Russia

EU Foreign Policy Chief Calls for Rapprochement with Russia and End of “American-led System”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 28/05/2020 - 5:23am in

A significant change in the global balance of power may be in the offing if we are to believe declarations made by EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell while addressing a group of German ambassadors on Monday in Brussels. Borell reportedly “created a diplomatic headache” when he called for the end of the “American-led system” and made the case for ushering in an “Asian century” centered around stabilizing European relations with Russia.

Borell ruffled more feathers earlier in the week when he publicly opposed “any Israeli initiative toward the annexation of parts of the West Bank,” but stopped short of articulating any concrete steps the EU might take to curb Israeli abuses in the region, stating that the EU would limit itself to “diplomatic action in order to avoid any unilateral action” by Israel in Gaza, despite support by several European nations for punitive actions against the apartheid state.

Nevertheless, Borell’s most recent comments before the German ambassadors are noteworthy for the simple fact that Germany is set to take over the presidency of the EU, as well as the UN Security Council in July, giving the EU’s chief diplomat’s words particular resonance and may point to a new phase in the broader Atlanticist geopolitical playbook.

 

Playing both sides

Borell, a Spanish politician who took over the EU’s top diplomat spot in December of 2019, has straddled the fine line Europe has taken between siding with American insistence on maligning the Asian superpower with claims of trying to block an investigation into the origins of the Coronavirus earlier this month and calling China a “partner country” in a recent article he penned in several European newspapers.

Ultimately, the European Union’s role in advancing Atlanticist designs in Asia hinges on its ability to play mediator in the tense relationship between the other world superpower – the United States, together with its proxy state, Israel – and China. To this end, Borell calls for the EU to “maintain the necessary collective discipline” against the threat of Chinese economic hegemony in their natural sphere of influence, which includes nations like India, Japan, Indonesia, and Russia.

For this reason, Borell’s message to the German ambassadors revolved around mending relationships with Putin’s Russia and strengthening ties “with the rest of democratic Asia,” suggesting that the EU should put their full support behind the Russian port of Vladivostok and Trans-Siberian transportation routes in order to skirt China’s One Belt One Road Initiative and thus weaken its position throughout Asia.

Germany’s close commercial ties to Russia have been a recurring bone of contention against the American-led intransigence against Putin in recent years, and as the Teuton nation prepares to assume a leading role in the 27-nation bloc government and the UN it looks as though the Atlanticist playbook is being tweaked as they discover that the strategies applied so far are only bringing its enemies closer together.

 

Filling the powder keg

As the geopolitical chess match continues to unfold amidst this pandemic-induced global economic reset, the real purpose of Israel as the linchpin of the entire Atlanticist project might soon be revealed to the world.

Should the EU’s rapprochement with Russia bear the desired fruit and the Kremlin indeed begins to forge closer ties with Europe instead of China, the balance of power will shift away from the U.S.-Israeli axis, at least momentarily. But, it will also set the stage for what Borell – perhaps only intuitively – expressed as the “pressure to choose sides.”

The EU is Israel’s biggest trading partner and Borell himself underlined that it was important for Europe to have “the best relationship with Israel” as a new coalition government between Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz finally begins to take shape in the Middle Eastern state. Borell’s rhetoric about supporting Palestinian sovereignty might be nothing more than a bone thrown to the more conscientious EU members so that the aforementioned “collective discipline” might be achieved and Russia may be successfully lured into the fold and halt any further nurturing of Sino-Russian relations.

The American position on Israel is unambiguous and, in addition to the scandalous and continued subsidizing of the Israeli state, completely backs its most ambitious annexation plans in Gaza and beyond in complete contradiction to the position several European countries are currently taking.

Once the economic corridors have been ironed out and Russia comes on board to serve as the Atlanticists’ Silk Road into all of Asia – not to mention Russia’s own “huge investment potential,” in “natural resources, fisheries, and tourism,” a more isolated China could become fatally vulnerable to a manufactured war sparked by Israel and Washington, which the EU – at that point – might have no choice but to support.

