Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Capitalism with a Human Face.

Creative Capitalism.

In 2008, Bill Gates came out with the phrase "creative capitalism" which is supposedly a new form of capitalism, which has aims higher than just maximising revenue and cutting or externalising costs. Though, preferably the two coincide. The higher aim is that of solving the world's problems, such as poverty, famine and disease in the Third World. Unlike the old idea of market democracy, there is a place in "creative capitalism" for the state and nonprofits. In "creative capitalism", market forces complement the actions of the state, nonprofits and philanthropists, by moving towards innovation that is "tailored" to the demands of the poorest in the world. This is definitely not another laissez-faire approach to late capitalism, which merely a shallow glorification of class war. Though, the old Randian ideas of a "creative geniuses" and deregulated "titans" are still central to "creative capitalism". The main difference, being "creative capitalism" admits that government is needed - "market democracy" is too costly - and that there may be more long-term profits made in altruism than egoism. Notice another old idea remains, that of rational egoism, private vices reap public benefits.

Bill Gates, the world's richest man, is clearly the epitome of capitalist uber-success in the 21st Century and the wonderful meritocratic social structure of the United States. The entrepreneur is quite frank and modest about how his company has achieved such success. Though, there is no mention of his anti-competitive business practices or the Nixonian "blacklists" of journalists he keeps. Gates says Microsoft achieves such enormous profits by "extending and embracing" the ideas of others. This is true. Everyone knows that Microsoft is based on computers, software and hardware etc. What many people are unaware of, is that computer technology was developed in the public sector, beginning in the 1950s and onwards for about three decades. The technology was developed in universities, at 100% public expense, before being introduced into the market in the late 70s, throughout the 80s and even into the 1990s. Microsoft was the company that benefited most from this introduction into the market, even more so when the World Wide Web was established by governments around the world.

As Bill Gates embarked upon his now illustrious career in the early 1980s, the Reagan administration was busily "rolling back" the state and enacting large tax cuts. In 1978, the rate of tax on American citizens earning $400,000 a year was 70%, as it had been since the Kennedy administration first cut it down from 91%, but during the Nixon-Ford and Carter years plenty of tax breaks and "loop holes" for such Americans were found. It wasn't until the election of Ronald Reagan, that the rate of tax began falling steeply. At the same time, wages for working people continued to stagnate or decline, as they had since the late 1970s. While most college dropouts were subjected to massive wage cuts in the 80s, Bill was earning over $500,000 a year. By 1990, the rate of tax on Americans earning over $400,000 had been chopped down to 28%. As a direct result of these cuts, breaks and various loopholes, 1% of the American population made $1 trillion dollars in around a decade. Bill was part of that 1% then and he is part of that same 1% today, which made another $1 trillion dollars under the Bush administration.

Nearly 30 years later, Bill Gates is the richest man in the world and he's preaching about "creative capitalism", the market's ability to work with the state in solving problems. His wealth, derived from monopolistic business practices, massive tax cuts and a little "leg up" from the federal government. It's funny how things turn out. Behold the split persona of Bill Gates: the cold-hearted captain of industry, who employs all kinds of dirty tricks to either destroy or buy out rival corporations, in his quest for a monopoly. But Gates is also a major philanthropist, to say the least, who gives billions to charity. To Gates, and others like him, charitable giving vindicates him of the ruthless pursuit of profit and the accumulation of wealth at the expense of society. Charity to the Third World is now what is used to mask economic exploitation. As far as I am aware, Bill has yet to complain about the fact that aid for the Third World has been cut to subsidise men like him - the bankers.

The Future?

In Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew showed us that capitalism does not require democracy and can function under an authoritarian state. He held power for over 30 years and turned Singapore into a developed country. Deng Xiaoping praised Singapore as the model of which China should base itself on. We have seen capitalist dictators in Chile, South Korea, Indonesia etc. but democracy is usually restored after a decade or two. But today, China has emulated Sinapore's success and has maintained a powerful government for 60 years. It seems that the link between capitalism and democracy, as a necessity, is in decline. Capitalism with "Asian values" has been a success, and the West knows it. The likes of Berlusconi and Putin have taught us that the authoritarian capitalism, invented in the Orient, can spread in different forms. In Russia and Italy there is a powerful state, so powerful it is actively undermining democracy and human rights, to pander to the wealthy.

Silvio Berlusconi is an interesting figure in politics, to say the least, because he has achieved the impossible - combining technocratic liberalism with populist fundamentalism. Berlusconi's reign is no joke, Italy's democracy is rotting away from the inside and is gradually being reduced to a mere shell - just like in Russia today. Berlusconi remains incredibly popular, but why? Berlusconi is the embodiment of the Italian stereotypical male: corrupt, sexually promiscuous and bombarded by legal problems. To the average voter, this says "I am one of you." But it is Berlusconi's anti-communism and ugly opposition to immigration which completes this populist device. Anyone who criticises him is either a communist or an immigrant, or part of the "elite" that favours communism and immigration. But Berlusconi is one of Italy's richest men, if anyone is least representative of the people of the Mezzogiorno it is Silvio Berlusconi of Padania. Under him, the state has exerted power to protect the economic interests of the elite that he supposedly rails against.

Berlusconi has clearly mastered the methods of reactionary populism, often utilised by the Republicans in America. Reagan was the first "Teflon President" who succeeded the previous kind of American politician, the tragic crook that was embodied by Richard Nixon. A major part of Reagan's success was that he was not expected to be devoted to his electoral programme. Because of this, the Reagan administration were immune to the attacks by his critics. The President was portrayed as a benign and somewhat forgetful old codger. But this imagery was deeply deceptive. It was in the 80s that Reaganites waged a campaign of terror against South America that spanned a decade and propped up corrupt dictatorships in Iraq, Chile, Romania and Indonesia to name a few. As Reagan played the part of the harmless old-man with the ease of any Hollywood actor, CIA sponsored death squads murdered civilians in Nicaragua and priests in El Salvador. But it wasn't just "poor foreigners" that suffered under the Reaganites. Illegal firings of workers tripled in America as his administration conveniently "failed" to enforce the law against corporations looking to cut labour costs.

In more recent times, the stupidity of politicians has become the subject of jokes. The most recent example: Sarah Palin. A conservative female politician is nothing new, Palin is part of that most ignoble tradition of reactionary iron ladies such as Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir or even Angela Merkel. These are the man-ish women who rub salt into the wounds of Feminists and the Left, who have "failed" to empower women politically. This is a reactionary trap in itself: "I'm a woman and a conservative. Therefore, if I oppose the right to choose, it must be right to do so!" This same trap is present in Palin's persona - "The Piltdown Lady of Alaska". But in stark contrast to her predecessors Palin is in part an exaggeration of stereotypical femininity, all that is lacking is the blonde hairdo. At the same time this "Piltdown Lady" is an obscene parody of small-town America, God-fearing, simple and hard-working, which hides an attack in store for anyone who dare to mock her. Bill O'Reilly recently attacked Eminem as a "sexist" for mocking Sarah Palin and he even had a right-wing feminist on the show with him, to give his "defence" of women an air of "authenticity".

The Right will launch such attacks against any leftists, liberals, secularists, feminists who fall out of the line of silence. Let us not cower in the face of such assaults. Let us not be fooled by the imagery that surrounds individuals like Silvio Berlusconi, Reagan, Sarah Palin or even Bush II. The truth about Bush is that he was probably trained to speak with a Texas accent and to mispronounce words. It seems very doubtful that he spoke like that in Yale or at Harvard Business School, where he achieved two degrees in history and economics. The accent, his mangled use of words, rolling up his sleeves, wearing a cowboy hat etc. was all part of the "Bush Imagery". As a President, Bush worked to serve his "base", with tax cuts geared to reward 1% of the American population for simply being rich, orchestrating invasions driven towards maximising the profits of energy corporations. Now we see Palin smirk at the possibility of reading a terrorist their rights. These politicians are not a benign source of comedy, on the contrary, they are the enemy and should be treated as such.

