Monday, 31 May 2010

The Road to Fascism.

Angry White Men.

In 2009 we have seen the rise of mass movements on both sides of the Atlantic, I am of course referring to the Tea Party Movement and the English Defence League. In both instances these movements are thoroughly politicised and are growing in strength. In the US the Tea Party Movement has risen to prominence in conservative politics in reaction to taxation, fiscal irresponsibility and what they consider "socialism". In the UK the English Defence League has become a prominent movement in right-wing politics and is supposedly dedicated to combating the "Islamization" of Britain. Both movements appear to consist of various right-wingers united by a few key issues. The Tea Parties consist of "Birthers", gun-toting survivalists and Christian fundamentalists etc. while the EDL consists mostly of football hooligans and far-right activists formerly associated with groups like Combat 18. The latter movement became prominent due to the protests against Islamic fundamentalism outside a mosque in Harrow on September 11th 2009. The former emerged in direct reaction to Barack Obama's bailouts and health-care reforms.

The reasons for the sudden emergence and rapid growth of these particular reactionary movements are not as obscure as the media pretends. Typically in recessions people are desperate for answers in such situations and often flock around identity markers, e.g. religion or nationality, in search of comforting answers. The popularity that the far-right experiences during financial crises is due to the vulnerability people have for easy answers. This is the way that Hitler came to power in Germany during the Great Depression. So there is a definite connection between socio-economic troubles and far-right politics as a "solution" to such troubles. The critique these groups present of society's problems are drawn along populist lines, sometimes reminiscent of leftist attacks on capitalism, but focusing more on individuals and groups than the system itself. Thus, fascist groups like the EDL require a scapegoat, the Muslim community as the source of a destructive radicalism and the Left as dangerously capitulating to that force.

In the case of the Tea Party Movement the scapegoat is the Obama administration, as the enemy of the American way of life, and the Federal government, as a source of incompetence and corruption of the free-enterprise system. The Tea Party see the reason for the financial crisis, not as a lack of regulation but as too much regulation and too much state interference in the financial sector. For them, it is an imaginary elite of liberals, secularists, communists, feminists and progressives who are responsible for the fiscal irresponsibility and "big government". Therefore, the political system needs to be "changed" so that fiscal responsibility, the Constitution and free-markets can be restored in America. Ironically this was a method of communists used to justify a further purge and yet more economic planning. The failures of communism were often blamed on an imaginary elite of capitalists that was still functioning somehow to deprive the workers of their utopia. The system is not at fault, just corrupt individuals that we must purge.

In America and Britain the last 30 years have been difficult for working-class people, to say the least. Communities centred around factory work, mining and manufacturing, were torn apart through privatisation and deregulation on both sides of the pond. The government has effectively abandoned these communities, creating pockets of deprivation. The labour movement and unions were smashed, weakening them considerably, reducing the power of workers to improve working conditions, obtain pay rises and shorter work hours. As a result, wages went into decline or stagnated and work hours have increased. The gap between the wealthy and the poor increased rapidly. This is reflected by facts such as in the year 2000 1% of Americans owned over 40% of stock while 80% of the population owned less than 10%. In Britain we are now seeing the greatest gap between the rich and the poor in 40 years.

The economic policies that have created this inequality is not scrutinised in the working-class press anymore, because the working-class press does no longer exist. It was eliminated by the growing dependence on advertising revenue in the media, which influenced the content of the news as advertisements could be withdrawn if businesses dislike the content. As a result, the cheapest and most commonly read newspapers are thoroughly right-wing. In Britain we saw The Daily Herald replaced by The Sun owned by Rupert Murdoch, in the US it is Fox News. Today the only answers available to the majority of working-class people, regarding the current state of affairs, are from those who blame everything on "do-gooders" whose sensitivity - to immigrants, single-parents and gays - will bring down society as we know it. Political-correctness and multiculturalism are depicted as a source of weakness, leaving our society "vulnerable" to moral decay by "alternative life-styles" and destruction by radical Islamists.