Feature photo | Secretary of State Mike Pompeo walks with European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Josep Borrell on Feb. 7, 2020, to meet with media at the State Department in Washington. Kevin Wolf | AP

Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.

The post EU Foreign Policy Chief Calls for Rapprochement with Russia and End of “American-led System” appeared first on MintPress News.

80s Space Comedy From Two of the Goodies

Astronauts, written by Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie, 13 episodes of 25 minutes in length. First Broadcast ITV 1981 and 1983.

I hope everyone had a great Bank Holiday Monday yesterday, and Dominic Cummings’ hypocritical refusal to resign after repeatedly and flagrantly breaking the lockdown rules aren’t getting everyone too down. And now, for the SF fans, is something completely different as Monty Python used to say.

Astronauts was a low budget ITV sitcom from the very early ’80s. It was written by the two Goodies responsible for writing the scripts for their show, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie, and based on the personal conflicts and squabbling of the American astronauts on the Skylab programme six years earlier. It was about three British astronauts, RAF officer, mission commander and pilot Malcolm Mattocks, chippy, left-wing working-class engineer David Ackroyd, coolly intellectual biologist Gentian Fraser,and their dog, Bimbo,  who are launched into space as the crew of the first all-British space station. Overseeing the mission is their American ground controller Lloyd Beadle. Although now largely forgotten, the show lasted two seasons, and there must have been some continuing demand for it, because it’s been released nearly forty years later as a DVD. Though not in such demand that I didn’t find it in DVD/CD bargain catalogue.

Low Budget

The show’s very low budget. Lower than the Beeb’s Blake’s 7, which often cited as an example of low budget British science fiction. There’s only one model used, that of their space station, which is very much like the factual Skylab. The shots of their spacecraft taking off are stock footage of a Saturn V launch, the giant rockets used in the Moon landings and for Skylab. There also seems to be only one special effects sequence in the show’s entire run, apart from outside shots. That’s when an accident causes the station to move disastrously out of its orbit, losing gravity as it does so. Cheap matte/ Chromakey effects are used to show Mattocks rising horizontally from his bunk, where he’s been lying, while Bimbo floats through the bedroom door.

Class in Astronauts and Red Dwarf

It’s hard not to compare it with the later, rather more spectacular Red Dwarf, which appeared in 1986, three years after Astronaut’s last season. Both shows centre around a restricted regular cast. In Red Dwarf this was initially just Lister, Holly and the Cat before the appearance of Kryten. Much of the comedy in Red Dwarf is also driven by their similar situation to their counterparts in Astronauts – personality clashes in the cramped, isolated environment of a spacecraft. The two shows are also similar in that part of this conflict from class and a Conservative military type versus working class cynic/ liberal. In Red Dwarf it’s Rimmer as the Conservative militarist, while Lister is the working class rebel. In Astronauts the military man is Mattocks, a patriotic RAF pilot, while Ackroyd, the engineer, is left-wing, Green, and affects to be working class. The three Astronauts also debate the class issue, accusing each other of being posh before establishing each other’s place in the class hierarchy. Mattocks is posh, but not as posh as Foster. Foster’s working class credentials are, however, destroyed during an on-air phone call with his mother, who is very definitely middle or upper class, and talks about going to the Conservative club. In this conflict, it’s hard not to see a similarity with the Goodies and the conflict there between the Conservative screen persona of Tim Brooke-Taylor and Bill Oddie’s left-wing, working class character.

