch. For the same reasons the plans were shelved and weren’t updated and the specialist departments closed down.

And the Tories’ commitment to austerity also meant they prevented the NHS from being adequately prepared for the outbreak. It had too few intensive care beds, the supplies of PPE were too small, and underlying it is the plain fact that the NHS has been criminally starved of proper funding for years. Because, for all that they’re praising it now, the Tories are desperate to sell it off and have a private healthcare system like the one that works in America. You know, the one country that now has a worse death toll than ours.

Austerity has also exacerbated the impact of the disease in another way. It hits the poor the hardest. Which is unsurprising – the poor often suffer worse from disease, because they don’t have such good diets, jobs, housing and living conditions as the rich. In this case, poorer people do jobs that bring them more into contact with others, which leaves them more exposed to infection. I really am not surprised, therefore, that Blacks and Asians are therefore far more likely than Whites to contract Covid-19. There are other factors involved, of course – ethnic minorities as a rule tend to live far more in multigenerational households than Whites, which increases the risk of infection. But Blacks and some ethnic groups also tend to do the worse, most poorly paid jobs and that’s also going to leave them vulnerable.

And Boris is personally responsible for this debacle. He was warned in November that the Coronavirus was a threat and January and February of this years the scientists were telling him to put the country into lockdown. But he didn’t. He was too preoccupied with ‘getting Brexit done’. He also didn’t want to put this country into lockdown, because it would harm the economy, which meant that the big businesses that donate to him and his scummy party would take a hit. And he and Dominic Cummings and certain others also subscribe to the Social Darwinist view that the disease should be allowed to take its toll on the weakest, because they were useless eaters holding back all the biologically superior rich businessmen the party idolizes. It was a simply just culling the herd, nothing to worry about. And apart from that, Boris was just personally too damn idle. He doesn’t like to read his briefs, he didn’t turn up to the first five meetings of Cobra, and rather than working shot off back home at the weekends. And he was also far too interested in pursuing his relationship with his latest partner.

Johnson fancies himself as Winston Churchill. A few years ago he published a book about the great War Leader, that was so execrable it was torn to shreds by John Newsinger over at Lobster. In this, the Blonde Buffoon resembles Jim Hacker from the Beeb’s comedy series, Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister. Whenever Hacker had some grand idea that would raise him or his administration above mediocrity, he’d start posing and speaking like Churchill. Boris hasn’t quite done that, or at least, not in public. But he certainly shares Hacker’s vanity in this respect.

But he isn’t Churchill. He’s Churchill’s predecessor, Neville Chamberlain. Churchill hated Nazi Germany and was determined to destroy it. Chamberlain, on the other hand, wanted to avoid war. Hence he came back from Munich waving a worthless piece of paper, which he proclaimed as ‘peace in our time’. He was thus absolutely unprepared for Hitler’s invasion of Poland. But the Tories got rid of him, and replaced him with Churchill.

Johnson was unprepared for the Coronavirus. He should have been removed long ago and replaced with someone, who could do something about it. But that would mean replacing the entire Tory party, as none of the Prime Ministers since Brown have been serious about preparing for this threat.

And thanks to them, more people have now died than in the Blitz.

What an under, damnable disgrace!

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/05/20/uk-coronavirus-deaths-hit-62000-no-wonder-johnson-only-appears-for-pmqs/

 

Book Review: Democracy Beyond Elections: Government Accountability in the Media Age by Gergana Dimova

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 20/05/2020 - 10:53pm in

In Democracy Beyond Elections: Government Accountability in the Media Age, Gergana Dimova examines the impact that the rise of the media age has had on government accountability, focusing on the cases of Germany, Bulgaria and Russia. This is an important and timely contribution to the revitalisation of democracy studies, writes Georges Kordas, and shows how accountability can be a tool for citizens but also wielded by those in power.

Democracy Beyond Elections: Government Accountability in the Media Age. Gergana Dimova. Palgrave. 2020.

Democracy and its attributes have been a growing topic since the beginning of the 1990s. Post-communist democratic transition offered researchers the chance to observe how new-born democracies could manage their institutions and responsibilities. Despite the comparative perspective of such research, it was primarily focused on elections and party politics, missing democracy’s internal challenges, like the emergence of the ‘media age’ and the high public expectations of government accountability. Indeed, the ‘media age’ frames the period covered by the book under review, Democracy Beyond Elections: Government Accountability in the Media Age, highlighting the plethora of opportunities and challenges that have been created as a result of the rapid technological progress in the communications industry (32).

Gergana Dimova’s Democracy Beyond Elections appeared in the midst of dramatic debates in the US regarding the impeachment of President Donald Trump. The book focuses on government accountability in democratic states under media pressure. The book’s front cover reflects its content: in the blurred background, we observe a building, perhaps a parliament, while in the foreground there are some microphones, ready to capture a politician’s announcements.

The book consists of three parts and eleven chapters, and at their core is the problem of accountability. The introductory chapter defines the meaning of government accountability and its relationship with democracy and the media. Dimova considers this relationship a problematic one, especially given the consequences of media allegations for government accountability. She offers us a novel approach to the study of democracy, covering both the supply and demand sides of accountability, having developed a ‘database of about 6000 media allegations’ (2) relating to three different democracies. This allows for case studies of the Western European democracy of Germany, the managed democracy of Russia and the transitional democracy of Bulgaria.

The first part of the book explains the supply and demand sides of government accountability. Dimova splits accountability into two dimensions: the beneficial (accountability for the sake of transparency) and the utilitarian (accountability for self-interest). She proceeds to deal analytically with the supply and demand sides of accountability. Such an approach offers Dimova the opportunity not only to present the impact of the media on the extent to which people seek government accountability (the demand side), but also the effect of the media age on the extent to which the government accounts to the public (the supply side).

In an era of political dealignment and electoral manipulation, Dimova adds to the discussion of democracy the notion of the ‘accountability turn’, meaning the expansion and accessibility of accountability mechanisms to the public: a transformative characteristic for democracy. She acknowledges two crucial aspects in that turn: a) the costliness of accountability forums; and b) the specificity of accountability forums. Costliness is related to the amount of financial and other resources needed to pursue allegations; while the specificity highlights the particularity of accountability forums and their possible consequences for democratic legitimacy. Dimova supports the reinforcement of the accountability process with the inclusion of non-governmental mechanisms.

The second part of the book deals with some methodological considerations and contains the empirical results of Dimova’s research. Dimova presents an extensive literature review of accountability, covering both the external and internal sides of accountability’s relationship with democracy. Defining the external side, this means those concepts that evaluate accountability in terms of electoral effectiveness and those that gauge accountability in terms of the outcomes it produces (99-100). The internal side consists of those concepts that equate accountability with democracy and those that assess accountability in terms of its internal phases and sanctions (99-100).