Both the EDL and the Tea Parties have a palingenetic tendency, reminiscent of the fascist movements of the 1930s. Palingenesis being a rebirth or reincarnation of something, in Nazism the Third Reich was the "rebirth" of the First and Second Reich, in Italian Fascism it was the goal of "recreating" the Roman Empire. Today, the EDL "seeks" to take Britain back to a time when British values were safe from Islamism and to do so intend to fend off the "Islamization" of our society. Similarly, the Tea Parties aim to "rejuvenate" the ideals of Revolutionary America, ending the "tyranny" of the Obama administration in the name of individual liberty and responsibility. Of course, the ways they aim to bring about this "rebirth" involves the infringement on the ideals and values they claim to be defending. It is a sad fact that there are such crypto-fascist movements, who claim to stand for freedom while promoting causes that are radically opposed to freedom, in countries that helped bring down fascism in Europe and the Pacific.

Significant Links:

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Faces of Liberty.

Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo, the President of Honduras.
"I believe freedom is the future of all humanity." - George W Bush

The ideological trajectory in the US could be characterised as leaning towards negative liberty, specifically the freedom from constraint, and individualism. For this reason it makes sense that the US government led the "war" against communism since the end of the war against fascism and up until the fall of the Berlin Wall. As there are aspects of communism are in direct opposition to the ideological ideals of the United States. The methods of which the US government utilised to contain communism abroad included the backing of extreme right-wing dictatorships, that would prevent the spread of communism through repression and violence, like that of Suharto in Indonesia and Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines. In doing so, the US government infringed upon individual freedom on a massive scale to stamp out the "threat" of communism and spread freedom around the world. What should be noted is that the military budget of the US has increased considerably and consistently since the Truman administration. At first, politicians sought justification for the rampant military expenditure in anti-communism and then counter-terrorism.

Even after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the spending on the military continued to increase which may indicate that "fighting" communism was just an excuse to increase spending. Today the excuse is the "War on Terrorism". The American government spent over $700 billion in 2008 on the military, making up almost 50% of all military spending in the world. Since the level of military spending seems to be unrelated to any threats of communism or terrorism, it seems rational to assume that realpolitik was not merely about securing freedom and the containment of communism. Interestingly, the kind of economic policies pursued by US-backed dictators, like Suharto and Ferdinand Marcos, consisted of mass-privatisation, deregulation and the repression of unions. These policies may have generated a great deal of economic growth in some countries, but they were largely destructive of the societies in which they were implemented. The World Bank and the IMF were instrumental in economic policy in Indonesia and the Philippines, but it was multinational corporations that benefited most from these policies.

It was in 2009, only months into Obama's first term in office, that the President of Honduras Manuel Zelaya was overthrown by members of the Honduran military, who had been trained at the School of the Americas, and was succeeded briefly by Roberto Micheletti. In January of 2010, Pepe Lobo was elected the President of Honduras and Micheletti has since been made a congressman for life. Lobo is a wealthy land owner and is a member of the National Party, a thoroughly conservative political party, he had lost the 2005 election to Manuel Zelaya. Though, Lobo is now has the Presidency due to a questionable election, it has been said that 60% of the votes were "inaccurate". At the time of the coup in 2009, President Zelaya was unpopular with the Honduran upper class, who feared he may be attempting to impose the kind of left-wing reforms on a populist platform as Chavez had done in Venezuela. Within the Liberal Party, Zelaya also became increasingly unpopular in the run up to the coup d'├ętat. Though, at the same time Manuel Zelaya was popular among the poor and the labour movement.

If we look at the history of Latin America coup d'├ętats are nothing new to the region sometimes referred to as the "back yard" in the US. So it is vital that we place the recent events in Honduras in a historical context. Notably, it was when Manuel Zelaya attempted, as he put it, "modernise" the Honduran Constitution through the use of a referendum that he was overthrown and exiled. The opponents to these constitutional amendments argued that Zelaya was attempting to remove the limits on presidential terms, as Chavez had done in Venezuela. In Chile, it was during a constitutional crisis, that Salvador Allende and his left-wing regime were overthrown by the military. Allende's political rivals in the National Party and the Christian Democrats, as well as on the Supreme Court, accused him of attempting to create a totalitarian state, in which political and economic freedom are not respected. Allende refused to leave the Presidential Palace as it was surrounded by the military, as they began bombing Allende delivered his final speech to the nation in the moments before his death.