Class, however, plays a much smaller role in Red Dwarf. Lister is more underclass than working class, and the show, set further in the future, has less overt references to contemporary class divisions and politics. The humour in Red Dwarf is also somewhat bleaker. The crew are alone three million years in the future, with the human race vanished or extinct with the exception of Lister. Rimmer is an ambitious failure. For all he dreams of being an officer, he has failed the exam multiple times and the B.Sc he claims is Batchelor of Science is really BSC – Bronze Swimming Certificate. Both he and Lister are at the lowest peg of the ship’s hierarchy in Red Dwarf. They’re maintenance engineers, whose chief duties is unblocking the nozzles of vending machines. Lister’s background is rough. Very rough. While others went scrumping for apples, he and his friends went scrumping for cars. The only famous person in his class was a man who ate his wife. The three heroes of Astronauts, however, are all competent, intelligent professionals despite their bickering. Another difference is that while both series have characters riddled with self-loathing, in Red Dwarf it’s the would-be officer Rimmer, while in Astronauts is working class engineer Ackroyd.

Britain Lagging Behind in Space

Other issues in Astronauts include Britain’s low status as a space power. In a speech in the first episode, the crew express their pride at being the first British mission, while paying tribute to their American predecessors in the Apollo missions. The Ealing comedy The Mouse on the Moon did something similar. And yet Britain at the time had been the third space power. Only a few years before, the British rocket Black Arrow had been successfully launched from Woomera in Australia, successfully taking a British satellite into orbit.

Personal Conflicts

There are also conflicts over the cleaning and ship maintenance duties, personal taste in music – Mattocks irritates Ackroyd by playing Tubular Bells, publicity or lack of it – in one episode, the crew are annoyed because it seems the media back on Earth have forgotten them – and disgust at the limited menu. Mattocks is also shocked to find that Foster has been killing and dissecting the mice he’s been playing with, and is afraid that she’ll do it to the dog. Sexism and sexual tension also rear their heads. Mattocks fancies Foster, but Ackroyd doesn’t, leading to further conflict between them and her. Foster, who naturally wants to be seen as an equal and ‘one of the boys’ tries to stop this by embarrassing them. She cuts her crew uniform into a bikini and then dances erotically in front of the two men, before jumping on them both crying ‘I’ll have both of you!’ This does the job, and shames them, but Beadle, watching them gets a bit too taken with the display, shouting ‘Work it! Work it! Boy! I wish I was up there with you boys!’ Foster also objects to Mattocks because he doesn’t help his wife, Valerie, out with the domestic chores at home. Mattocks also suspects that his wife is having an affair, which she is, in a sort-of relationship with Beadle. There’s also a dig at the attitudes of some magazines. In the press conference before the three go on their mission, Foster is asked by Woman’s Own if she’s going to do any cooking and cleaning in space. Beadle and his team reply that she’s a highly trained specialist no different from the men. The joke’s interesting because in this case the butt of the humour is the sexism in a certain type of women’s magazine, rather than chauvinist male attitudes.

Cold War Espionage

Other subjects include the tense geopolitical situation of the time. Mattocks is revealed to have been running a secret espionage programme, photographing Russian bases as the station flies over them in its orbit. The others object, and Ackroyd is finally able to persuade Beadle to allow them to use the technology to photograph illegal Russian whaling in the Pacific. This is used to embarrass the Russians at an international summit, but the questions about the origin of the photos leads to the espionage programme being abandoned. The crew also catch sight of a mysterious spacecraft in the same orbit, and start receiving communications in a strange language. After initially considering that it just might be UFOs, it’s revealed that they do, in fact, come from a lonely Russian cosmonaut. Foster speaks Russian, and starts up a friendship. When Mattocks finds out, he is first very suspicious, but then after speaking to the Russian in English, he too becomes friends. He’s the most affected when the Russian is killed after his craft’s orbit decays and burns up re-entering the atmosphere.

Soft Drink Sponsorship

There are also digs at commercial sponsorship. The mission is sponsored by Ribozade, whose name is a portmanteau of the British drinks Ribeena and Lucozade. Ribozade tastes foul, but the crew nevertheless have it on board and must keep drinking it. This is not Science Fiction. One of the American missions was sponsored by Coca Cola, I believe, and so one of the space stations had a Coke machine on board. And when Helen Sharman went into space later in the decade aboard a Russian rocket to the space station Mir, she was originally to be sponsored by Mars and other British companies.