Barbarism with a Human Face.

The function of this "richness of inner life" is to "disarm" the voter, reducing him to an apathetic passivity, who should opposed to the institutional role one plays in society. Whether this be the shamelessly loutish public image of Silvio Berlusconi, or the new kind of capitalist that Bill Gates claims to be. These are ways for them to avoid the labels of just another cynical politician that stands for nothing, just another fat cat sipping the "milk" of big government. Despite the undignified aspects of Berlusconi's persona, the flaws are what make him human to voters. But it is the apathy engineered amongst the voters, they are presented with only one realistic choice, which is what keeps Berlusconi in office. For Gates, it is compassion and a desire for a sort of "liberal communism" - a classless utopia predicated upon liberal capitalism - that makes him human to consumers. But these "human qualities" are false, a facade that exaggerates what is obvious - the role they play within society - and what makes them different to the others.

In 2008, Silvio Berlusconi called a state of emergency and had 4,000 armed soldiers deployed to points in large cities which were considered vulnerable - to an influx of illegal immigrants. A year before, a group of fishermen were put on trial for saving illegal immigrants in the sea, each of the fishermen were facing 15 years for the crime of "aiding and abetting illegal immigration". This was done to set an example. Now fishermen go out of their way to avoid "aiding and abetting illegal immigration", sometimes by beating away swimming immigrants with sticks and leaving them to drown in the sea. The fishermen responsible for such a crime, do not face trial or even arrest. It seems that illegal immigrants have been excluded from the civil order, of human rights and freedoms, and can be killed with impunity in Berlusconian Italy.

In laughing at Berlusconi's obscene character, we are already engaging with his cynical game - tolerating the war he has waged on immigrants and the Italian poor. The same is true of Bush II and most politicians, but also magnates like Gates. In admiring, the philanthropy of Bill Gates, we are already buying into his false notion of "creative capitalism" - which is merely a form of "honest capitalism", in the sense that it is honest about the fact that a large state is needed for it to exist. We are overlooking what is obviously wrong about the roles played by these men. We'd all like to believe that Berlusconi's policies on illegal immigration are a reasonable necessity, a just barbarism, rather than as racist as the more "direct methods" favoured by fascists. We'd all like to believe that a world in which the market and the state work together for the good of humanity is realistic - and not based on exploitation and double-standards.

We would all like to believe such things, in order, to distance ourselves from the base of immorality underlying Berlusconian barbarism and "creative capitalism". Ignorance is bliss, in the face of such crass immorality. But we should not commit such self-deception, before falling into the modes of passive consumers and passive voters, demoralised and apathetic. We must awaken soon to acknowledge the fact that a slave-master can be a good person - to his friends, family and even to his slaves - does not change the nature of the slave-master's role in society. The slave-master's "inner life", what makes him human to us, is essentially irrelevant, because in his institutional role he is a monster. The same is true of the likes of Berlusconi and Gates. A "human face" slapped onto the packaging of the same old cheap product is not enough. It is the product that needs to be changed, not the packaging.

America Decoded by Richard von Busack

Monday, 9 November 2009

The End of History?

The Nobility of Lying.

Today is November 9th 2009, 20 years ago the Berlin Wall collapsed, heralding the beginning of the end for the Cold War. The Berlin Wall was more than just a structure which physically divided Germany, the Wall represented the division between the "Communist East" and the "Capitalist West". Thus, the collapse of such a wall would be held up as much more than just a mundane act of demolition. Instead, the collapse came to represent liberation. It was the neoconservative Francis Fukuyama who labelled the collapse as the "End of History", in reference to the Hegelian view of history. Fukuyama was implying that the struggle experienced by humanity, between two distinct political philosophies, over the course of nearly two centuries had ended. The implication being that capitalism had triumphed over communism. A fully globalised international community would soon be forged in the image of socio-economic liberalism, in other words a "new world order" was just on the horizon.
As a neoconservative thinker it seems like that, Francis Fukuyama could have been intentionally promoting an idealistic view of liberal democracy. Neoconservative thought is part of a long tradition in academia, that of defending the state and providing justification of the state's actions. Leo Strauss, one of the major philosophical precursors to neoconservatism, believed that it is necessary for the elite to propagate "noble lies" in the form of powerful myths - which Strauss deemed to be necessary illusions. The function of such powerful myths and necessary illusions was to hold society together as it endured liberalism. Strauss viewed liberalism as the road to nihilism, of which the herd would drag American society down and towards an inevitable destination in self-destruction. One such myth, or necessary illusion, being that of God, in the Judeo-Christian faith, as having a particularly "special relationship" with America. The idea of the American nation, as having a fundamentally good role to play in the world in the fight against evil. These ideas are necessary for the bewildered herd, but not for the "creative elite" disseminating these "noble lies".

But why would a card-carrying neocon promote the idea that liberalism had won? The same has been seen from neoconservatives like Michael Ledeen, who claims that he wants to see "democratic revolutions" in countries like Iraq, which will bring liberal democracy to such states. This could be viewed as contradictory of neoconservatives to "promote" the very thing they hate most. But as Michael Ledeen once said "I know the struggle against evil is going to go on forever." The point being that neoconservatives are aware that there work will never be done, because there is an endless supply of countries they can turn into enemies. In the past, Ledeen, a friend of Karl Rove, has advocated military force as the primary tool to achieve "democratic revolutions" in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Libya and North Korea. On an interesting side-note, only Syria and North Korea are lacking oil reserves, or at least vast oil reserves. Therefore, it might be naive to assume that neoconservatives have one primary goal - the "avoidance" of liberalism - since "noble lies" are to be applied in a liberal society.

Unless you've been living on the moon for the last 10 years, it's obvious that neoconservatives are not focused on spreading democracy around the world. Since neoconservatives view God and the country as necessary illusions which can be used to unite the masses - who they view as stupid when compared to the "creative elite" - surely it is more than likely that democratic ideals and liberal freedoms are just as powerful as myths in today's world. Of course, we cannot read minds and should not speculate wildly. But it seems rational, that neocons would use such rhetoric to hide their own hawkish agenda, because this is how we've seen neoconservatism affect politics. In relation to the Bush administration, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and Michael Ledeen (among lots of others) were clearly not promoting freedom and democracy in the aggressive style of foreign policy they advocated. It is common knowledge that the war in Iraq was fought for oil, 80% of Iraqi oil will be "received" by American and British energy companies.
After all, it was neoconservatives like Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz who turned the Soviet Union into an "Evil Empire" in the 70s and 80s. But this is a consistent pattern in the West. The very nature of communism has been distorted over several decades by anti-communist propaganda in the West, and the self-proclaimed communist propaganda in the East. The truth is that communism has never existed, communism is a classless society in which all private property is owned by the members of that society. Marx theorised that communism was a long-term goal. Once achieved, the state will begin to wither away as society becomes increasingly sophisticated in terms of technological organisation. Marxist-Leninist states are constructed in preparation of a real revolution, that has to take place in an advanced capitalist society for socialism to ever be achieved.
Fukuyama's thesis may well be the celebration of this supposed triumph, by good over evil. "Good" being the Capitalist West and "Evil" being the proverbial Communist East. This is what happened, although in a more amoral way. Once the dust had settled from the "democratic revolutions" (without US sponsorship) in former Marxist-Leninist dictatorships, groups of radical free-marketeers moved in to pick through the wreckage of the old regimes and initiated an experiment in free-markets. Soon these experiments became "globalised" affairs. But it was these experiments that have devastated many Eastern European countries and even turned Russia back into the Third World. Just like Michael Ledeen and other neocon hawks, Fukuyama saw the writing on the world - this is a great opportunity to build a "capitalist utopia" - but his prophecy is misleading. Capitalism is more a vague label attached to our current economic system, but it technically does not exist. Capitalism is an economic system characterised by the existence of the free-market, which has never existed in countries like America and Britain. Fukuyama's "capitalist utopia" emerged, in former "communist" states, in the form of corporatist states working in collusion with a new elite.

