Thursday, 30 September 2010

Crashing and Burning in Montreux.

The controversial book Lolita was written by Vladimir Nabokov and published in 1955, known for the innovative and lyrical style in which the narrative unfolds page-by-page, the infamy that has enveloped the novel is down to its content which focuses on the most sordid sexual deviancy - paedophilia. It is a dark tale of a middle-aged man and his obsession with a 12 year-old girl, the nature of this "love affair" is disposed towards rape and physical abuse. Nabokov insisted that his book did not convey any message, and it was not a work of "big ideas", stressing that he didn't want to "touch hearts" or "effect minds". I can't help but suspect that this element of Nabokov's work is partly due to his outlook and political views. Nabokov was a strident individualist and considered himself an old-fashioned liberal, which is likely given that his father was a prominent liberal politician, although Nabokov was also a close friend of William F Buckley and a fan of Richard Nixon.

It's important that we consider Nabokov's life. Vladimir Nabokov was born into one of the most powerful families in St Petersberg and inherited great wealth at a young age, he lived in a large house of 50 servants. Though this life of luxury as a Russian aristocrat was cut short by the Bolshevik Revolution, foring Nabokov to go into exile just as he was reaching maturity. This separated him from his first love Tamara, Lolita could have been Nabokov's way of mocking the way he still reminisced on his relationship with Tamara even in old age. Particularly as he aged she would have no doubt remained the same age in his mind as he had known her. Nabokov's father was shot dead by a fascist in Berlin, his gay brother was murdered in a concentration camp. These events not only displaced Nabokov and changed his life forever, but it may be the reason for his individualism. From the trampled ground of Bolshevism and fascism Nabokov emerged, like Ayn Rand although less extreme, in opposition to "big ideas" and "utopian goals" like communism.

Nabokov's claim to not propagate any message or "big idea" in his work is typical of an "old-fashioned liberal", who would argue that the state should be minimal to protect individual freedom. In the past, and even today, the libertarian right-wing has argued that the Civil Rights act should be repealed on the grounds that it infringes on the freedom of business owners - the freedom to discriminate. Defenders of such a position often claim to be "neutral" and adhere to a minimalist view of the state as "non-interventionist" for the sake of freedom of choice. But in not taking sides and not interfevening in such a way you are taking sides and are interferring. As such "neutrality" is permissive of the racist practices prevalent at the time. In not taking sides in Lolita, neither explicitly condemning nor embracing paedophilia, Nabokov may have taken the side of Humbert Humbert.

Apart from his life as a novelist Nabokov loved football and was an avid chess-player, he was also an entomologist. As an entomologist Nabokov collected over 4,000 butterflies and even discovered a species, which was named in his honour "Nabokovia". The life of a butterfly is particularly interesting in regards to Nabokov's writing. A butterfly begins life as a caterpillar, before entering an immobile stage known as the "nymph stage" before emerging as a butterfly weeks later. During the "nymph stage" the insect is neither caterpillar nor butterfly, in that sense it is in a liminal state. The parallel stage among humans would be the teenage years - which are neither child nor adult - liminal like the "nymph" stage. In the story Lolita is a prepubescent girl of 12, which would place her just prior to entering this liminal stage as a caterpillar. But it is as she is reaching maturity that Lolita dies while giving birth to a stillborn child, she was just 17 at the time - not yet an adult, not yet a butterfly.

However, we must not be rash and conclude from this that Vladimir Nabokov was simply no defender of paedophilia. Humbert Humbert is not the last "nympholept", nor was Lolita the last "nymphet", spawned by the dark-side of Nabokov's imagination. Similar tales of sexual deviancy appear as early as 1939 in Nabokov's work, beginning with The Enchanter and ending with Laura which he never finished and was published posthumously against his wishes. In total there are about six novels in which young girls are lusted after by mature men. As Martin Amis noted, about two or three of these novels are masterpieces but the content is nevertheless unsettling. It would appear that "nympholepsy" is part of the decor of themes and motifs - along with butterflies, chess, Freud-bashing, mirrors; doubles and dopplegangers - that are recurrent in Nabokov's works.