God, Philosophy and Nicholas Parsons

The show also includes arguments over the existence or not of the Almighty. Mattocks believes He exists, and has shown His special favour to them by guiding his hand in an earlier crisis. Mattocks was able to save them, despite having no idea what he was doing. Ackroyd, the sceptic, replies that he can’t say the Lord doesn’t exist, but can’t see how God could possibly create Nicholas Parsons and Sale of the Century, one of the popular game shows on ITV at the time, if He did. As Mattocks is supposed to be guiding them down from orbit, his admission that he really didn’t know what he was doing to rescue the station naturally alarms Foster and Ackroyd so that they don’t trust his ability to get them down intact.

Red Dwarf also has its jokes about contemporary issues and politics. Two of the most memorable are about the hole in the Earth’s ozone layer being covered with a gigantic toupee, and the despair squid, whose ink causes its prey to become suicidal and which has thus destroyed all other life on its world in the episode ‘Back to Reality’. Other jokes include everyone knowing where they were when Cliff Richard got shot. Red Dwarf, however, is much more fantastic and goes further in dealing with philosophical issues, such as when Rimmer is incarcerated in a space prison where justice is definitely retributive. If you do something illegal, it comes back to happen to you. This is demonstrated when Lister follows Rimmer’s instruction and tries to set his sheets alight. He shortly finds that his own black leather jacket has caught fire.

Conclusion

Red Dwarf is able to go much further in exploring these and other bizarre scenarios as it’s definitely Science Fiction. Astronauts is, I would argue, space fiction without the SF. It’s fictional, but based solidly on fact, including generating gravity through centrifugal force. But critically for any comedy is the question whether its funny. Everyone’s taste is different, but in my opinion, yes, Astronauts is. It’s dated and very much of its time, but the humour still stands up four decades later. It had me laughing at any rate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Podcast: Aaron Mate Debunks RussiaGate and Discusses How Liberals Came to Love Bush-Era Neocons

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 21/05/2020 - 1:08pm in

Welcome to MintCast, the official MintPress News podcast hosted by Mnar Muhawesh. MintCast is an interview podcast featuring dissenting voices, independent researchers and journalists the establishment would rather silence.

In this episode, we are joined by Aaron Mate —  investigative journalist, contributor to The Nation and host of “Pushback” on The Grayzone. Mate has spent the last four years covering the mainstream media and U.S. intelligence claim that Russia hacked the U.S. elections in 2016.

Most recently, Mate revealed a bombshell that Crowdstrike, the firm behind the accusation that Russia hacked and stole DNC emails, admitted to Congress that it had no direct evidence that Russia actually stole the emails or infiltrated DNC servers. 

Thanks in part to the global pandemic that has been dominating headlines, the revelation was not picked up by corporate media, the same corporate media, that for the past four years, worked diligently to convince the American public that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections to help Donald Trump. 

The mass hysteria caused by Russiagate since 2016 caused so much paranoia that the American public became convinced that Russia was corrupting and manipulating the American political system. However, very little evidence was presented to the back that claim. In fact, the most famous claim published by the New York Times and the Associated Press in 2017 was that “all intelligence agencies agree Russia hacked our elections.” These same news organizations would later retract that claim yet they still continued to peddle that narrative. 

For another two years, U.S. political and media voices continued to promote the narrative that President Donald Trump conspired with the Kremlin and that Special Counsel Robert Mueller would prove it through his probe which was released last year.  

Mate wrote in The Nation that,

In the process, they overlooked countervailing evidence and diverted anti-Trump energies into fervent speculation and prolonged anticipation. So long as Mueller was on the case, it was possible to believe that “The Walls Are Closing In” on the traitor/puppet/asset in the White House. The long-awaited completion of Mueller’s probe, and the release of his redacted report, reveals this narrative—and the expectations it fueled—to be unfounded.” 