Afterthoughts on Ideology & History.

In declaring the end of history, Fukuyama was referring to Hegel's philosophy of history. For Hegel, history was constantly moving forward through a dialectical process - the move from a thesis to an antithesis and ending with a synthesis. Theoretically, the synthesis is at least partly a combination of elements important to the thesis and antithesis. The synthesis may be a form of conclusion to the preceding stages, but it will inevitably become another thesis and the process continues. Thus, this so-called "post-historical" and "post-ideological" era may be doomed to change, even if it is a synthesis which seems doubtful. Hegel thought that the direction of this dialectical process is geared toward the greater development of mind in relation to freedom. As a civilisation we are moving through this process towards consciousness of freedom, towards realising human freedom and understanding freedom.

However, the argument that this dialectical process is driving humanity towards a liberal democratic social order, predicated upon a capitalist economic system, seems ineffectual. Why? Because many Dialectical Materialists, better known as Marxists, claim that Hegelian thought was flawed until Marx turned it on it's head in formulating historical materialism. For Marxists, the fact that capitalism remains a dominant system would be evidence of the continuation of history. The end of history for Marxists would be the achievement of true communism, which would be a classless society which is so well organised that the state has dissolved. Marxists consistently disagree with Fukuyama, that the end of history will be capitalist in nature. But Marxists would agree with Fukuyama that the end of history will consist of the triumph of democracy - because true communism is the triumph of democracy extended to the economy.

As for this so-called "end of ideology" and the fall of communism as the beginning of a "post-ideological" era, there are monuments everywhere that contradict this view. Ideology, not in the sense of a utopian vision imposed on society, in the sense of a complex array of socio-political and ethical prejudices which have a tremendous impact on our everyday lives. Slavoj Zizek points out that ideology is still present today, even in our most private moments - even on the toilet. Zizek drew an analogy between the "European Trinity" - Germany, France and England - and the three main kinds of toilets - which are French, German or English in origin.
In a traditional German toilet, the hole into which excrement "disappears" after a flush is right at the front, so that excrement is first laid out for us to sniff and inspect for traces of worms, illness etc. Whereas, in the French system, the hole is at the back to ensure that the excrement "disappears" as soon as possible. But the English, or Anglo-Saxon, toilet is structured so that the basin is filled with water to catch "falling objects" which remain in view while not smelled as "easily" as in Germany. This is ideological because the Germans, the French and the Anglo-Saxons all assume that their system works best.

Though, each works fine and the difference is mostly an ideological perception - how the subject is "meant" to interact with excrement.
Hegel was the first to point out the quite distinct tendencies flowing through German, French and English society. In Germany, this disposition could be summarised as politically conservative, thorough reflection through poetry and metaphysics. For Germans, a sort of "reflection" takes place in inspecting one's excrement for worms. The tendency amongst the French is one of revolutionary haste and radicalism, as well as a focus on politics. To the French there is not much difference in disposing of aristocrats and visiting the lavatory, in both scenarios the "filth" must disappear as quickly as possible. Whereas, in England, there is this disposition towards pragmatic utilitarianism, liberalism and economics. The Anglo-Saxon way is to approach things pragmatically, water used to reduce smell while the hole remains at the back of the structure to ensure an easy "disappearance". As Slavoj Zizek emphasises the point: "
It is easy for an academic at a round table to claim that we live in a post-ideological universe, but the moment he visits the lavatory after the heated discussion, he is again knee-deep in ideology."

The Reactions to the Reaction.

In the years since the "death of communism" through the actual democratic revolutions sweeping across Europe in the late 1980s and early 90s, a liberal democratic "new world order" has failed to emerge. Instead, the post-communist Eastern Bloc states, Russia and others became the unfortunate subject of free-market experiments in the 1990s. The people of such countries did not ask for such experiments, they were asking for liberty.
But not just negative liberty, a lack of restraints, but also positive liberty, the capacity to fulfill one's self without such restraints, which Western civilisation lacks so severely. It was Westerners like Jeffrey Sachs, not to mention Fukuyama, who "reacted" to immediately foster capitalism in these countries. But the people of the former socialist states had a reaction for this Western reaction. It was not a reaction favourable to the utopian capitalist vision - a new kind of democracy, in which the free-market gave the masses what they wanted. The reaction came in three common forms: nationalist populism, anti-communist paranoia or a bizarre nostalgia for socialism.
After the fall of the "Evil Empire", post-Soviet Russian society underwent a radical program of "shock therapy" initiated by a group of free-marketeers working under Boris Yeltsin. This "shock therapy" was characterised by massive cuts in state subsidies, privatisation and deregulation of the market over a short amount of time and at a fast pace. This process drove the Russian economy into the ground, turning a Second World country into a Third World country. All that emerged from this was an array of powerful oligarchs and an even stronger current of populist nationalism, which empowered Vladimir Putin. At the expense of freedom and democracy, Putin restored not just political and economic stability to the Russian Federation, but also the dignity that had disappeared like so much vodka during the Yeltsin years. The "order" and dignity that Putin brought to Russian political world was welcomed by the Russian people.

In the Republic of Poland, the optimistic masses that rushed Lech Walesa into office, which was viewed with an almost masturbatory tone of glee in the Western media, were the first people to replace Walesa - who had become even less popular than Jaruzelski - with Aleksander Kwasniewski, a "post-communist" socialist. Though, once in power the Polish socialists did not turn their back on capitalism. Instead, once in power, the socialists served to slow down the process of privatisation and deregulation that had begun in the early 1990s. But once the socialists left office in 2005, having not returned Poland to socialism, and succeeded by conservatives, anti-communist paranoia led to the strengthening of the "lustration law" - which made it illegal for individuals previously involved in the past communist regime or the secret police to hold office. This excludes most of the "post-communist" types like Kwasniewski, possibly a punishment for the failure of socialists to bring about a "utopian vision" in Poland democratically. But it is more likely to be a typical reaction from the Right, opportunistically hitting the Left as hard as possible.
Similarly, during the economic crisis of 2006 in Hungary, there were mass demonstrations against the ruling Socialist Party. The protestors believed that the "Velvet Revolution" of 1989 had to be repeated. The reason? Hungarian society had yet to experience "true capitalism" or "true democracy" and was still under a covert version of the past communist regime. For the protestors, the only way to a democratic and capitalist existence is to "purge" Hungarian society of all ex-communists who were posing as managers and owners. Ironically, this paranoid anti-communism is strikingly similar to how the communist regimes used to explain away their own failures, as a sign of the lingering influence of the capitalist past. The method of choice, in dealing with the ex-communists holding back Hungary, a "purge" is also particularly ironic in the context of bringing about a "democratic capitalist utopia". In the quest for a utopia, the Hungarians have reverted back to the ideology of which they fled 20 years ago.