 "America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling." - George W Bush

The regime that seized power following the fall of Allende was a barbaric military junta led by Augusto Pinochet, the labour movement that had flourished under Allende was viciously repressed. Over 130,000 people were imprisoned without charge, thousands were systematically tortured and killed - a favourite method being throwing people into the Atlantic from helicopters. It is ironic that the Supreme Court, that accused Allende of authoritarianism, called on the military to "restore" order to Chile, which led to the rise of the junta. Pinochet was supported by Nixon, under Pinochet the economy followed plans laid out by neoliberal economists from the University of Chicago. These economic reforms reversed the work of Allende, privatising the national industries and removing the regulations which hindered the market. It was not long until public spending in Chile was cut by 50%. This led to the now famous economic miracle in Chile, while Pinochet kept thousands of people incarcerated in concentration camps and may have slaughtered over 80,000 people. Pinochet was no different than Suharto and Marcos, his regime was also highly beneficial to multinationals.

Since Pepe Lobo was inaugurated on January 27th 2010 the US government has been a vocal supporter of the Honduran government and have been urging other countries of that region to restore relations with Honduras. Hillary Clinton said on March 4th "We think that Honduras has taken important and necessary steps that deserve the recognition and normalisation of relations. Other countries in the region say that they want to wait a while, I don't know what they're waiting for, but that's their right to wait." In the month of February alone, the inter-American Commission on Human Rights documented over 50 illegal detentions, eight cases of torture, two kidnappings and two rapes committed against dissidents involved in resistance to the coup. Since Lobo came to power over 10 people have been killed, including children. Sadly, it would appear that "change" has not come from the Obama administration. For the people of Latin America, the events in Honduras and Haiti, are a sad reminder that they are not yet free from the hegemon of the North. The IMF and the World Bank have also been quick to normalise relations with Honduras, which may be a sign of the kind of economic reforms soon to hit Honduras.

The last 35 years have been marked by neoliberal economic reforms across Latin America. Reforms which have led to a sharp decline in the rate of growth and productivity. The policies themselves were so unpopular in most Latin American countries that they had to be imposed by dictatorial regimes. The US government has a history of backing such regimes across the region, the IMF and the World Bank have been instrumental in spreading neoliberalism throughout the developing world through "structural adjustments" in many of these states. The kind of countries that have been subjected to these kinds of regimes and economic restructuring are typically rich in resources and desperately poor. The mass-privatisation of industry can allow corporations to seize up entire sectors of society, while the deregulation of the markets and repression of unions allows these corporations to drive down wages and increase work hours. This is merely one aspect of the kind of exploitation that has resulted in many countries from the kind of policies advocated by the Washington consensus.

We'd all like to believe that the wars fought in the name of liberty and democracy against communism and terrorism were noble causes. In the 1990s military spending increased long after the fall of Soviet communism in the East. So it seems feasible that defeating communism was not the goal of the US government, that increasing the size of the military budget is of primary importance. The ideological reasons for promoting democracy and spreading freedom abroad amounted to the rise of neoliberalism in countries like Honduras, Chile, Indonesia and the Philippines. But this rise could be seen, as something far more insidious, the continuation of imperialism in the world. As the economic interests of the state converge with the profit-motive of corporations, and the "conditions" prescribed by the IMF, the bloated military budget may be about defending and maintaining an empire. In this sense, the role of ideology plays in America is to enable these forces to act in the never ending "fight" against tyranny and evil in the world.

Significant Links:
US covering up reality in Honduras
Solutions for Latin America
Noam Chomsky CBC Interview
The War on Democracy

Tuesday, 18 May 2010


Con-Dem Coalition.

"There is not going to be a Liberal Democrat government after the election. There is either going to be a Conservative government or a Labour government" said George Osborne, known in certain circles as "Boy George" and "Oik", during the Chancellors debate on Channel 4. In retrospect that statement seems ironic, as we are now living under a coalition government. After nearly a week of waiting for Nick Clegg to take a side, we have seen the Liberal Democrats finally take the side of the Conservative Party. All hopes of a "Rainbow Coalition" were dissolved and Gordon Brown resigned bringing the era of 'New Labour' to an end at last. Now we wait to see who will seize the leadership of the Labour Party, many see David Miliband as the future of the party. But more importantly, we wait to see what might come out of this Lib-Con Coalition. All we know at this point is that David Cameron will be Prime Minister and Nick Clegg will be his deputy, Osborne has been given the role of Chancellor and Vince Cable will be at his side throughout this coalition government.