Most recently, however, previously sealed FBI documents “indicate close contacts between Israel and the Trump campaign and that the Mueller investigation found evidence of Israeli involvement, but largely redacted it.” This was largely ignored by the same outlets peddling Russiagate. 

Mate argues, “the real Russiagate scandal is the damage it has done to our democratic system and media.”

Aaron Mate joins us to explore all of this and how four years of Russiagate propaganda has been the gift that keeps on giving for both the Trump administration and the Democratic Party, gift that pushed progressives to the right by promoting Cold War propaganda and taught them to love Bush-era neocons and a murky intelligence community mired in corruption. 

This program is 100 percent listener supported! You can join the hundreds of financial sponsors who make this show possible by becoming a member on our Patreon page

Subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, Spotify and SoundCloud. Please leave us a review and share this segment. 

Mnar Muhawesh is founder, CEO and editor in chief of MintPress News, and is also a regular speaker on responsible journalism, sexism, neoconservativism within the media and journalism start-ups. 

The post Podcast: Aaron Mate Debunks RussiaGate and Discusses How Liberals Came to Love Bush-Era Neocons appeared first on MintPress News.

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).

 


This Week in the Guardian #7

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 18/05/2020 - 1:00am in

Every week (or, rather, most weeks, since the coronavirus torpedoed our schedule), we like to highlight three or four stories that go full-Guardian, but don’t require an entire article of refutation. We encourage reader-participation here, so if you come across something you feel should be included in the next edition either post a link below, …

Shaw’s Classic Defence of Socialism for Women Part Four

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

Conclusion

While this a great book I immensely enjoyed, it also very much the product of its time. Shaw is unrealistic and more than a little sectarian himself in his advocacy of the equalization of incomes. He regards it as the real, fundamental goal of socialism and that unless they too believe in it, others advocating nationalisation aren’t real socialists. But the Soviets and various other socialist groups have tried the equalisation of incomes, and it didn’t work. But nevertheless, even if wages shouldn’t be exactly the same, the differences in wealth should very definitely be far less than they are now.

Similarly, I don’t entirely agree with his views on the unions. Now other socialists also struggled with the problems they posed for working class power. Trade unions by themselves aren’t socialist organisations. Their role is to fight for better wages and conditions for the workers, not to replace capitalism, and Lenin himself pondered how workers could go from ‘trade union consciousness’ to socialism. In the 1980s it was found that trade unionists often voted Tory, because of the improved quality of life they enjoyed. But the unions are nevertheless vital working class organisations and are rightly at the heart of the Labour party, and have provided countless working class leaders and politicians.

Shaw was right about the coal mines, and his description of the results of the great differences in viability between them and the comparative poverty or wealth of the mining companies was one of the reasons they were nationalised by Labour under Clement Attlee.  He’s also right about nationalising the banks. They don’t provide proper loans for the small businessman, and their financial shenanigans have resulted, as Shaw noted in his own day, in colossal crashes like that of 2008. He is also right about the rich sending their money abroad rather than contributing to the British economy. In his time it was due to imperialism, and there is still a hangover from this in that the London financial sector is still geared to overseas rather than domestic investment. It’s why Neil Kinnock advocated the establishment of a British investment bank in 1987. Now, in the early 21st century, they’re also saving their money in offshore tax havens, and British manufacturers have been undercut and ruined through free trade carried out in the name of globalisation.

His arguments about not nationalising industries before everything has been properly prepared, and the failures of general strikes and revolutions are good and commonsense. So is his recommendation that capitalism can drive innovation. On the other hand, it frequently doesn’t and expects the state to bail it out or support it before it does. I also agreed with Shaw when he said that companies asking for government subsidies shouldn’t get them unless the gave the government a part share in them. That would solve a lot of problems, especially with the outsourcing companies. They should be either nationalised or abolished.