It is now 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the advent of the "end of history", and it looks like 9/11 and the financial crisis of 2008 have effectively signaled the end of Fukuyama's utopia. Just as 9/11 delivered the "shock" necessary for governments around the world to pursue an increasingly authoritarian agenda. The Bush administration practically flushed Magna Carta down the toilet during their years in office. The National Security Agency is now constructing a mammoth building in Utah, where information gathered on American civilians - phone calls, emails and data trails - can be stored. From this information the NSA hopes to determine who is and who may become a "terrorist". In the UK we've seem a similar attempt to establish a National Database, the government is still pushing for ID cards - but at least they've given up on installing recording devices in lampposts to deter "terrorism". The financial crisis of 2008, appears to have resulted in a rise of right-wing populism. It's too early to say where this could lead, some have claimed it may lead us into further wars, inequality and racism. What is clear is that Fukuyama's dream never materialised and new walls are now emerging all over the world, along the American-Mexican border, around the European Union, between Israel and the West Bank.

Panorama - The War Party
Peter Singer on Hegel and Marx (Part 1)
First as Tragedy, Then as Farce by Slavoj Zizek
George Bush's Philosophers by Benjamin Ross
Post-Wall by Slavoj Zizek
Knee-Deep by Slavoj Zizek

Saturday, 7 November 2009

The Truth about Free-Market Fundamentalism.

Ride the Wave.

The reaction to the financial crisis of 2008, and the controversial bail-outs, have consisted mostly of populist arguments against government intervention in the market. We have seen this on both sides of the Atlantic. In America, the nationalist Michael Savage accused George W Bush of being a "fiscal socialist" for pouring $700 billion into Wall Street. The pundits of Fox News, and by extension Rupert Murdoch, have continued to accuse Barack Obama of being a "socialist" for bailing out yet more needy corporations. In Britain we have seen similar tactics, although far less overt forms of populism, from the media. In a nutshell The Sun has stabbed New Labour in the back. It appears that the Conservatives and the Republicans are attempting to surf their way to power on a wave of right-wing populism. Apparently, these free-marketeers are here to save us from the horrors of the free-market. But it seems doubtful that working-class British and American people truly feel that the Right represents them. A lot of Americans and Brits are simply angry, disillusioned and apathetic with the Establishment and the parties that be.

On both sides of the Atlantic, we have seen one rhetorical question posed endlessly by the media: "Why should tax-payers flip the bill?" The obvious answer they hint at is: "There is no reason we should reward failure!" But as most things, this is not a simple and necessarily correct answer. This answer has been given by the same breed of free-market fundamentalists responsible for the financial crisis in the first place. These are the same individuals who want the separation of market and state. Remember, the Conservatives were the politicians who have been demanding greater deregulation and tax cuts under New Labour. Which is something often neglected deliberately by the media, who have instead resorted to condemning Labour's rampant spending. It is almost as if they believe the government should be focused with having something left over. It is as if they think governments should be run like businesses, aiming to have something left over at the end of the day - namely, profits.

The fact is that this financial crisis was caused by a flawed system, a banking structure that had been deregulated, that had benefited greatly from massive tax cuts which simply rewarded bankers who were running amok. But naturally, the flawed system will not be changed. Instead, the media will chew up the current incumbents like dog meat. Offering the rabble what they might consider a brief but stimulating catharsis. Instead of satisfying real demands for substantive change. Of course, the Randian dinosaur that is Alan Greenspan is partly to blame for the current debacle. It was "Saint Alan" who made the mistake of trusting bankers to have a rationally self-interested approach to lending. A rational egoist would not be looking for the kind of wild speculation -
the short-term propellant that is doomed to end in a crash - that the bankers looked for. What "Saint Alan" failed to take into account was the fact that the bankers can afford to take stupid risks, because they can always count on the state to bail them out. But if Greenspan hadn't made this mistake, someone else would have. No one will seek to restructure this fundamentally flawed system and on it shall go without the dinosaurs.

Greed is Good.

The laissez-faire crowd of libertarians and fiscal conservatives in American politics are mostly all talk when it comes to the free-market. Take William Weld as an example. In 1991 Weld became the first Republican Governor of Massachusetts, since 1975. Weld has been referred to, in the past by the Boston Globe, as a "libertarian with a religious belief in free-markets." Though, the description had clearly been made in ignorance of Weld's true policies. It is true that Weld decreased the size of government in Massachusetts, but for the poor - specifically cutting Medicaid by 15% and decimating worker's compensation, thus doing considerable harm to the people in need of health treatment. As he was "rolling back" the state, for the poor, Weld deliberately increased subsidies to corporations and businesses active in Massachusetts before slashing taxes and regulation in their favour. As an "odd side-effect" of Weld's policies Georges Bank was closed off because a large amount of fish had been wiped out. Which is an "odd side-effect" of subsidising and deregulating prosperous fishing companies. Weld was soon in Washington, looking to his fellow politicians for a federal bail-out and a stamp of "natural disaster" onto a mess that he was responsible for.

The kind of "free-marketeering" perpetrated by the likes of William Weld is not unusual. We can see the big difference between reality and rhetoric under the likes of Blair and Bush, Major and Clinton, Thatcher and Reagan. There is a tendency in the media to ignore the subsidies, massive tax cuts, deregulation and protectionist policies promoted by many of these politicians. This is particularly true of the Thatcherites and the Reaganites in the 1980s, who are often described as being heavily influenced by the work of Adam Smith, but they were more influenced by Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman and Ludwig von Mises. We're not told of the fact that both Thatcher and Reagan favoured devolution to the extent that was beneficial to "Big Business". It is easier for businesses to intimidate states with threats of leaving for another state, in order to get what they want, when there is little interference from centralised government. Which is probably why Thatcher favoured devolving power to local government and stood in opposition to the European Union. For corporations, doing business in Europe is worth billions in revenue, but if power was centralised in Brussels it would be harder for corporations to say "We're going unless you'll give us a tax cut." Everything about Thatcherism and Reagonomics is geared to benefit private enterprise.

The supply-side policies pursued by Thatcher and Reagan essentially led to high unemployment and social deprivation, for the poor. For example, privatisation is the process by which Thatcher removed numerous aspects of British industry, from the public sector, and handed them over to the private sector. The most well known example being the mines, most of which have been closed since because they were not profitable. An institution of the public sector can hire more workers, since they aren't focused on profit.
But a company in the private sector cannot function without making a profit, at least not for too long. For these companies to make a profit they will pursue low wages and high work hours, for the workers that they can't afford to make redundant. But for businesses to possess the power to do such things, unions must be weak and workers must be desperate. This is the reason behind the war waged against unions and welfare by the Thatcherites and Reaganites a like - to ensure profitability for private power. By 1990 British workers had been subjected to some of the biggest wage cuts in the Western world. Though, American businesses had succeeded in accomplishing the same goal about 5 years earlier thanks to the Reaganite Revolution, as illegal firings increased by a third as the state "failed" to enforce the law.

Country First.

We all know how patriotic our politicians can be, in times of war and remembrance for those who fought for the freedom we enjoy today. "Country First" was one of many slogans used by the McCain-Palin campaign team in 2008. Millions of dollars, that should have gone to the Third World in the form of food aid, were cut so that the bail-outs could be pursued in Western states. In Britain, we've seen striking workers demanding "British jobs for British workers". In Greece, police resorted to firing tear gas at farmers who were determined to receive even more subsidies. Even though typically governments do utilise policies which protect goods and capital that is in their country's economy. However, this is not necessarily the kind of activity which protects the jobs of working people and as previously stated the government is usually not on the side of the working women and men. Which is why 1% of the American population gained $1 trillion dollars between 1978 and 1990, thanks to Reagan and Bush who chiselled down taxes on rich from 70% down to nearly 25%.