Dimova’s contribution to the field is connected with an alternative measure of accountability and the creation of a rich database and analytical codebook. In detail, her measure proceeds from the outcome of a regression analysis where the input variables are the prosecutor, the courts, the parliament, the president, the audit chamber and various government investigations, while the output variables consist of the resulting sanctions. The regression’s coefficients present the extent to which the input variables are imposing sanctions on the government. The results have been placed in an accountability pyramids model, which provides us with the opportunity to compare the balance of powers between traditional and novel mechanisms of accountability.

The empirical part of the book comprises three chapters, one for each country. The de-parliamentarisation of government accountability – the core of the German case – questions the ability of the accountability phenomenon to transform democracy. Dimova assumes parliaments are weak accountability forums nowadays, especially regarding media allegations. Nevertheless, as her findings present, political parties can affect government accountability in four ways: two concern the parties in opposition and two relate to the parties in government. Opposition parties are talented accountability players as they raise more than half of all accusations levelled at the incumbents in the media. At the same time, their popularity is a decisive factor, able to determine whether the government would dismiss an incumbent for corruption. Parties in government represent a category of essential accountability players as both their internal party meetings and the government meetings between coalitional parties work as mechanisms for imposing sanctions in relation to media allegations.

The Russian case works out as an example of the presidentialisation of government accountability, which can be split into six elements: a) the president possesses the highest sanctioning capacity in the country; b) a presidentialised response to public opinion; c) the presidentialisation and the de-parliamentarisation of investigative accountability; d) the personalisation of sanctions; e) the personalisation of accusations; and f) the personalisation of the judiciary. Highlighting the importance of all of these categories, Dimova argues that the Russian president has undermined Russian democracy by monopolising the accountability process.

The concluding empirical chapter focuses on the judicialisation of the accountability process in Bulgaria. Dimova highlights the importance of the general prosecutor and the courts in government accountability, although she acknowledges that judicialisation has both positive and negative effects. The positive effects strengthen transparency in public discourse and public access to the accountability process. At the same time, the negatives are related to the use of the prosecutor for elite interests.

The third part of the book attempts to answer Dimova’s initial question: is accountability a result of the democratic crisis or a sign of democracy’s transformation? As she argues, accountability is both. Dimova’s view of democracy through accountability helps us reconsider what we know about people’s expectations of the government and the existing accountability mechanisms; it offers not only a vast database but also an alternative methodology for empirical tests of accountability mechanisms. Dimova also targets the abuse of the accountability process by elites, parliament recession and the presidentialisation of accountability, as in the Russian case.

This book can be read by both academic and non-academic audiences, as it situates government accountability in an era when the media performs such a significant role. Dimova shows not only how the fragmentation of public opinions has transformed the demand for accountability during the globalisation era, but also how democracy interacts with the media in a dense social grid. More specifically, she is interested in the supply and the demand sides of accountability and in highlighting those mechanisms that work for or against the accountability process.

Dimova’s research can be considered on two levels: first, as a contribution to the revitalisation of democracy studies; and secondly, as a book published at a critical time due to the developments in the US political scene and the empowering of populists in the name of democracy. As presented earlier in the volume, accountability can have both a beneficial and a utilitarian dimension. It can promote not only transparency in the public realm, but it can also be a valuable tool for populists. Despite the different dynamics presented by each case study, accountability can be used to serve those in power against their enemies or specific interests, in an ‘us vs them’ populist schema.

The only weakness of the study and, in parallel, a question for upcoming research, following Dimova’s train of thought, is the absence of a qualitative approach to accountability studies. Interviewing governmental actors and others could offer us the ability to delve further into perceptions of accountability in dissimilar types of democracies, building on Dimova’s contribution to the field.

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 created by Colleen Simon for opensource.com (opensource.com CC BY SA 2.0).

 


J.A. Hobson on Capitalism and Imperialism

One of the crimes for which Jeremy Corbyn was pilloried as an anti-Semite was that he had written a foreword for an edition of J.A. Hobson’s book, Imperialism. First published in 1903, Hobson’s book has become one of the classic critiques of imperialism. Hobson considered that the motive force behind imperialist expansion and overseas conquest was capitalism and the continual need to find new markets. The book influenced Lenin’s own analysis of imperialism, Imperialism: The Highest Form of Capitalism. Fifty years after the book was published it was praised by the great British historian A.J.P. Taylor, who said that ‘No survey of the international history of the twentieth century can be complete without the name of J.A. Hobson’ because he was the first to identify imperialism’s economic motives. Hobson has been accused of anti-Semitism.

Imperialism and the Anti-Semitism Smears against Corbyn

I think it’s because he believed that Jewish financiers were behind the Anglo-South Africa or ‘Boer’ Wars. I think the real force was the British desire to expand into the African interior,  retain the Afrikaners as imperial subjects and acquire the riches of the southern African diamond fields as well as Cecil Rhodes own megalomaniac personal ambitions. However, when the various witch-hunters were howling about how anti-Semitic Corbyn was for endorsing the book, others pointed out that it was a very well-respected text admired and used by entirely reputable historians. Yes, it was a bit anti-Semitic. A very small bit – there was only one anti-Semitic sentence in it. It was another case of the witch-hunters grasping at whatever they could, no matter how small, to smear a genuinely anti-racist politician.

Financial Capitalism, Imperialism and the Decline of Ancient Rome

There’s an extract from Hobson’s Imperialism in The Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century Protest, edited by Brian MacArthur (London: Penguin 1988). This is a collection various writings protesting against a wide variety of issues ranging from indictments of the poverty of Edwardian England, to various wars, including Vietnam, Civil Rights and anti-Racism, as well as feminism, gay rights, the power of television and the threat of nuclear war. Yes, there’s an extract from Hitler’s Mein Kampf, but there’s also a piece by the American Zionist rabbi, Stephen S. Wise, against the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany as well as other condemnations of Nazis and their horrific rule. The book very definitely does not endorse Fascism or the Communism of Stalin, Pol Pot and the other monsters.

The extract included in the book does identify financial capitalism and militarism as the force behind Roman imperialism, which led to the enslavement of Rome’s enemies abroad and the emergence of an immensely wealthy aristocracy, while impoverishing ordinary Romans at the other end of the social hierarchy, and compares it to the comparable development of the British imperialism of his own time. The extract runs

The spirit of imperialism poisons the springs of democracy in the mind and character of the people. As our free self-governing colonies have furnished hope, encouragement and leadership to the popular aspirations in Great Britain, not merely by practical successes in the arts of popular government, but by the wafting of a spirit of freedom and equality, so our despotically ruled dependencies have ever served to damage the character of our people by feeding the habits of snobbish subservience, the admiration of wealth and rank, the corrupt survivals of the inequalities of feudalism. This process began with the advent of the East Indian nabob and the West Indian planter into English society and politics, bring back with his plunders of the slave trade and the gains of corrupt and extortionate officialism the acts of vulgar ostentation, domineering demeanour and corrupting largesse to dazzle and degrade the life of our people. Cobden, writing in 1860 of our Indian Empire, put this pithy question: ‘Is it not just possible that we may become corrupted at home by the reaction of arbitrary political maxims in the East upon our domestic politics, just as Greece and Rome were demoralized by their contact with Asia?’