It has been argued a lot recently that the presence of liberals in the predominantly Tory cabinet could function to bring the Conservatives to more moderate positions. This vision of a moderate, or even progressive government headed up by David Cameron, is adhered to by well-known figures from both sides of the political spectrum. Melanie Phillips and Billy Bragg being two examples of this. Phillips being representative of the reactionary media that hate single-parent families but are insistently laissez-faire on economic issues. Bragg being representative of the socially liberal and anti-capitalist left. This view of the government is a convergence of the optimism of the Left and the pessimism of the Right. But what should be remembered is that this government is still dominated by Conservatives and liberals have a history of compromising. So it could be that the Conservatives will "escort" the Liberal Democrats further to the Right with ease and without force. In this sense it is more of a Con-Dem Coalition as opposed to a Lib-Con Coalition, as it will be David Cameron swinging the "big stick".

It is also commonly believed that the Conservative Party of today is now far more liberal, moderate and centrist than the Conservatives of the 1980s and 1990s. However, it should be noted that the Tories have remained roughly in the same place on the political spectrum since 1982, back when Thatcherism was in it's infancy. The fact that since 1979 the share of GDP that workers have received in wages has gone into decline. Inequality has increased rapidly and we are now more unequal than we were over 30 years ago. This would mean that the Conservatives still stand for the contradictory prescription of business-orientated individualism and reactionary moralising about permissive society. This is reflected by David Cameron's opposition to the repeal of Section 28 and the accusations he made of the Labour Party for doing so. These accusations included the strange charge of "promoting" homosexuality. While at the same time, the Conservatives under Cameron have actively pushed for greater deregulation and less taxation of the financial sector. Thus, it seems unlikely that the workers' share of GDP will increase under this government.

Although it is true that modern conservatism has more in common with classical liberalism, which it once opposed, than with the conservatives of past centuries or even those prior to 1979. As traditionally, conservatives saw society as the major importance, they usually aimed to maintain the order of society by preserving traditions and a "natural hierarchy". Whereas, Thatcher declared famously that "There is no such thing as society, only individuals and their families." The aim of the Thatcherites was not the preservation of society, but to transform society into a loose arrangement of individuals pursuing their own self-interested goals. To accomplish this, the Conservative Party smashed trade unions and "liberated" the financial sector from regulation, as they left manufacturing and mining to rot. Though, at the same time they opposed Gay Rights in a bid to maintain the "moral fabric" of society - the very thing they actively decimated. There is a clear clash between the liberal economic policies and the reactionary social policies of the Conservative Party. The impact on society of such policies are largely divisive and destructive. Sadly, the Party has not changed very much since.

Breakfast in the "Big Society".

The fact that David Cameron has latched onto the communitarian rhetoric does not change the true nature of the Conservative Party and merely disguises it. For Cameron the rhetoric of was probably just something to fill the void that was left by the premature death of compassionate conservatism. Though the rhetoric, specifically for the "Big Society", has won the endorsement of Phillip Blond, a self-proclaimed "Red Tory" who advocates a radical communitarian brand of conservatism. Cameron's stated plan to build a "Big Society" by encouraging social responsibility, charities, voluntary groups and community action. It is intended to help tackle some of the most stubborn social problems, which are not listed on the Conservative website for some reason. Though on closer inspection it appears that Tory policy is in no way "red" and has very little relation to Blond's brand of progressive conservatism at all. The stated aim of which is to deliver power, property and purpose to the kind of communities that have been disenfranchised by the politics of the last 30 years. It is more likely that the Conservative Party of today are still pursuing the utopia that the Thatcherites had in mind in 1979.

We have the council of Hammersmith and Fulham, which is dominated by "compassionate conservatives" like Stephen Greenhalgh, to hold up as an example of what to expect from the Conservative Party of today. The council has been praised by David Cameron and has been described as a "model" for the new government by George Osborne. As part of a campaign to lower taxes and shrink the size of the state, the Conservative councillors have slashed services that might benefit the homeless, the mentally ill, the disabled and the elderly. One of the first acts by the Conservative-dominated council was the selling off of 12 homeless shelters to large property developers, as part of a crackdown on the homeless who are regarded as a "law and order issue". The council altered the rules so that people had to "prove" they were "sufficiently" homeless before they could even enter a shelter. The Conservative councillors are now housing half the number of homeless people that their Labour predecessors were prior to 2006. As a result, the council have been able to cut council tax by 3%.