The Republic of Mali has been described as a landlocked West African nation, it is the seventh largest country in the African continent and has a population of around 13 million. Around half of the population live on less than $1.25 a day. The life expectancy in Mali is at 48 years for Men and 52 years for women. 90% of the population are Muslim, 1% are Christian and 9% adhere to an "indigenous religion". Like most African nations it has been the subject of political instability, coups and anti-communist dictatorship. And yet it would appear that there are Malian Politicians who actually believe in the free-market. The Malian economy is "built" on agriculture, specifically cotton in the South and cattle in the North of Mali. Unfortunately, the politicians of the United States and the European Union are far less faithful to the free-market ideal, despite all their rhetoric. As a result, Malian beef and cotton producers cannot compete on a level playing field with their European and American counterparts.

Why would such a thing happen? Because the US government subsidises American cotton farmers with more money than the Malian government spends in it's entire budget. Nor can the Malians compete with the Europeans, since the EU subsidises each farmer with 500 euros per each cow and that is even more than the per capita GDP in Mali. The Minister for the Malian economy once said: "We don't need your help or advice or lectures on the beneficial effects of abolishing excessive state regulation; please, just stick to your own rules about the free-market and our troubles will basically be over." His words fell on deaf ears in America and Europe. Thus, Mali's economic woes are far from over. But Mali is merely one example of the devastation reaped by American and European protectionism. The politicians placing tarrifs on imported goods and restrict imports by establishing administrative barriers often claim to be "putting country first". But "putting country first" has a price - which will be paid exclusively by the Third World.

First as Tragedy, Then as Farce - by Slavoj Zizek (2009)
Free-Market Fantasies: Capitalism in the Real World - by Noam Chomsky (1996)

Thursday, 22 October 2009

The Fascist Question.

The Fascist Problem

In June of 2009, the British National Party won 2 seats in the European Parliament and the UK Independence Party won 13 seats. The former being widely regarded as a party of skinheads, football hooligans and anyone else angry enough to read and believe far-Right newspapers like The Sun and The Daily Mail. The latter largely serving as an extension of the Eurosceptic wing of the Conservative Party and a glossier option for Daily Mail readers everywhere. The recent success of the far-Right in Europe is mostly down to the financial crisis and the controversial bailouts. In Britain, we have also been witness to scandals surrounding banker bonuses and MP expenses. It is a wave of populism that rushed Nick Griffin and Nigel Farage into the European Parliament.
Though, it has been pointed out that Hitler came to power during the Great Depression, it seems doubtful that voters haven't learned anything from the German flirtation with fascism. But the bailouts and MPs expenses, are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the reasons that some working-class people vote for the extreme right.

The facts are that the last 30 years have been pretty tough for the working-class and the under-class in Britain. Since the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979, the gap between the rich and the poor has increased rapidly. The nationalised industries that were once the centre of the economy have mostly been privatised. This led to mass closures of factories and mines that had provided work for generations, but failed to generate profits. Which left many people out of work, because the skills they possessed were no longer necessary. The Thatcherites also succeeded in "smashing" Britain's trade unions, which led to massive wage cuts in the early 1990s which even topped the wage cuts that had been devised by the Reaganites in America. It wasn't until 1997 that a Labour government was triumphantly elected again, but by then the damage had been done and Thatcherism had become an orthodoxy in British politics. The white working-class was left in tatters, desperate for answers, but the media only has praise for the Thatcherite orthodoxy and the only answer given came from papers like The Sun and The Daily Mail. Such media outlets had an answer, the wrong answer, it's the fault of immigrants, single mums, yobs and the welfare state.

Nick Griffin was clearly elated by his victory and posed for pictures giving the peace sign with both of his hands, as the other political parties refused to stand with him, as he delivered his victory speech. He opened by claiming that the other candidates, who left the room as he began his speech, were turning their backs on democracy. The rhetoric he spewed over the audience included references to a "liberal elite", "unelected bureaucrats in Brussels" and "private profit centres for giant corporations". The kind of anti-liberal and anti-capitalist rhetoric he espoused may sound to some like a breathe of fresh air. But his rhetoric is not original, and it is indicative of the ideological tradition Nick Griffin represents in modern Britain. The tradition I am referring to is, of course, fascism - as characterised by centralised control of private enterprise, extreme nationalism and repression of all opposition. The fascists of the 1920s and 30s also claimed to oppose liberalism and free-market capitalism. But the anti-democratic and anti-socialist rhetoric used by those fascists, that is neglected by the fascists of today.

As previously stated it is a wave of populism that the far-Right, and the Right a like, have ridden into office. But what is it that has attracted voters specifically to the British National Party since Nick Griffin came to power? It is doubtful that Griffin's "solutions" to immigration, sinking boat loads of illegals and repatriating the rest, are what has attracted over 1 million voters. The same tune is sung by all far-Right political parties. Perhaps, there is a tendency in British society of course Griffin's rhetoric addresses. His attacks on the political class and the economic system sustaining it, single him out from most politicians. He proposes an oddly isolationist foreign policy, which again marks him out from other politicians. This rhetoric is no doubt mere imagery which Griffin is using to mask his true intentions and exploit to gain a greater mandate. Nevertheless, it has clearly spoken to a tendency in British society. It is clear from the anti-demonstrations throughout this decade,
that there is a large proportion of people who are opposed to the "interventionist" approach to the world taken by Blair and Brown. It is clear from the level of outrage over the recession and the subsequent bailouts, that there is a large proportion of people who oppose "welfare" for the rich.

The Final Solution

Despite public protests organised by the Socialist Workers Party and Unite Against Fascism, Nick Griffin has appeared on Question Time. He accused the anti-fascist demonstration of consisting of "yobs" and of "attacking" his right to freedom of speech - as he snook into the BBC via a side entrance. Depending on who you believe, the demonstration varies in size from around 500 people to over 1,000. What is agreed upon, is that the majority of people present were locals from Sheppard's Bush and White City. During the demonstration there were few arrests, though around 3 police officers were injured. His fellow panelists included Jack Straw, Bonnie Greer, Chris Huhne and Baroness Warsi.
Prior to his public appearance, the British National Party attacked Bonnie Greer and Baroness Warsi on the Party website. They described Warsi as a "product of Tory affirmative action" and Greer as a "black history fabricator", both descriptions appear to be references to political correctness and positive discrimination - favourite targets of slander on the Right.

On Question Time, Nick Griffin was grilled on his use of Winston Churchill in his political campaigns, his denial of the Holocaust and his links to violent groups among lots of other things. Griffin provided no adequate defence of his previous statements, all he could was smile nervously and claim that he had been "misquoted" or he would label the quote an "outrageous lie". Griffin claimed that David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, was the leader of a strictly "non-violent" KKK cell. And yet pictures of Duke can be found on the internet, sporting swastikas and promoting violence against the Chicago Seven. There is an interesting video of Nick Griffin, on the internet, in which he tells a crowd of white supremacists and separatists "British National Party isn't about selling out it's ideas, which are your ideas to." He said this before listing a few terms which are "saleable", terms like identity, democracy, freedom and security. On Question Time, Griffin also claimed that he travelled to Libya in the 1980s and spoke with government officials about cutting the flow of money and arms to the IRA. It is true that Nick Griffin was in Libya in the 80s, but he was actually there to try and persuade Gaddafi's government to fund the National Front. The Libyan government refused to fund Griffin, but he did not return empty-handed, instead Griffin returned with 5,000 books to distribute.