The rise of a money-loaning aristocracy in Rome, composed of keen, unscrupulous men from many nations, who filled the high offices of state with their creatures, political ‘bosses’ or military adventurers, who had come to the front as usurers, publicans or chiefs of police in the provinces, was the most distinctive feature of later imperial Rome. This class was continually recruited from returned officials and colonial millionaires. The large incomes drawn in private official plunder, public tribute, usury and official incomes from the provinces had the following reactions upon Italy. Italians were no longer wanted for working the land or for manufactures, or even for military service. ‘The later campaigns on the Rhine and the Danube,’ it is pointed out, ‘were really slave-hunts on a gigantic scale.’

The Italian farmers, at first drawn from rural into military life, soon found themselves permanently ousted from agriculture by the serf labour of the latifundia, and they and their families were sucked into the dregs of town life, to be subsisted as a pauper population upon public charity. A mercenary colonial army came more and more displace the home forces. The parasitic city life, with its lowered vitality and the growing infrequency of marriage, to which Gibbon draws attention, rapidly impaired the physique of the native population of Italy, and Rome subsisted more and more upon immigration of raw vigour from Gaul and Germany. The necessity of maintaining powerful mercenary armies to hold the provinces heightened continually the peril, already manifest in the last years of the Republic, arising from the political ambitions of great pro-consuls conspiring with a moneyed interest at Rome against the Commonwealth. As time went on, this moneyed oligarchy became an hereditary aristocracy, and withdrew from military and civil service, relying more and more upon hired foreigners: themselves sapped by luxury and idleness and tainting by mixed servitude and licence the Roman populace, they so enfeebled the state as to destroy the physical and moral vitality required to hold in check and under government the vast repository of forces in the exploited Empire. The direct cause of Rome’s decay and fall is expressed politically by the term ‘over-centralization’, which conveys in brief the real essence of imperialism as distinguished from national growth on the one hand and colonialism upon the other. Parasitism practised through taxation and usury, involved a constantly increasing centralization of the instruments of government, and a growing strain upon this government as the prey became more impoverished by the drain and showed signs of restiveness. ‘The evolution of this centralized society was as logical as every other work of nature. When force reached the stage where it expressed itself exclusively through money the governing class ceased to be chosen because they were valiant or eloquent, artistic, learned or devout, and were selected solely because they had the faculty of acquiring and keeping wealth. As long as the weak retained enough vitality to produce something which could be absorbed, this oligarchy was invariable; and, for very many years after the native peasantry of Gaul and Italy had perished from the land, new blood, injected from more tenacious races, kept the dying civilization alive. The weakness of the moneyed class lay in this very power, for they not only killed the producer, but in the strength of their acquisitiveness they failed to propagate themselves.’

This is the largest, planest instance history presents of the social parasite process by which a moneyed interest within the state, usurping the reins of government, makes for imperial expansion in order to fasten economic suckers into foreign bodies so as to drain them of their wealth in order to support domestic luxury. The new imperialism differs in no vital point from this old example. The element of political tribute is now absent, or quite subsidiary, and the crudest forms of slavery have disappeared: some elements of more genuine and disinterested government serve to qualify and and mask the distinctively parasitic nature of the later sort. But nature is not mocked: the laws which, operative throughout nature, doom the parasite to atrophy, decay, and final extinction, are not evaded by nations any more than by individual organisms. The greater complexity of the modern process, the endeavour to escape the parasitic reaction by rendering some real but quite unequal and inadequate services to ‘the host’, may retard but cannot finally avert the natural consequences of living upon others. The claim that an imperial state forcibly subjugating other peoples and their lands does so for the purpose of rendering services to the conquered equal to those which she exacts is notoriously false: she neither intends equivalent services nor is capable of rendering them, and the pretence that such benefits to the governed form a leading motive or result of imperialism implies a degree of moral or intellectual obliquity so grave as itself to form a new peril for any nation fostering so false a notion of the nature of its conduct. ‘Let the motive be in the deed, not in the event,’ says a Persian proverb…

Imperialism is a depraved choice of national life, imposed by self-seeking interests which appeal to the lusts of quantitative acquisitiveness and of forceful domination surviving in a nation from early centuries of animal struggle for existence. Its adoption as a policy implies a deliberate renunciation of that cultivation of the higher inner qualities which for a nation as for its individual constitutes the ascendancy of reason over brute impulse. It is the besetting sin of all successful state, and its penalty is unalterable in the order of nature.

(Pp. 15-18).

Financial Capitalism Operating to Exploit Former Colonies and Undermine Domestic Economy

While the British Empire has gone the way of Rome’s, the same forces are still operating today. The Iraq invasion was really to enable western multinationals to seize Iraq’s state industries, and for the American and Saudi oil industry to seize its oil reserves. They weren’t about bringing it democracy or freeing its citizens. Although our former African colonies are now free, they are still plundered through highly unfair trade agreements. At home manufacturing industry has declined because Thatcherite economics favours the financial sector. And the immensely rich now hoard their wealth in offshore tax havens or invest it abroad, rather than in domestic industry. Thus denying British industry investment and making millions of domestic workers unemployed. There’s a further parallel in that in the later Roman Empire, the senatorial aristocracy retreated to their estates rather than pay tax, and so the tax burden increasingly fell on the ordinary Roman citizen. This is the same as the way the Tories have given vast tax cuts to the rich, which have ensured that the tax burden must also be increasingly borne by the poor.

Conservatives have also drawn parallels between the fall of the Roman Empire and today’s west. This has mostly been about non-White immigration, which they have compared to the barbarian invasions. But as Hobson’s Imperialism showed, capitalism and imperialism were connected and together responsible for Rome’s decline and fall. 

But strangely they don’t talk about that!

 

 

Shaw’s Classic Defence of Socialism for Women Part Three

George Bernard Shaw, The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism, foreword by Polly Toynbee (London: Alma Classics 2012).

Socialism and Marriage, Children, Liberty and Religion

Shaw also discusses what socialism would mean for marriage, liberty, children and the churches, and these are the most problematic sections of the book. He looks forward to marriage being a purely voluntary commitment, where people people can marry for love instead of financial advancement. This will produce biologically better children, because people will be able to choose the best partners, rather than be limited to only those from their class. At the same time incompatible partners will be able to divorce each other free of stigma.