I can’t recommend the book without qualifications because of his anti-religious views. Shaw also shows himself something of a crank when it comes to vaccination. As well as being a vegetarian and anti-vivisectionist, which aren’t now anywhere near as remarkable as they once were, he’s against vaccination. There are parts of the book which are just anti-vaxxer rants, where he attacks the medical profession as some kind of pseudo-scientific priesthood with sneers at the religion of Jenner. He clearly believes that vaccination is the cause of disease, instead of its prevention. I don’t know if some of the primitive vaccinations used in his time caused disease and death, but it is clear that their absence now certainly can. Children and adults should be vaccinated because the dangers of disease are far, far worse.

Shaw also has an unsentimental view of the poor. He doesn’t idealise them, as poor, ill-used people can be terrible themselves, which is why poverty itself needs to be eradicated. In his peroration he says he looks forward to the poor being exterminated along with the rich, although he has a little more sympathy for them. He then denies he is a misanthrope, and goes on to explain how he likes people, and really wants to see people growing up in a new, better, classless socialist future.

While I have strong reservations about the book, it is still well-worth reading, not least because of Shaw’s witty turns of phrase and ability to lampoon of capitalism’s flagrant absurdities. While I strongly reject his anti-religious views, his socialist ideas, with a few qualifications, still hold force. I wish there were more classic books on socialism like this in print, and widely available so that everyone can read them.

Because today’s capitalism is very much like the predatory capitalism of Shaw’s age, and becoming more so all the time.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Putin’s Call For A New System and the 1944 Battle Of Bretton Woods

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 16/05/2020 - 11:00am in

Matthew Ehret As today’s world teeters on the brink of a financial collapse greater than anything the world experienced in either 1923 Weimar or the 1929 Great depression, a serious discussion has been initiated by leaders of Russia and China regarding the terms of the new system which must inevitably replace the currently dying neo-liberal …

Media Priorities: Trump, Putin and the bias before our eyes

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 13/05/2020 - 4:08pm in

Joris De Draeck April 25, 2020, marks the 75th Anniversary of the historic meeting between American and Soviet troops, who shook hands on the damaged bridge over the Elbe River. This event heralded the decisive defeat of the Nazi Regime. Thus reads the first paragraph of a joint statement by President Donald J. Trump and …

Lobster on the Prosecution of Craig Murray and Mountbatten, Mosley and the Abortive 1968 Coup Against Wilson

Robin Ramsay, the head honcho of the parapolitics site Lobster, has just updated the ‘News from the Bridge’ section of the current issue, no. 79, with some very interesting little snippets. One of these is about the current prosecution by the Scots authorities of Craig Murray for contempt of court.

Craig Murray and the Possible Framing of Alex Salmond

Murray’s crime is that he commented online about Alex Salmond’s trial while it was happening, stating that he believes that Salmond was framed by the Scottish state. Murray also knows four other people, also supporters of Scots independence, who have similarly been visited by the cops from the ‘Alex Salmond’ team, because they also blogged or posted about the case. Murray says, as quoted by Lobster,

The purpose of this operation against free speech is a desperate attempt to keep the lid on the nature of the state conspiracy to fit up Alex Salmond. Once the parliamentary inquiry starts, a huge amount of evidence of conspiracy which the court did not allow the defence to introduce in evidence during the criminal trial, will be released. The persecution of myself is an attempt to intimidate independent figures into not publishing anything about it.The lickspittle media of course do not have to be intimidated. To this end, I am charged specifically with saying that the Alex Salmond case was a fitup and a conspiracy in which the Crown Office was implicated. So I thought I would say it again now:

The Alex Salmond case was a fit-up and a conspiracy in which the Crown Office was implicated, foiled by the jury. If Scotland is the kind of country where you go to jail for saying that, let me get my toothbrush.’ (emphasis in the original)

I honestly don’t know how credible this allegation is. Unfortunately, powerful men do take sexual advantage of the women around them, as the Harvey Weinstein scandal has glaringly showed. But Salmond was acquitted because he was able to show that he was not where he was alleged and with the women he was accused of assaulting at the time the attacks were supposed to have been committed. The suggestion that Salmond was framed by the Scots state, presumably to prevent Scotland gaining independence, does seem to pass beyond the limits of credibility. It looks like a conspiracy theory in the pejorative sense of the term.