Jack Straw took the moral high ground, drawing comparisons between Griffin and Hitler, while ignoring the Labour Party's failures, such as the fact that over the last 5 years only 2% of houses have gone to immigrants. Not to mention the stance Straw has taken in the past on Burkas, which stirred up a furore in 2006. As well as the opposition of most politicians to Ghurkas becoming British citizens. Leaflets distributed by Baroness Warsi in 2005, that contained homophobic material, failed to come up. Although, when the homophobic article, about the death of Stephen Gately, in The Daily Mail came up and at that point Warsi expressed her view that civil partnerships should be allowed. Though, that should not be mistaken as an embrace of Gay Rights on the part of the Conservative Party. In fact, this episode of Question Time was a white wash, no pun intended, of the racist history of the Conservative Party. People often think of Enoch Powell as the quintessential racist Tory. But it was only in 2001 when then Conservative Deputy Leader Michael Acram sent out a memo to Conservative Party members, warning them not to "use language that is likely to generate racial or religious hatred."

The BBC also avoided criticism, which wasn't surprising, even though it well known that the institution is essentially representative of the white middle-class and that the presence of anyone "differing" from that criteria is a scarcity to say the least. It was good that Nick Griffin was not pandered to or given an easy ride by the BBC, though they may have been so hard on him that he'll look like a martyr to his supporters. However, the British National Party, a fascist political party, should not be the one focus of those of us who are opposed to bigotry and violence. We should not ignore the many prejudices and discriminatory beliefs embedded in public institutions. There are also plenty of bigots in the political class left for us to stamp out. We should not pretend otherwise. It is true that the British National Party are a fascist party that is exploiting the anger of many white working-class people. But people should be more preoccupied with settling the grievances of protest-voters and solving the problems of racism internal to public institution, than simply keeping the fascists quite and invisible.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Election Nausea in Britain.

The Brown Stuff.

Believe it or not, we are currently in the run up to the General Election of 2010, which should be held in May. Though, many have wanted an election since 2007 when Brown succeeded Blair, much in the way that Popes succeed Popes. No change of substance, but a change of shadow. We traded in the Presidential Blair, along with all the blood under his fingernails, for a one-eyed dour Scot, devoid of emotion and charisma. But essentially government remained the same. It may be true that a week is a long time in politics, but it seems doubtful that much will have changed in the many months between now and the General Election. As Prime Minister, Brown enjoyed a short "honeymoon" bouncing triumphantly from the "attack" on Glasgow Airport to the foot-and-mouth "outbreak", before dropping six points behind the Conservatives. The reason for the sudden drop was the dithering around a possible early election, and it was down hill from there.

By the Labour Party Conference of September 2009, Gordon Brown appeared to be flailing for appealing policies, clutching at cheap rhetoric and desperately trying to squeeze into his old socialist trousers. This was definitely a last ditch attempt at survival after a devastating year of bank bailouts and expenses scandals. He attempted to evoke Middle England with talk of a "hard-working majority", which was reminiscent of the "silent majority" phrase often used by Nixon - that he had "borrowed" from Homer who used it to refer to the dead. Brown dismissed the "right-wing fundamentalism" as a "failed ideology", ignoring the obvious fact that he had embraced such ideology for a decade. But ultimately Brown's attempt at "bouncing back" was quickly quashed by The Sun, or more accurately by Rupert Murdoch, who claimed that "Labour's Lost It." It is clear whom Murdoch has sided with, David Cameron, the man who promised to remove the regulatory system that restrains Murdoch from "competing" with the BBC.

Giving Labour a bad image in the press at this point is a somewhat pointless gesture. After all it was Murdoch who backed, what he called, "the Bush policy" in regards to the Middle East. We all know what this government has done wrong, the biggest financial meltdown in 80 years would have been enough on it's own to damn the Labour Party for the next decade or two. But Labour hasn't just driven our economy into the ground and then rewarded those responsible. Many cannot forgive the lying that was used to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003, a conflict which has left around 1 million Iraqis dead and millions of others displaced. The war in Afghanistan is no more noble, that conflict is being fought to establish a gas pipeline for Halliburton. Unconvincingly, politicians are sticking to same old story "We need to fight them over there, or we'll be fighting them over here." It's an old argument, Lyndon B Johnson once said "We have to stop the communists over there [Vietnam] or we'll soon be fighting them in California." Apparently, this age-old argument justifies blowing 90 children to bits, as NATO fighter planes did last month. A "bad image" should be the least of the Blairites' worries, some would like to see many of them on trial with the Bush Administration.

The Alternative.

The only alternative being the Conservative Party as led by David Cameron, an Etonian Tory who dreams of walking in the footsteps of Thatcher. Though, it isn't clear how Cameron intends to "roll back" the state even further than Thatcher did. Many in Britain believe that the choice is between two parties - and that if you don't want Labour you must vote Conservative - and voting for anyone else is a waste of a vote. Essentially, Cameron's success is derived from the apathetic reaction to the banking bailouts and the expenses row - that typified the failures of New Labour. But it is easy to ride the wave of right-wing populism hindering New Labour. This sort of populism is what made Boris Johnson the Mayor of London and launched the fascist Nick Griffin to a seat in the European Parliament.

People voted for Boris either because they found him funny or because they were outraged by Mayor Livingstone's spending on his private life. But now we're stuck with a Mayor who is currently yearning to demolish estates in White City and Acton, so he can build affordable homes for the needy - people who earn £72,000 and over. The Conservatives are calling it giving common people the "right to move" and there are rumours they may be looking to dismantle council housing completely. But ultimately, even the Conservative Party Conference failed to greatly "invigorate" or "fire up" British voters. Why? Perhaps, it is the fact that everyone knows this is a choice between two evils and there is no lesser evil. By the end of the Conference they had increased in popularity by 4%, which apparently constitutes a "surge" in support for their policies, according to Murdoch's Sky News. This surge was mostly down to the populist critique of Labour utilised by David Cameron in his final speech. Though, his speech clearly lacked any solutions to the failures of the Labour Party.

During recessions it is common for people to "flock" to the Right for answers, because the Right always have a scapegoat in mind at the best of times. But let's not forget that New Labour are on the Right too, but they lack a credible scapegoat. It is clear after the last 12 years that Labour, the People's Party, has failed the people. But we all know that it is the Conservative Party policy to fail the people.
In Brown's speech at the Labour Party Conference the Prime Minister acknowledged that the upcoming general election will be a choice between "two parties". In effect he acknowledged what many have known for years, that our political system is in no way democratic. The choice we face is between the people who failed us and the people who failed us. We actively acknowledge this fact whenever we say something along the lines of "A vote for the Lib Dems is a wasted vote." The truth is we don't need a fourth party, or even a third, we need a first party that represents us. Unfortunately, it looks like we are in for a decade of Conservative governance.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Voodoo History: 9/11.

"The Towers are gone now, reduced to bloody rubble, along with all hopes for peace in our time, in the United States or any other country." - Hunter S Thompson

Today is Friday, it is also September 11th 2009, 8 years since the attacks on the World Trade Centre shocked the world and changed America forever. It was one of those moments in history, like the assassination of John F Kennedy on November 22nd 1963, many of those alive to have witnessed it will never forget where they were on that day. Much like the assassination of JFK, the attacks on the Twin Towers have become the subject of conspiracy theorists. Though, it should be noted that the main reason we fixate on atrocities like the attacks that brought down the Twin Towers is mostly down to the fact that Westerners were the victims. No public official dedicates a moment of silence to those who died in Chile on September 11th 1973, or during the following 17 years in Chile. That's why I'd like to dedicate this article to not only the hundreds of people who were murdered on September 11th 2001, but also to the thousands of people who were tortured and murdered on September 11th 1973 and in the months following. Though, it is not the latter I am focusing on in this article.