He defines liberty in terms of personal freedom. Under socialism, people will be freer because the amount of time they will have for their personal amusement and recreation will be greater. Legislation might go down, because the laws currently needed to protect people will become unnecessary as socialism is established and society advances. Shaw also believes that greater free time would be enough to attract the top brains to management positions in the absence of the usual inducement of greater pay. Shaw realised that not everyone could run industries, and that it was necessary to hire the very best people, who would be a small minority. Giving them greater leisure time was the best way to do this, and he later criticises the Soviet government for not equalising incomes.

But this is sheer utopianism. The Bolsheviks had tried to equalise incomes, and it didn’t work, which is why they went back to higher rates of pay for managers and so on. And as we’ve seen, socialism doesn’t necessarily lead to greater free time and certainly not less legislation. The better argument is that socialism leads to greater liberty because under socialism people have better opportunities available to them for careers, sport, entertainment and personal improvement than they would if they were mere capitalist wage slaves.

Religious people will also object to his views on religion and the churches. While earlier in the book Shaw addressed the reader as a fellow Christian, his attitude in this section is one of a religious sceptic. The reader will have already been warned of this through the foreword by Toynbee. The Groaniad columnist is a high-ranking member of the both the Secular and Humanist Societies, and her columns and articles in just about every magazine or newspaper she wrote for contained sneers at religion. Shaw considers the various Christian denominations irreconcilable in their theologies, and pour scorn on orthodox Christian doctrines such as the Atonement, that Christ died for our sins. Religion should not be taught in school, because of the incompatibility of the account of the Creation in Genesis with modern science. Children should not be taught about religion at all under they are of the age of consent. If their parents do teach them, the children are to be removed from their care. This is the attitude of very aggressive secularists and atheists. Richard Dawkins had the same attitude, but eventually reversed it. It’s far too authoritarian for most people. Mike and I went to a church school, and received a very good education from teachers that did believe in evolution. Religion deals with ultimate questions of existence and morality that go far beyond science. I therefore strongly believe that parents have the right to bring their children up in their religion, as long as they are aware of the existence of other views and that those who hold them are not wicked simply for doing so. He also believed that instead of children having information pumped into them, the business should be to educate children to the basic level they need to be able to live and work in modern society, and then allow the child to choose for itself what it wants to study.

Communism and Fascism

This last section of the book includes Shaw’s observations on Russian Communism and Fascism. Shaw had visited the USSR in the early ’30s, and like the other Fabians had been duped by Stalin. He praised it as the new socialist society that was eradicating poverty and class differences. He also thought that its early history vindicated the Fabian approach of cautious nationalisation. Lenin had first nationalised everything, and then had to go back on it and restore capitalism and the capitalist managers under the New Economic Policy. But Russia was to be admired because it had done this reversal quite openly, while such changes were kept very quiet in capitalism. If there were problems in the country’s industrialisation, it was due to mass sabotage by the kulaks – the wealthy peasants – and the industrialists. He also recognised that the previous capitalist elite were disenfranchised, forced into manual labour, and their children denied education until the working class children had been served. At the same time, the Soviet leaders had been members of the upper classes themselves, and in order to present themselves as working class leaders had claimed working class parentage. These issues were, however, gradually working themselves out. The Soviet leaders no longer had need of such personal propaganda, and the former capitalists could reconcile themselves to the regime as members of the intellectual proletariat. And some of the industrialisation was being performed by criminals, but this was less arduous than the labour in our prisons.

Shaw is right about the NEP showing that nationalisation needs to be preceded by careful preparation. But he was obviously kept ignorant of the famine that was raging in the USSR through forced collectivisation and the mass murder of the kulaks. And rather than a few criminals in the gulags, the real figures were millions of forced labourers. They were innocent of any crime except Stalin’s paranoia and the need of his managers for cheap slave labour. It’s believed that about 30 millions died in Stalin’s purges, while 7 million died in the famine in the Ukraine.

Shaw’s treatment of Fascism seems to be based mostly on the career of Mussolini. He considers Fascism just a revival of the craze for absolute monarchy and military leadership, of the kind that had produced Henry VIII in England, Napoleon, and now Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, the Shah of Iran and Ataturk in Turkey. These new absolute rulers had started out as working class radicals, before find out that the changes they wanted would not come from the working class. They had therefore appealed to the respectable middle class, swept away democracy and the old municipal councils, which were really talking shops for elderly tradesmen which accomplished little. They had then embarked on a campaign against liberalism and the left, smashing those organisations and imprisoning their members. Some form of parliament had been retained in order to reassure the people. At the same time, wars were started to divert the population and stop them criticising the new generalissimo. Industry was approaching socialism by combining into trusts. However, the government would not introduce socialism or truly effective government because of middle class opposition. Fascist regimes wouldn’t last, because their leaders were, like the rest of us, only mortal. In fact Mussolini was overthrown by the other Fascists, who then surrendered to the Allies, partly because of his failing health. That, and his utter military incompetence which meant that Italy was very definitely losing the War and the Allies were steadily advancing up the peninsula. While this potted biography of the typical Fascist is true of Mussolini, it doesn’t really fit some of the others. The Shah, for example, was an Indian prince.

Anarchism and Syndicalism

Shaw is much less informed about anarchism. He really only discusses it in terms of ‘Communist Anarchism’, which he dismisses as a silly contradiction in terms. Communism meant more legislation, while anarchism clearly meant less. He should have the articles and books on Anarcho-communism by Peter Kropotkin. Kropotkin believed that goods and services should be taken over by the whole community. However, rather than a complete absence of government and legislation, society would be managed instead by individual communities and federations.

He also dismisses syndicalism, in which industry would be taken over and run by the trade unions. He considers this just another form of capitalism, with the place of the managers being taken by the workers. These would still fleece the consumer, while at the same time leave the problem of the great inequality in the distribution of wealth untouched, as some industries would obviously be poorer than others. But the Guild Socialists did believe that there should be a kind of central authority to represent the interests of the consumer. And one of the reasons why nationalisation, in the view of some socialists, failed to gain the popular support needed to defend it against the privatisations of the Tories is because the workers in the nationalised industries after the War were disappointed in their hopes for a great role in their management. The Labour party merely wanted nationalisation to be a simple exchange of public for private management, with no profound changes to the management structure. In some cases the same personnel were left in place. Unions were to be given a role in management through the various planning bodies. But this was far less than many workers and trade unionists hoped. If nationalisation is to have any meaning, it must allow for a proper, expanded role of the workers themselves in the business of managing their companies and industries.

The book ends with a peroration and a discussion of the works that have influenced and interest Shaw. In the peroration Shaw exhorts the readers not to be upset by the mass poverty and misery of the time, but to deplore the waste of opportunities for health, prosperity and happiness of the time, and to look forward and work for a better, socialist future.