Unfortunately, the British state does smear opposition politicians. IRD did it in the 1970s when they falsified all manner of documents and manufactured fake reports, published in various newspapers and magazines, that Labour politicians like Tony Benn were IRA or Communist sympathisers and agents of the Soviet Union when they definitely weren’t. We’ve seen the same tactics revived just last year, when they were used by the Democracy Initiative and its parent body, the Institute for Statecraft, against Jeremy Corbyn and other European politicos and public figures, who were deemed too close to Putin. And far from being a private company, the Democracy Initiative had links to MI5 and the cyberwarfare branch of the SAS.

The Beeb also played its part in broadcasting disinformation about Salmond and Scots independence. Remember the way the Corporation successively edited the answer Salmond gave Nick Robinson to a question about how it would affect the Edinburgh financial sector. Robinson asked him if he was worried that the big financial houses in the Scots capital would move south if Scotland ever became independent. Salmond gave a full reply, stating that this would not be the case. This was edited down during the day so that first it appeared that Salmond didn’t give a proper reply, before it was finally edited out altogether. Nick Robinson then claimed in the final report about it that Salmond hadn’t answered the question.

Britain has also intervened in other countries to remove politicians that were deemed an obstacle or a threat to British interests. These were mostly interference in the elections and politics of former colonies and independent states in the Developing World, like the coup that overthrew Iran’s Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq in 1953. But the British governor of Australia was also persuaded by the Tories to remove Gough Whitlam from office in the 1970s in an overt display of British power.

Scottish independence is a threat to the continued existence of Great Britain as a state. It also has powerful implications for Britain as a global power. Mike or one of the great left-wing bloggers has stated that if Scotland did become independent, Britain would no longer be large or populous enough to hold a position on the UN security council. While a covert campaign to frame and discredit Salmond seems incredible to me, I honestly don’t think it can be fairly discounted.

Mountbatten and Mosley as Figureheads for an Anti-Wilson Coup

The other snippet that I found particularly interesting ultimately comes from Andrew Lounie’s new e-book The Mountbattens. The books follows a number of others in stating that in 1968 the former viceroy of India was approached by the chairman of the Mirror group, Cecil King, to help overthrow Harold Wilson and form a government of national unity. This is similar to the proposals for other coups against Wilson made in the middle of the next decade, the ’70s. See Francis Wheen’s book, Strange Days Indeed. What boggles my mind, however, is that before King approached Mountbatten, he’d gone to Paris to ask Oswald Mosley if he’d be interested. How anyone could ever believe that a Fascist storm trooper like Mosley could ever be an acceptable leader of any kind of British regime, or that a country that had interned him and fought against the political order he represented during the War would ever accept him, is frankly incredible. Mountbatten had met King with the government’s scientific adviser, Solly Zuckerman. When King mentioned that he’d met Mosley, Zuckerman walked out followed by Mountbatten. This is the standard version of the event. Lounie’s book differs from this by claiming that Mountbatten didn’t particularly object to becoming the head of such a junta, and was even taken with the idea.

The book also claims that Mountbatten was bisexual, and recklessly pursued younger men. He was also, it is alleged, supplied with boys from the Kincora Boys’ Home.

I hadn’t read before that King had tried to interest Oswald Mosley in leading a British government after a military coup. This is significant in that it shows that some elements of the British media establishment were more than willing to install a real Fascist as leader rather than tolerate a democratically elected socialist government under a leader they despised, like Wilson. 

See:https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster79/lob79-view-from-the-bridge.pdf

and scroll down to find the snippets ‘Craig Murray under attack’, and ‘The Mountbattens’.

 

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