On the way to the London-based Westfield Centre today, I passed a crowd of men and women, mostly young, some sported dreadlocks and some wore headscarves. They were waving around placards that carried slogans like "Investigate 9/11" and "Obama is a puppet for the New World Order." One of the protesters had a megaphone and was shouting out slogans like "Investigate the criminal activities of the New World Order!"
The protesters were handing out various DVDs that supported their cause or provided some greater insight into their theory. The demonstration was small. Though, it was certainly "lively" it was not the subject of intense policing - unlike the protests in Harrow on the same day. One of the documentaries was Endgame: Blue Print for Global Enslavement, which concludes that the Bilderberg group is attempting to establish a world government by exploiting fear of terrorism and climate change.

The attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon on September 11th 2001, was an event of shocking and bizarre magnitude. As the planes struck, President Bush was in an elementary school, reading My Pet Goat with the full knowledge that his country was under attack. A conspiracy theory was sort of inevitable, particularly with the events that followed 9/11 such as the invasion of Iraq. However, there is a deeply flawed and immoral logic at the heart of most of these theories. The theory that the Bush administration were in some way involved in the 9/11 attacks, as part of an overall plot to invade Iraq of which 9/11 provided justification. A common accusation of the Bush administration, in relation to this theory, is that 9/11 was actually a controlled demolition - assuming that such destruction would legitimise the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan.

What's wrong with this theory? A lot, actually. The facts are that the men involved in the plot were not Iraqi Arabs, most of them were from Egypt and Saudi Arabia. If the Bush administration is capable of orchestrating such a horrific act of state-sponsored terrorism against US citizens, it doesn't make sense that they would implicate Saudis and Egyptians. Saudi Arabia is the oldest ally of the US government in the Middle East, the US government effectively helps keep the dictatorial Saudi Royals in power, sitting on the "Black Gold" and heavily armed. Egypt is another close ally of the Americans, since it is almost totally dependent on the US for weaponry and support in the oppression of the Egyptian people. It would more sense to implicate Afghans or Iraqis in the attacks. But they weren't implicated in the attacks, Afghanistan and Iraq were targeted for supposedly harbouring terrorists. Though, we now know that those two states were most likely invaded to achieve strategic goals: gaining control of large oil and gas reserves in the Middle East being the most obvious.

It is true that the Bush administration knew that Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri were planning a terrorist attack in the United States in the months prior to 9/11. They had been informed by numerous intelligence agencies and political leaders such as Vladimir Putin. It is true that the Bush administration benefited from the attacks, in terms of power, but so did all governments around the world. It is true that the Bush administration used 9/11 to gather jingoistic support for the invasion of Iraq. It is also true, and a matter of public knowledge, that the US government has a history of invading countries with the intention of seizing their resources and exploiting the natives. But an attack on the World Trade Centre by a group of Arabs does not justify an invasion of any Arab country. The assumption that 9/11 would provide some kind of justification for invadiing Iraq is fundamentally racist. The implication of the assumption is that the deaths of 3,000 Americans, at the hands of any Arabs, justifies killing nearly 2 million Arabs, that is nearly 700 Arab deaths for every 1 American death.

The way in which the Twin Towers fell was unusual and did resembled a demolition, to a layman. But that is irrelevant really, since there has never been a controlled experiment in which two of the world's tallest sky-scrapers are attacked to see what happens. Therefore, we do not know what "normally" happens when a plane collides with a tall building. There hasn't been a single scientific article submitted in favour of the theory that the World Trade Centre was demolished. But if we assume that an Arab life is worth a lot less than an American life, even then it was not in the interest of the Bush administration to demolish the Towers. The way in which the Twin Towers collapse ensured a lower body count, than if the towers had toppled over which may have killed tens or even hundreds of thousands. The Bush administration was probably the most extreme administration seen in decades, not even in terms of what they did but in how they did it. Despite that, it seems unlikely that the Bushites would have been crazy enough to orchestrate such attacks. If they had been exposed, which would have been quite likely due to the amount of people involved, that would have meant the end of the Republican Party.

But there remains the shadow of a looming question: What purpose do conspiracy theories serve in society? The truth is that people are disillusioned and cynical, nothing ever changes no matter who we elect and seemingly unexplained atrocities continue to occur. Human beings are pattern seekers, we yearn to understand our reality and we strive towards knowledge. This is the reason for philosophy, science and religion. But this tendency, which has arguably enriched our lives, makes us vulnerable to easy answers and junk theories. Conspiracy theories about Freemasons, Jews or even shapeshifting aliens are easy answers. People are not taught about the real causes of terrorism and assassinations, let alone the details of the democratic deficit and economic exploitation that is innate to the structure of our societies.

"Government is not the solution. Government is the problem." - Ronald Reagan

I later found out Endgame was produced by Alex Jones, among many other documentaries. His political views have been described in the past as libertarian. The brand of libertarianism Jones subscribes to is the same kind as Ron Paul or Milton Friedman, which emphasises the importance of individual freedom and laissez-faire capitalism. Conservatism, and most right-wing political philosophies, can be characterised by a distrust of human nature, and government intervention in the market, combined with a paradoxical trust of corporations. Many right-wing libertarians like Ron Paul, Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman etc. would like to see a separation between the state and the market. Although, libertarians tend to have a more positive view of human nature and a much more negative view of the government than conservatives. To some, Jones provides answers to serious questions.

Many of the survivalist private armies in America have declared themselves "constitutional militias" and are dedicated to the defence of individual liberty and the Constitution. These militias are heavily trained, well equipped with weaponry and have a large quantity of stockpiled food. They reject the legitimacy of the Federal Reserve and the IRS, as violators of the Constitution. Timothy McVeigh had links to such groups. These private armies are suspicious of the North American Union, as they believe it may be part of an attempt to establish a "world government". Alex Jones is a big supporter of militias, as part of American culture and as in accordance with his interpretation of the Constitution. The common tendency to view the government as the enemy is perfectly natural, after decades of switching between a small selection of parties who always fail to live up to their promises. This tendency is as natural as it is to view taxation as theft in our society, since we have no real democratic control over what our money ends up funding. Otherwise, we would look upon tax as a way of donating our hard-earned cash to the various programs and services we had agreed would receive funding.

Generally, there is a lot to be angry about today. But clearly people don't know what, or who, they're angry at. The anger is directed at the government and not at "Big Business". The anger is always focused away from corporations and towards the government. You have only to look at the recent controversy over MPs expenses to see this demonstrated clearly. As the scandals related to the bonuses bankers were receiving, despite their incompetence and recklessness, heated up the media began paying more attention to the expenses of politicians. The anger is directed at the government, because the state is a potentially democratic institution, corporations and businesses are not potentially democratic. Therefore, it's necessary to keep "Big Business" invisible and this is done so by guiding all hatred against the government. Most of the hatred and suspicion against the European Union derives from fears that immigration will spiral out of control and we will be governed by a distant clique in Brussels. Interestingly, the documentaries produced by Alex Jones portray unions, like the EU, as part of the move towards establishing a "world government" by elite groups.