His ‘Instead of a Bibliography’ is a kind of potted history of books critical of capitalism and advocating socialism from David Ricardo’s formulation of capitalism in the 19th century. These also include literary figures like Ruskin, Carlyle and Dickens. He states that he has replaced Marx’s theory of surplus value with Jevons‘ treatment of rent, in order to show how capitalism deprives workers of their rightful share of the profits.

 

 

Germany Is Leading the World Toward a Green Recovery

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 16/05/2020 - 2:07am in

Residents in some of the most polluted cities in the world have been startled by an unfamiliar atmospheric phenomenon: blue skies. “I look at the sky quite often and enjoy its blueness from my balcony,” retired English professor Sudhir Kumar told the New York Times from his home in Delhi. “I don’t know how long this will last, but right now I feel much better.” 

Across the world, coronavirus lockdowns, while severe in their human costs, are leading to ecological rejuvenation. Wild goats have been seen grazing in the deserted streets in a Welsh village. A kangaroo was spotted hopping through the streets of downtown Adelaide. In Hong Kong, a pair of pandas, relieved to finally have some privacy, conceived a baby.  

The lockdowns are temporary, however. To preserve some of the gains the natural world has made in our absence, economies will need to reopen as far greener engines than before. This won’t happen everywhere — the U.S., for instance, is already using the crisis to roll back environmental protections. But in many other countries, the reboot could end up pushing forward the world’s green transition faster than before.

Accelerate the change

Late last year, this transition was already getting underway. The European Union announced in December a €1 trillion European Green Deal aimed at transforming almost all aspects of their economy. Described by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen as “Europe’s man on the moon moment,” the EU’s 27 member states created a plan to achieve net carbon neutrality by 2050 by overhauling transportation, construction, agriculture and energy. 

GermanyRecovery efforts “will not just be a question of carrying on as we did before the pandemic,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Credit: Dirk Paehr-Heine / Flickr

The coronavirus crisis could have derailed it. Instead, a growing number of European leaders, led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, are calling for this plan to be accelerated as part of the economic recovery. “All politicians of all levels will be asked by their citizens…that we recover quickly from the Covid crisis,” said European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans last month. “We can do it in two ways. We can repeat what we did before and throw a lot of money to the old economy, or we can be smart and combine this with the necessity to move to a green economy. I think this is a huge opportunity. In the European Union, we see the Green Deal as our growth strategy.”

That strategy may prove prescient. Last month, the International Energy Agency announced that the pandemic has radically reconfigured the world’s power production landscape. “The plunge in demand for nearly all major fuels is staggering, especially for coal, oil and gas. Only renewables are holding up,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. “The energy industry that emerges from this crisis will be significantly different from the one that came before.”

One country betting big on this future is Germany, Europe’s biggest economy. In a video summit on April 23, Chancellor Angela Merkel said recovery efforts “will not just be a question of carrying on as we did before the pandemic.”  

“The goal is a green recovery,” emphasized the German environment ministry.

Germany is planning to use the economic recovery to accelerate its transition to renewable energy. Credit: German Ministry of the Environment

Merkel called for the EU’s coronavirus recovery fund to invest in “climate action,” an aim that has the support of Germany’s business community. Over 60 German companies — including iconic brands like Bayer, ThyssenKrupp and Puma — issued a joint statement calling for any stimulus they receive to be tied to a green transition.

“We appeal to the federal government to closely link economic policy measures to overcome both the climate crisis and the coronavirus crisis,” they wrote. Some have offered specific proposals. Salzgitter, one of Germany’s biggest steel manufacturers, is lobbying the government to seize this moment to transition steel production from coal-powered to hydrogen-fueled.

Germany’s businesses aren’t alone. Fifty leading European financial firms recently endorsed a recovery plan to retrofit buildings, electrify transportation systems and build renewable energy and storage. They also propose decarbonizing industrial facilities, scaling up local food production and boosting research into new technologies such as hydrogen energy and non-carbon air transport. 

“The benefits of these green investments include improved air quality, population health and quality of life in cities. Successfully implementing this emergency plan will also give us greater legitimacy as active participants in the next European Green Deal,” read a statement from the Green Recovery Alliance, which includes the two largest insurance companies in Europe and several of the largest banks. “Let us use the present challenge we are facing together as an opportunity for us all to put the environment at the core of a collective rebound.”

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Research co-authored by Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz and Nicholas Stern shows how going green in recovery can maximize the impact of any stimulus. The scholars interviewed 231 experts and examined over 700 stimulus plans since the 2008 economic meltdown, and found that investing in green projects will “create more jobs, deliver higher short-term returns per dollar spend and lead to increased long-term cost savings, by comparison with traditional fiscal stimulus…The Covid-19 crisis could mark a turning point in progress on climate change.” 

Even more of an outlier was where this advice was coming from. “The folks that they were surveying were not environmentalists and even environmental economists. They were…government finance economists and central bank officials,” noted Kathryn Harrison, professor of political science at the University of British Columbia. 

Even the International Monetary Fund — not always known for its forward-thinking approach to economic stimulus — is calling for recovery efforts to catalyze a green transition. “A ‘green recovery’ is our bridge to a more resilient future,” said IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva last month, echoing a similar sentiment expressed by the Institutional Investor Group on Climate Change, which collectively manages nearly half of all capital investments in the world worth over $34 trillion. “As governments pursue efforts to recover from this economic downturn, they should not lose sight of the climate crisis,” warned the IGCC In a May 4 statement. “Governments should avoid the prioritization of risky, short-term emissions-intensive projects.”

Such projects are already looking like riskier bets. Collapsing demand pushed prices for West Texas crude below zero, Exxon suffered its first quarterly loss in three decades and Shell was forced to cut investor dividends for the first time since World War II. Meanwhile, the sun keeps shining and the wind keeps blowing. Danish windmill giant Ørsted reported a 33 percent increase in profits over this time last year. Abu Dhabi Power Corporation is moving forward with the largest solar installation in the world aided by plunging production costs in the sector. The two-gigawatt project will provide power for only $1.35 per KWh — less than half that of coal generation.  

Credit: David Blaikie / Flickr

These tectonic technological shifts are driving public policy well beyond Europe. The ruling Democratic party in South Korea won a landslide re-election last month on its own Green New Deal platform. The country now aims to reach zero carbon emissions by 2050, the first such pledge in East Asia. 

The moves are being driven by shifting public opinion among Korea’s politically active citizenry, as they are in cities around the world. Over half of the global population lives in cities with dangerously poor air quality. In the last few months, billions have been able to breathe fresh air, many for the first time. A recent study documented how air pollution caused 8.8 million premature deaths in 2015 and reduced overall life expectancy by almost three years — as much as tobacco and HIV combined. Some researchers believe improved air quality due to lockdowns may have saved more lives than the quarantine itself.