A return to home-care charging was also an aspect of Tory policy in the borough, this is literally a throwback to the most inhumane aspects of Thatcherism. Charges for most services have been increased by the council, including meals on wheels and childcare which has been increased by over 120%. Worryingly, Michael Gove's plans to top-up fees for nursery places could be an emulation of the council's policy. So the logic of the "Big Society" appears to be, roll back the state and volunteers will emerge to provide the services that the state will no longer. It looks as though in the "Big Society" a lot of people are going to be fobbed off onto "social enterprises, charities and voluntary groups" - who will struggle to substitute for the cuts to public services. The Conservatives should know better than this, as it was Adam Smith who believed that charity was an insufficient means of resolving the issue of poverty. This notion of a "Big Society" is public-relations at its most deceptive. Calling on "people power" and volunteerism is a smokescreen for cuts to public services that will make life a lot harder for the majority of people and no doubt further social deprivation.

But it is not just public services that are under threat by this new Con-Dem Coalition, as we have seen Stephen Greenhalgh actively push for the systematic demolition of council estates that he regards as "concentrations of deprivation". A specific target being White City Estates, the land of which has increased in value since the opening of Westfield London. The aim being to replace these communities with "decent communities" of people earning over £60,000 a year. The Mayor of London soon came to the "rescue" and raised the number to £72,000. The council also aims to subject rent to the volatile forces of the market. All in all this looks to be a policy of forcing the poor out of the borough. Though if David Cameron adopts this policy it will become national policy and, just like Thatcher, Cameron will push more poor people out of areas of highly valuable land. The only appropriate description of this is accumulation by dispossession. Greenhalgh has already stopped building new council houses and is currently looking for council estates to sell off to property developers.

Of course, the intentions of the coalition are known in the business community. Despite the Hooverite enthusiasm the Conservatives have shown for spending cuts, they do want to "incentivise" business. "Incentivise" being a euphemism for tax-cuts for the wealthy combined with further deregulation. The loss in tax revenue will be made up for with the funds accumulated as a  result of cuts from spending on public services. There has been no mention of this, even as hundreds of businesses flocked to support David Cameron. Not that rich white men supporting rich white men has ever been a surprise to anyone. The prescription of tax-cuts, regardless of the social costs, is not surprising either. Another buzzword recently churned out of the Tory spin-machine is that of the "Great Ignored". It belongs to that category of manipulative vacuity, like the "Big Society" and "One World Conservatism". It's an attempt to evoke Middle England, just like Brown's "hard-working majority". Neither of the terms are used by politicians who intend to turn away from the political orthodoxy of Thatcherism. The truly "Great Ignored" will remain ignored, unless the political class and the economic institutions are changed radically.

Significant Links:
Rise of the Red Tories
Red Tory: The Future of Progressive Conservatism?
Welcome to Cameron Land
The Conservative Party - the Big Society 
The Liberal Democrat Surrender 
Post-Question Time Clarifications 
Principles for Social Housing Reform

Sunday, 16 May 2010

A Very British Democracy.

Last year the electoral crisis in Iran was widely criticised in the West. Though something was lacking from much of the critique of the events in Iran. The implicit message of the critique was that this crisis was simply a product of "guided democracy" and the Iranian people need democracy in the Western liberal conception. What is missing from this critique is the admission that liberal democracy in the West shares some similarities with the "guided democracy" of Iran. Before the individuals could enter as candidates for the Presidency they had to be approved by the clerical establishment in Iran. In the West candidates for high office often have to pander to the economic establishment for sufficient campaign funding. This functions to diminish political pluralism, reducing the candidates to representatives of varying degrees of evil. The choice we typically face is the greater evil and the lesser evil. The candidate who receives the most support from the establishment and the electorate wins the election. There are occasional blips of course, these would include the electoral triumphs of George W Bush and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

With the victory of the Conservative Party, with a little help from the Liberal Democrats, we have seen the continuing triumph of a polyarchical establishment in Britain. Polyarchy being a system in which a small number of political parties take turns governing the state. But nothing much changes as all of these parties are representative of powerful groups - namely the wealthy - as opposed to the majority of the population. Unlike a totally dictatorial and hegemonistic society in a polyarchy there is room for participation and contestation. Thus, we have participation in the political process through elections and occasionally referenda. While the mass-media, the recent televised debates and programmes like Question Time functions to present the political class as more "diverse" than it actually is. Through debate and media coverage, the small differences of the parties are exaggerated and the greater similarities ignored. But the average voter is perceptive enough to see the similarities. The "guided democracy" of Iran differs in that it partly lacks this contestation and the media remains largely servile to a quasi-hegemonistic state.