In the words of John Dewey "Government is the shadow cast by business over society." The anger aimed at the government - the shadow and not the substance. Significant political change will still fail if the substance remains the same. Conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones are ignorant to this fact and continue to guide the anger at the government, in order to disseminate his own libertarian ideas. In theory, further integration into unions like the EU could be used to "change" the substance behind the shadow. Through such unions, the possibilities of strict regulation and increased taxation of corporations become a real possibility. Ordinarily, a multinational corporation could easily leave a country that imposes strict regulation and increased taxes, which is why politicians fear enforcing such policies. But with a union such as the EU politicians could easily enforce such policies across the whole of Europe, without fear of corporations leaving the country. The entire region of Europe is worth trillions, to corporations, it wouldn't be in their favour to ostracise an entire region.

It looks as though conspiracy theories are being used to disseminate certain ideas and views of the world. Not only are these views of a laissez-faire capitalist point of view. These views have a racist logic built into them. A theory which merely shifts the "blame" from one individual to some abstract group, like the Freemasons, is not the friend of the victims of exploitation and violence world wide. These theories do not even refute the assumptions they rely, assumptions that are widely accepted by politicians and energy corporations alike. It is not Freemasonry, Judaism, Scientology or the Government which needs to be eliminated to prevent these kinds of atrocities. It is exploitation and racist violence which is the cause of these atrocities. It is true that no one should accept the right of an oppressed people to retaliate with mass-murder. But it is also true that no one should accept the oppression of such people in the first place, let alone the aggressive reaction launched against such people by their oppressors.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

The New Rogue State?

The Lockerbie Furore

On August 20th 2009, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, better known as the "Lockerbie Bomber", was released from a Scottish prison and returned to Libya on compassionate grounds. The controversial release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was only matched by the "Welcome Home" party he seemed to receive upon returning to his homeland. In Libya he received, what was perceived as, a hero's welcome from a crowd of Libyans, some waving the Scottish flag, and government officials, most notably Gaddafi's son. In the week after al-Megrahi's release, there was widespread speculation that would be a "guest of honour" at the celebrations of Gaddafi's 40th year in power. The release of such a man convicted of killing 270 people, 189 of them were American, was greeted with outrage and disgust, particularly from the American government.

The British government, specifically Gordon Brown, was criticised for not speaking out against the decision of the devolved Scottish Parliament. In the days since the release of al-Megrahi, rumours surfaced of convenient lucrative deals, involving oil and arms, with the Libyan government. There has been talk of a boycott of Scotland by the Americans. Politicians were soon squirming as the attention turned to them and what role they might have played in al-Megrahi's release. Speculation swirled inevitably, when word of Peter Mandelson's meetings with Saif Gaddafi, "got out". Prime Minister Brown eventually commented that he found the release of al-Megrahi "repulsive" and later denied rumours of doubledealing. But it was later confirmed that an oil deal was signed, at the same time that the decision to release al-Megrahi on "compassionate grounds" was made.

Innocence and Guilt

The obvious question that no one is asking and everyone should be, remains largely in the background of the outrage surrounding his return to Libya. The question: is Abdelbaset al-Megrahi innocent or guilty? The questions asked by British journalists didn't stray far from "What if Megrahi lives longer than three months? What will you say to your constituents, then?" The facts remain that al-Megrahi was convicted because of the testimony of Tony Gauci who claimed that al-Megrahi bought clothing from him, the same clothes that were later discovered in the wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103. Gauci's testimony is questionable on the grounds that he gave a false description of him in nearly 20 separate statements and didn't even recognise al-Megrahi in the courtroom. And then there was the key witness, who remains annonymous even to this day, who testified that he saw Khalifa Fahimah, al-Megrahi's acquitted co-accused, loading the bomb onto the plane in Frankfurt. This secret witness was exposed by the defence as an informer for the CIA, who would receive $4 million upon the conviction of the accused. It later became apparent in 2007, that Gauci had received $2 million for his "damning" testimony.

At the time of the bombing, December 21st of 1988, Reagan was in the White House and had been for nearly two full terms with George HW Bush as Vice President
. In August of that same year the USS Vincennes shot down an Iran Air Flight 665 over the Persian Gulf. This act killed 290 civilians including 66 children. It was deemed an accident by the American government and Bush Snr later rewarded the ship's captain with the Legion of Merit in 1990. But the Iranian government still maintain that the accident was a deliberate attack by the United States. So when Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie there was speculation that it was revenge. American officials, most of which were working at the US Embassy in Moscow, had reserved seats aboard Pan Am Flight 103 from Frankfurt, but cancelled their bookings at the last minute. According to Paul Foot, the American officials had been warned of the plot by UK intelligence. Foot later added that, Margerat Thatcher killed the inquiry into the terrorist attack before it got up and going.

Thatcher later made a call to the White House in January of 1990, the British Prime Minister promised to keep the disaster low key after an intelligence report came out. The report claimed that the attack had been orchestrated by the Iranian government and carried out by a "free-lance" Palestinian group. The motivation: revenge for the 290 people killed by the USS Vincennes. It's likely that the Bush Administration were aiming to distance themselves from a potential scandal. Bush Snr had previously dodged the Iran-Contra affair - in which the US sold guns to Iran in exchange for hostages - that could've cost him the election. It would make sense that he was looking to avoid opening up old wounds and evoking memories which might turn this "accident" into a terrorist atrocity. The White House later looked to Iran for partial support, as President Bush Snr marched onwards to prevent Saddam Hussein from annexing Kuwait. Interestingly, Libya was the only country that did not back the US in the Gulf War - Gaddafi actually backed Iraq - which ended in February of 1991. The British and American press quickly resorted to a campaign of vilification and jingoistic warmongering against Gaddafi's regime. Then in November 1991, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and Khalifa Fahimah were indicted for the Lockerbie Bombing.

The Lockerbie Hypocrisy

Despite this Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was convicted in January of 2001, of participating in the terrorist attack which killed 270 people in 1988. But for the sake of argument, let's assume that the trial was fair and that al-Megrahi is guilty. Would incarcerating the Lockerbie Bomber mean anything if we did not apply the same standards to individuals like Orlando Bosch? Bosch is wanted for committing numerous terrorist attacks across South and Central America, mostly on the watch of the CIA. Bosch was the leader of CORU - which the FBI described as an "anti-Castro terrorist umbrella organisation". CORU was part of Operation Condor which was orchestrated by several right-wing politicians, in South America, who intended to purge the continent of socialist influences and ideas. He was almost convicted of blowing up Cubana Flight 455, killing 73 people, in 1976. Bosch was held in Venezuela for a decade, before being freed in the US after the charges were dropped. For the US government to at least maintain some degree of consistency on the issue of terrorism, they would have extradited Bosch years ago. But no, Orlando Bosch and his friends remain free.

Would an act of compassion, toward a possibly innocent man, really harm the standing of British justice in the world? The people who claim this, so naively assume that the standing of British justice is paramount in today's world and may be a testament to their own ignorance. This is an especially rash assumption after nearly a decade of lies, renditions, detention camp fiascos and revelations about torture. Just as the British media's running commentary on the "special relationship" is based on the naive assumption that Britain still has an important role to play in the world - as Uncle Sam's sidekick. It is as if this assumption acts "compensatory" for the imperial power Britain lost in the last century. What this "debacle" has done is to clearly demonstrate that no authority in the West cares of the opinions coming from the East. If this were not true all the noise about a stained "special relationship" and a desecrated judicial system would have been coming from very different places indeed. Instead we have white westerners complaining that their reputation and values have been trampled on, while the rest of the world is smart enough to see that this reputation is a figment of our narcissistic imagination.