No wonder 96 mayors from around the world have stated their intention to emerge their cities from the pandemic cleaner and greener than before. “We, as leaders of major cities across the globe, are clear that our ambition should not be a return to ‘normal,’” wrote the C-40 Cities coalition in a statement. “Our goal is to build a better, more sustainable, more resilient and fairer society out of the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.”

Representing over 700 million people and one-quarter of the global economy, these local leaders are now sharing ideas on how to pivot toward urban transformation. The easing of gridlock has allowed bold experiments that may persist after the lockdown. Milan has opened up 22 miles of streets for walking and cycling. The mayor of Paris dedicated 300 million euros ($325 million USD) towards expanding cycling lanes. Bogata is permanently closing 75 miles of streets to car traffic.

“There is now a hell of a lot of collaboration among very powerful politicians who do think a green economic recovery is absolutely essential,” said Mark Watts, the chief executive of C-40. “We are talking about collectively creating funds…which would then support electric vehicles, support rollout of cycle lanes [and] support retrofitting of buildings.”

Will the world be a greener place as a result of the pandemic? It’s too early to say for certain, and not all the news has been promising. In the U.S., the EPA suspended enforcement of environmental regulations, apparently at the request of the American Petroleum Institute. A $2.2 trillion aid package provided $500 billion in guaranteed loans to American businesses and $25 billion in grants to airlines, but zero funding to scale up renewable energy. 

But the pandemic has dramatically shifted our perspective on what kind of future is possible — a shift that is clearly reaching those who are in a position to shape that future. In this respite from the daily din, we hear the promise of what might be. Due to disease, emerging technology and dumb luck, a greener future may come sooner than expected. 

The post Germany Is Leading the World Toward a Green Recovery appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Private Eye Sides with the Witch Hunters, Smear Merchants and Plotters in Article about Leaked Labour Document

I should have realised it wouldn’t last. Last fortnight’s Private Eye carried an article about the leaked Labour party document revealing the antics and intrigues of Blairite party bureaucrats to prevent the party winning the 2017 general election. Although the article accepted uncritically the leaked document’s false assumption that Labour was a hotbed of vicious anti-Jewish hatred, it nevertheless seemed to take seriously the document’s allegations that a series of highly placed Labour apparatchiks had been doing everything they could to sabotage its election chances in order to get rid of Corbyn. Now that attitude has been completely reversed.

In this fortnight’s Private Eye, for 8th – 21st May 2020, there’s another article about the document. Titled ‘Party Poopers’, this has returned to the magazine’s old line of pushing the anti-Semitism smears along with the rest of the lamestream media. The article views the leaked document as a series of terrible libels against people, who were genuinely exposing massive anti-Semitism. These people were also being victimised for their participation in the Panorama programme, ‘Is Labour Anti-Semitic?’, were suffering vicious personal abuse, including being targeted by an online Nazi group. Fortunately they’re being defended by defamation and privacy specialist (sic) Mark Lewis.

The article runs

Like a retreating army planting booby traps, Labour’s routed Corbynistas have left Keir Starmer some unexploded bombs: most notably the 860-page report on the supposed complicity of anti-Corbyn officials in hindering investigations into anti-Semitism.

They have left the party open to investigations by the information commissioner and Inspector Knacker – and multiple actions for libel and breach of privacy. Not content with electing one lawyer as leader, Labour may soon be enriching more of them.

The report, commissioned by general secretary Jennie Formby, created a stab-in-the-back narrative by alleging that Labour lost the 2017 general election because, in the words of John McDonnell, staff undermined the leader in a “shocking act of treachery”. It implied that anti-Corbyn officials sat on complaints of racism to make him look bad. Criticising “whistleblowers” who appeared in a Panorama film about Labour and anti-Semitism, it said the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) should “question the validity of the personal testimonies”.

Party lawyers advised Formby she couldn’t submit the report to the EHRC, let alone publish it. After an unknown Corbyn supporter leaked it over the Easter weekend, however, online activists were quick to share unredacted copies – including much confidential personal information.

A shower of writs is now about to descend on the party. At least 30 former Labour officials have contacted defamation and privacy specialist Mark Lewis – so many that Lewis has signed up other lawyers who are twiddling their thumbs in lockdown to deal with the backlog. Labour will ahve to deal with the fallout without Formby, who announced on Monday she was stepping down as general secretary.

The leaked report was based on 10,000 emails and private WhatsApp messages in which Labour employees bitched about their bosses, as employees tend to do. The information commissioner, who has the power to set multi-million-pound fines, is said to be taking the data breach seriously – all the more so because Labour has still not met its legal obligation to contact all the victims of the data breach to warn them that information they had the right to expect would remain private was in the public domain.

Equally angry are members of the public who are identified in the report as reporting incidents of anti-Jewish hatred – and whose names are now in the possession of neo-Nazi groups. The far-right website Unz Review used Formby’s dossier to name Labour members who complained and to denounce them as agents of “Jewish control” behind “the conspiracy to undermine and destroy Corbyn”. The group Labour Against Anti-Semitism has asked the police to investigate. Its lawyers have also hired private detectives to find who leaked the report.

One lawyer involved expects about 40 privacy and libel actions, estimating that even if Labour settles them at once, the cost to the party will be £2.5m. But Corbyn supporters on Labour’s national executive committee could try to block retractions and apologies. If so, the costs will explode.

Let’s deal with a few irritating little details Private Eye doesn’t mention. It claims that the plotters’ emails were leaked. They weren’t. The plotters did the intriguing using Labour’s computers, and duly handed them over when they were asked as part of the inquiry. They surrendered that information themselves. If they had wanted to keep it all private, they should have used their own machines.

They also went much, much further than bitching about their bosses. Their anti-Corbyn scams included mocking up fake videos to mislead Corbyn that the anti-Semitism allegations were being effectively handled, when they were allowing those same allegations to pile up. They ran two sets of campaigns in London with the intention of ensuring election victories solely for members of the Blairite right. They also suspended constituency Labour parties that were on the verge of deselecting the sitting MP, like Angela Eagle’s in Liverpool. Leading conspirators also acted as members and moderators on Tory online groups, and openly wished for Conservative and Lib Dem victories. This is against party rules, and the same conspirators had also thrown out other members of the party for doing the same, such as one individual who made the mistake of liking an internet comment by a Green politico.

The Panorama programme ‘Is Labour Anti-Semitic?’ was a farrago from start to finish. It’s producers were already biased against Corbyn, and it allowed members of the anti-Corbyn groups to make their allegations of anti-Semitism without revealing their membership of the same groups. Mike, Zelo Street and any number of other left-wing news sites and blogs have torn it to shreds.