The democratic deficit in London is one such sign of a polyarchical system. The candidates were almost the same and only differed on pedantic technical details like immediate spending cuts as opposed to spending cuts after a year. Sadly, it could be argued that the current state of democracy is quite appropriate to contemporary Britain. For instance, the United Kingdom is one of the few states in the world that does not have a written constitution.  Instead of a written constitution we have an unwritten constitution. Meaning that we rely on a substance of tradition to guide our political system. But the way the media has covered the hung Parliament, with constant references to a British Constitution, one would think that we have a constitution. So in a sense we have a constitution without a constitution. Similarly, we have democracy without democracy. Except this time, we as a nation lack the substance of democracy as opposed to the mere formality of voting once every 4 or 5 years to "justify" the status quo on the grounds that something worse than it might replace it if we do not vote for it.

Just like in Iran, where candidates have to appeal to the religious establishment, here in contemporary Britain candidates seek support from the economic institutions. It is public knowledge that the Conservative Party received over £5 million in funding from Michael Ashcroft, a non-dom billionaire and a member of the House of Lords. Lord Paul being the Lord Ashcroft of the Labour Party. But what is less widely known is that the Conservatives have received £16 million in funding from Canary Wharf since 2006. Though it could be argued that this isn't much different from the fact that Labour has received over £10 million from the Unite Union since 2007. Everyone knows that The Sun backed David Cameron in the campaign, adding another name to the list of Prime Minister it helped elect. Others include: Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Tony Blair. Not everyone knows that David Cameron met with Rupert Murdoch, agreeing to remove constraints which prevent Murdoch from competing with the BBC. In reaction to this, Murdoch has thrown 40% of the British media behind the Conservative Party.

During the campaign David Cameron made a point of bragging about the support from the business community that he is receiving. We see that the Labour Party as having won elections on the back of this support from businesses. The fact that these grotesque features of our "democracy" are held up with pride is indicative of the cynicism of the political class. In the run-up to the election many politicians claimed that the government would either be Conservative or Labour, this further conveys the cynicism. Over 1,000 businesses support the Conservatives, the stated reason is that they oppose the "jobs tax" of  Labour and have the interest of their employees at heart. It was pointed out by the media that 'New Labour' received the same support in the run-up to the victory of 1997. No mention of the fact that in many cases, the cost of an increase in national insurance is equal to, or less than, the cut management take from company revenue. No mention of the "incentives" these businesses are seeking from the Conservative Party. No mention of the fact that this is a case of rich white men supporting rich white men.

There is a lack of political pluralism in Britain today. The Conservatives have remained firmly on the Right, sticking to the kind of positions that demonise single-parents while pushing for further deregulation. On the other hand, Labour has shifted dramatically from the Left to the Right becoming a neoconservative party. This is reflected by Brown's love of Gertrude Himmelfarb's work and the common description of Blair as a "neoconservative" by the likes of Richard Perle. Distinctions between the parties are drawn along policies on immigration, the EU, multiculturalism, political correctness etc. by the right-wing press. The aim of this is to further diminish what little pluralism there is left. Thanks to the media, there are a large amount of bigots who vote on single issues like immigration. This is how UKIP have become increasingly sought after by the working-class. Whilst issues relating to the economy, deregulation and tax-cuts are of central importance to the wealthy. In appealing to this dual constituency, of the interests of the wealthy and the interests of the working-class, the likes of David Cameron end up swinging the "big stick".

All of the candidates agree that severe cuts in public spending are necessary, as do the mainstream media, on the grounds of "common sense". The way in which this hard-nosed pragmatism requires no justification, in the minds of public servants and journalists, is indicative of the way ideology functions in the West. The Right has no need nor time for real justifications and intellectual argument, all they need are "common sense" arguments to accomplish their goals. These arguments typically play to the primal desires and fears of individuals. The dominant ideology does the rest for them, all they have to do is shoot down any dissenting views as "unrealistic". Thus the candidates only have to argue about where and when cuts are to be made, because "common sense" writes off any alternatives to making savage cuts as "unrealistic". Any deviations from the party-line of "necessary cuts" are knocked down by the media or by civilians riled up by the right-wing press, whenever the common man gets a chance to question the politicians. So the working-class have voted against their own interests for the sake of "common sense" spending cuts.