Now look at the way it deliberately connects the leaked report with Nazism. The allegations of intrigue and plotting are described as a ‘stab-in-the-back- narrative. This is the same language historians use to describe the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that propelled Hitler to power: that Germany had been ‘stabbed in the back’ by the Jews so that the country lost World War I. Then it brings in the real Nazis, Unz Review.

If innocent people are being target for anti-Semitic abuse and attack by real Nazis, then it is absolutely disgusting.

But the Eye is also hypocritical in not mentioning the abuse and intimidation heaped upon their victims by the anti-Semitism smear merchants. People like Jackie Walker, Tony Greenstein and Mike, who is still accused of being an anti-Semite and a Holocaust denier, even though he won his IPSO complaint against the newspapers who so libelled him. Mike, and other victims of the anti-Semitism smears, also had their private information leaked to the press. Mike has also complained to the Information Commissioner about it, but so far the Commissioner has done nothing. This awkward fact also isn’t mentioned by the Eye, because Hislop’s mighty organ has also done everything it can to push the anti-Semitism smears. And some of the witch-hunters’ victims have suffered far worse than abuse and death threats. One commenter on Mike’s blog posted that he had also been smeared as an anti-Semite by David Collier, part of the GnasherJew troll farm. Not only did Collier smear him, but he also doxed him as well, putting his personal details up on his wretched website and then camping outside his door. Collier has so far not taken the information down.

No mention of any of this from Private Eye!

On then, to Mark Lewis. The Eye’s description of him as specialising in defamation and privacy issues is one way of viewing him. In fact, he’s Rachel Riley’s pet lawyer, and the one she uses whenever someone criticises her for smearing and bullying decent people as anti-Semites and Nazis simply because they support Corbyn.

And finally, there’s the whole issue of ‘Jewish control’ in the Labour party. In fact, a large number of the victims of the anti-Semitism smears are themselves Jewish, because the ultra-Zionists of the Israel lobby cannot tolerate the idea that any Jew does not support Israel and regards its ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinians as abhorrent. Yet there are any number who do, from the Haredi who believe Jews must continue to live in galut – exile – until Israel is truly restored by the Messiah, to politically liberal Jews, who believe that Israel’s maltreatment of the Arabs violates the liberal principles they view as being intrinsic to Judaism. As the saying goes, ‘to be a Jew is always to identify with the oppressed, never the oppressor’. It violates the commandment in Deuteronomy that the Jews are not to maltreat the ‘stranger in the land, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt’. These entirely decent, self-respecting people are smeared, insulted and sometimes physically attacked, like the non-Jews the witch-hunters have also targeted. Some of them have even been the victims of real anti-Semitic assault themselves, or, if non-Jewish, they’ve been attacked because they’ve dared to defend Jews or have Jewish friends, partners and relatives.

But no-one from the press, including Private Eye, has ever asked them about their experience.

And the talk about ‘Jewish control’ is designed to stop any objection to the Board of Deputies of British Jews’ demand for the right to interfere in the Labour party. By demanding that the Labour leadership contenders, including Starmer, sign up to their wretched 10 Pledges against anti-Semitism, the Board of Deputies of British Jews now exercises a very high level of control over the party. They want the right to decide who should be allowed membership, including seeing confidential personal information. They have also demanded that members should not be allowed to share platforms with those expelled for anti-Semitism.

These demands are unreasonable, dictatorial and one-sided. No such demands have been made of the Tory party, Lib Dems or anyone else. 

By talking about Nazis and their denunciation of the Blairites’ intrigues and plotting as ‘Jewish control’, the article is clearly intended to make any objection to the Board’s demands seem anti-Semitic. But the Board has overstepped the boundaries of reasonable criticism into comprehensive involvement with these demands. And there are party political motives at work here. Not only does the Board uncritically support Israel and its atrocities, but it is also partisan in its political support here. The Board’s president, Marie van der Zyl, has sent messages of support and congratulations to Tweezer when she took office as Prime Minister. It’s possible that individual members of the Board may not be Tories, but to me it looks extremely likely that Zyl and the Board will use the anti-Semitism smears to demand the expulsion of anyone, who either criticises Israel or seems serious about returning the party to its socialist roots.

I’ve said many times that Eye publishes some excellent stuff, but I am exasperated by its complicity in the anti-Semitism smears. I despise the way it, and the rest of the media, has steadfastly refused to cover the people, who have been unfairly defamed and threatened by the witch-hunters simply because they criticise Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians. And this article is another example of the same. I notice that the article is also unsigned. It is not credited to ‘Ratbiter’, perhaps because ‘Ratbiter’s’ real identity as Nick Cohen of the Guardian and Absurder is too well-known.

But like Cohen’s articles, this is yet another disgraceful smear and another vile attempt to keep the witch-hunt going and the witch-hunters safe from retribution for their foul activities.

Private Eye on the Problems of the Government’s Medical Central Purchasing Company

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/05/2020 - 1:22am in

Mike’s article about the government’s privatisation and centralisation of the purchasing of PPE and other essential medical equipment for combating the Coronavirus follows a report in last fortnight’s Private Eye for 21st April – 7th May 2020 about the problems besetting the state-owned company the Tories had set up to do this. Centralising the purchase of PPE was supposed to lead to massive NHS savings. However, according to the Eye it has led instead only to its chiefs awarding themselves massive salaries, and staff shortages and poor pay at the bottom. The article on page 10, ‘SKIMPING OUTFITS’ runs

The government-owned company struggling to supply masks, gloves, aprons and eye protection to hospitals and GPS was set up explicitly to reduce spending on NHS supplies.

Supply Chain Coordination LTD (SCCL) has been in charge of procuring NHS supplies and the warehouses and lorries getting PPE out to the NHS since April 2018. The government argued that one centralised buying system would “generate savings of £2.4bn over a five-year period” through “efficiency”. In fact it has led to big salaries at the top and lower pay and staff shortages at the bottom.

SCCL was set up as a government-owned company in response to the Carter review of NHS productivity. Lord (Patrick) Carter argued that too many NHS trusts buying their own kit was inefficient and the government could “rationalise the procurement landscape, reduce spend and consolidate purchasing power”. Jin Sahota was brought in as SCCL chief executive from French media firm Technicolor on £230,000 a year, after the government allowed higher salaries for “commercial staff”. I’ll be absolutely blunt”, he told Civil Service World last year, “If the salary levels were somewhat different, maybe it wouldn’t have attracted me.”

In May 2019, Rob Houghton, former Post Office chief information officer, was made SCCL’s “IT focused” director. As the last Eye’s special report on the Post Office’s Horizon IT scandal noted, in 2016 Houghton launched a review into the malfunctioning system, which was mysteriously abandoned. The courts later found that a matter of “great concern”.