Significant Links:
Polyarchy by Robert Dahl
The Truth behind the General Election

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

2010 Election: Wish List.

Change, please...

With the 2010 General Election approaching at a frankly nauseating pace marked by vacuous slogans, meaningless publicity, dull debates and mediocre comments by "professional" parliamentarians. I think I speak for all British people when I say it is truly "exhilarating" to choose between three political parties  which are almost identical, when I can just walk down to the shop and choose between dozens of different chocolate bars. It is a testament to the decline of democracy and political pluralism, that the right to vote has been reduced to a method of maintaining the status quo and avoiding the "greater evil". In a sense, it is a conservative system, to vote against a certain party in the hope of maintaining the dominance of one party. Cynicism is rife and idealism is rare, what is left is the prevailing ideology that is thriving in an atmosphere of discontent. Nevertheless,  because of the overwhelming "exhilaration" of this upcoming election, instead of covering the last debate, I have decided to type up a list of policies that I am for and would vote for.

1. A real dedication to decreasing the gap between the rich and the poor. Methods of accomplishing this include: progressive taxes, raising the minimum wage, setting a maximum wage, the redistribution of wealth etc. Though, this kind of dedication may deter investors and drive corporations out of the country, which is why it should be enforced through the European Union. A region as large and profitable as Europe would be too valuable to lose for any corporation. Another great policy in this area would be the 'Robin Hood' tax, that would see a 0.05% tax levied on the transactions of the banking sector. The money from which could go a long way to eradicating poverty and saving the environment.
2.  Subject major foreign policy decisions to referenda, specifically invasions that the US government might try to drag us into. So that the government requires the support of the majority of the population to go to war. This might have prevented the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and it has the potential to stop future unnecessary acts of aggression. As we would not be rushing off to kill anyone sitting on a sea of black gold any time soon, it is fair to say that Britain might lose it's status as lieutenant to the American government.
3. Prepare to resolve the 'Pensions Crisis' without fobbing off pensioners onto unstable private pension schemes, which are subject to the chaos of the stock market and will give working people a stake in undermining their own interests. There remains the options of raising taxes and increasing immigration. These are not popular options, especially with the more reactionary sectors of society who feel that immigrants only come to Britain to take jobs and benefits. Regardless of such woes, a combination of the two remaining options could function to resolve the crisis.
4. A rational drug policy based on scientific research and evidence, not petty moralising on the dangers of "permissive society". This would include the legalisation of cannabis, as there is no scientific evidence that supports the assertion that cannabis is more harmful than tobacco and alcohol. Whereas, harder substances can be prescribed to addicts as part of rehabilitation programs. In the Netherlands a similar policy has decimated the market for heroin and has reduced the number of heroin addicts in recent years. Sadly, something tells me that Richard Littlejohn and his friends on Fleet Street would love this one.
5. Proportional representation, so that we the people might actually be able to elect political parties which represent us. One downside being the major parties, that agree so much with one another, will have to "tolerate" competing parties and that it could slow down the political process. But the inefficiency of democracy does not justify the kind of democratic deficit we have endured for so long. Another downside would be the unsettling possibility of fascists gaining seats in Parliament, as parties like the BNP win the votes of the neglected classes. Though, this is a reason to focus on integration and class issues rather than avoid reforming the political system.

The problem with the brand of "democracy", currently set in the cement of Parliament, is that it is somewhat conservative in practice. Those who vote often do so to prevent someone worse than the incumbent from gaining power. The aim is not to engineer change on any scale, but to hold onto the "lesser evil" for as long as possible. It is as if there is something missing from the political system, something substantive, something radical. Among the major parties, Lib-Lab-Con, the old political dynamic of Left and Right has been abandoned. The Left has been quietly marginalised and the Labour Party is regarded, by the right-wing media, as the established left-wing party of Britain. Today there is only the Right, presented in conservative and liberal forms by the major parties. Perhaps, this is indicated by the fact that we tend to vote on grounds of "lesser" and "greater" evil. What we need is a major party that unambiguously supports progressive causes which a majority of the population support already.