SCCL manages procurement of NHS bulk supplies and contracts distribution of NHS essentials through a five-year, £730m deal signed in 2018 with UK logistics firm Unipart, which runs the NHS warehouses and lorry deliveries. In September 2018, Steve Barclay (then a health minister, now at the Treasury) said the SCCL/ Unipart deal was “streamlining” the NHS.

Meanwhile, £500m is being taken from NHS trusts to fund the new system and “incentivise” trusts to use it. However, any “savings” delivered look more like penny-pinching than efficiency: in December, HGV and 7.5 tonne drivers on the SCCL/ Unipart contract had to threaten strike action to get decent sick pay and push their rate above an industry low of £10.24 an hour.

At the start of April, union Unite said warehouse staff were exhausted and struggling to keep up with demand. In a cuts-driven system, there was no slack to deal with the extra burden of a pandemic. The government’s solution was to send in the army to help in the warehouses. This has provided some relief – but once the immediate crisis passes, will it return to its ill-conceived “savings” plan?

It looks like Boris’ decision to privatise the purchasing process is a result of this company’s embarrassing failure. But Deloitte and co. aren’t going to fare much better, if at all. What’s at fault is the whole notion of centralisation itself. This was used to destroy local DHSS and inland revenue offices in the 1980s and 1990s, all in the name of efficiency. I don’t believe it made the process any more efficient. In fact, given the delays benefit claimants experienced in the processing of their claims, even before IDS’ stupid and murderously destructive Universal Credit was rolled out, it made it much, much worse.

It also won’t solve the problem of a poorly paid, overworked and demoralised staff working flat out for a grossly overpaid senior management. This is now general throughout business and what used to be the civil service. It’s how the outsourcing companies were able to generate their profits in the first place – they laid off staff in order to give their shareholders nice fat dividends and senior management nice fat salaries and bonuses.

What is causing the problems is the Tories’ decimation of the NHS across its services. As Mike and others have reported, other countries like Germany were able to respond more effectively to the pandemic because they had spare capacity in beds. But the Tories had removed that in the NHS in the name of efficiency.

It’s time these false economies were wound up. Purchasing should be handed back to NHS trusts, and the NHS and the rest of the civil service properly funded.

And the Tories and their obsession with centralisation, rationalisation, privatisation and rewarding overpaid, greedy managers and board chairmen thrown out of government.

Ho Ho! Black Guardian Embarrassed by Her Bookshelf

Sarah Vine plotting the Doctor’s downfall and intergalactic domination.

Here’s a bit of comic relief amidst the continuing grim reality of the Coronavirus crisis. Sarah Vine, Mail columnist and wife of Michael Gove, managed to give the online public a few moments of fun when she gave them a very revealing look at her and her husband’s taste in reading matter.

Vine’s proud of her husband’s membership of Boris’ cabinet, and has taken to giving herself the pretentious internet monicker of @WestminsterWAG, as she clearly regards being the other half of an MP as glamorous as being a footballer’s wife or girlfriend. And to show her and her husband’s astonishing good fortune, she took a picture of Gove taking the daily Downing Street briefing as it appeared on the TV in their home and posted it on Twitter with the caption ‘Surreal’. The TV was underneath a set of bookshelves, and it was their contents which gave such great amusement to those looking at her Tweet. Former New Labour spin doctor Alistair Campbell picked out a few particularly noticeable volumes, and tweeted at her that ‘having Hitler, Rommel and Napoleon next to Maggie is not a good look.’

Now there are a number of ways Vine could have reacted to this gibe. She could have made the obvious comment that reading about notorious people doesn’t mean you want to imitate them. The amount written and published about Hitler and the Nazis is colossal, but mercifully very few people reading about them are murderous racists and anti-Semites. Ditto for Napoleon. The Napoleonic period is fascinating because it is such a critical period in European history, when French armies marched across the Continent with the intention of building an empire. But obviously that doesn’t mean that everyone reading about the Corsican general has similar megalomaniac ambitions. As it was, she simply replied “Don’t be so absurd. They are books. You should try them sometimes – you can learn a lot from them. You will note there is also a Peter Mandelson”. And that’s where she should have left it. Unfortunately, she couldn’t resist posting another Tweet, saying “As a very special treat for my trolls and [Alastair Campbell] here is another bookshelf. There are about 20 more. Enjoy!” And the peeps on Twitter did just that. And it wasn’t pretty.

Owen Jones spotted a copy of The War Path, the prequel by David Irving to his Hitler’s War. That’s the David Irving, who really is an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier. Mehdi Hasan and another Tweeter noticed that she also had a copy of The Bell Curve, a book arguing that intelligence is linked to race. Jones further remarked commented on her reaction to his criticism about an article in the Spectator by Rod Liddle arguing that there should be more islamophobia in the Tory party. Vine called the article ‘Clever and funny’. Dawn Foster tweeted that she’d read Gove’s ‘virulently islamophobic’ Celsius 7/7 and written about his time as education minister, and it was obvious that The Bell Curve had strongly influenced his thinking. It was, she said, ‘dangerous, racist rubbish’. That’s nearly everyone said about The Bell Curve, including a great many scientists, which is why it’s been torn to pieces by critics. Libcom Dot Org also noticed that Vine and Gove owned a copy of Alan Benoist’s Beyond Human Rights: Defending Freedom, adding the significant information that Benoist’s a central figure in the European New Right and Third Positionist movements. The latter movement is a revisionist strain of White Nationalism that doesn’t want Blacks and Asians to be deported from Britain and Europe. But they do want them to be segregated. Zelo Street in their article about Vine and Gove’s wretchedly poor choice in reading matter added that Benoist also has White Nationalist and Russian Fascist links as well.

Vine then got very huffy about all this criticism, and Tweeted  “Extraordinary how many people on here seem to be so censorious of books and the idea of knowledge. In common with the Nazis, the Spanish Inquisition, Communist Russia – and pretty much every despotic, brutal regime you can think of. Says it all, really”. But political liberalism, in the broad sense of defending and upholding free democratic societies, in which people are not persecuted because of their religion or ethnicity, also means recognising and condemning ideological threats. It’s why Mein Kampf was banned in Germany until a few years ago, and why decent bookshops won’t stock copies of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It’s also somewhat rich for Vine to compare her critics to dictatorships and other savagely repressive movements when the Daily Mail has based much of its sales tactics on stoking similar outrage and demanding anything left-wing or otherwise controversial to be banned.

It also doesn’t change the fact that while the books on Hitler, Rommel and Napoleon don’t mean that Vine and Gove are admirers of right-wing megalomaniacs and dictators, the other books do show that they have a very dangerous taste for the ideas of real racists and Fascists.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/05/sarah-vine-felled-by-falling-bookshelf.html

 

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