The Enchanter is similar to the first half of Lolita in that the protagonist infiltrates the household of his prey by marrying the girl's mother, after the mother is out of the picture (e.g. killed off), the "enchanter" despoils the prepubescent daughter. Though the differences are more important, and perhaps more revealing, than the similarities between the two books. The "enchanter" has a single voyeuristic "moment" with his nymphet, whereas Humbert Humbert has sex regularly with Lolita for about 2 years. The Enchanter is less subtle and crude than Lolita in terms of writing, in the former Nabokov writes at one point "he began passing his magic wand above her body". And yet it is Lolita in which Nabokov judges Humbert Humbert, tacitly holding him responsible for the trajectory of Lolita's life - from her defiled childhood to her premature death, a life stolen by Humbert.

Interestingly, The Enchanter was published by Dmitri Nabokov in 1987, whereas Lolita was published in 1955 when Nabokov was still alive, even though it was The Enchanter which was written first in 1939. This might lead us to conclude that Vladimir Nabokov was worried about the release of The Enchanter, nothing particularly new there as Nabokov contemplated burning Lolita on several occasions and wanted The Original of Laura to be destroyed upon his death. But it was not until Nabokov's later years that he underwent a literary meltdown, beginning with Ada in 1970. As Amis puts it "When a writer comes off the rails, you expect skidmarks and broken glass; with Nabokov, naturally, the eruption is on the scale of a nuclear accident." It is in Ada that Nabokov creates a world which Humbert would have adored - where nothing matters and everything is permitted.

On it goes in Transparent Things (1972) and Look at the Harlequins! (1974), in the latter a Vadim Vadimovich marries a girl 43 years his junior. In Transparent Things an impotent misfit named Hugh Person visiting Switzerland, courting Armande and tending to Mr R an aging eccentric author and a paedophile. Person looks at a picture of Armande when she was 10, arousing and haunting him in dreams from then on, he later strangles Armande in his sleep and dies in a fire at the hotel. The sexual depravity recurrent in some of Nabokov's many novels may place such works further to the transgressive fiction of William Burroughs and the Marquis de Sade. Though we might conclude Nabokov's writing on such a rancid transgression is really down to an obsession with the internal chaos of man. But I think that might still be too generous, even for an author of Nabokov's magnitude.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The Groucho Marx of the Right.

Cesspool Conservatism.

Glenn Beck has gone from mediocrity as a disc jockey to a self-styled political commentator. Just like his fellow shock-jocks of the Right, Limbaugh and Savage et al, Beck deals in cesspool conservatism - a tradition spawned in the fermented juices left in Lee Atwater's wake. Afterall Beck applies the same tactics that Atwater used to save Bush I from an electoral defeat in 1988. Lee Atwater was a mentor to Karl Rove and practically wrote the GOP playbook to safeguard the GOP platform, by tapping into the South as a source of right-wing populism, and demolish the Democrats as a liberal opposition. These tactics range from distorting history and the political spectrum to vilify the opposition, provoking outrage at every turn along the way. These tactics are partly what have enabled Beck to rise from a Top 40 DJ to an icon of the right-wing commentariat that basks in controversy.

To this day Beck wallows in controversy, which functions to distract people from the issues, fuelling the widespread confusion and rage along the way. In calling Barack Obama a "racist", in the midst of the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr, Beck succeeded in obfuscating the issues raised by the arrest - e.g. institutionalised racism in the police force - to a ridiculous debate over the content of his comments. But this is nothing new Glenn Beck has a history of shocking displays of prejudice, typically racist and or misogynistic chauvinism. Beck once called the wife of a competing DJ in Phoenix and mocked her for having a miscarriage on live radio. He claimed that Malik Jones used to smoke crack with his own grandmother. Jones had just been shot dead after refusing to pull over for the police, Jones was black and the police officer who shot him was white.

In the aftermath of the financial implosion of 2008, it was expected by many that there would be a radical shift in politics pushed by grass-roots movements. Beck has been instrumental in taking full advantage of the recent vicissitudes of capitalism and the weaknesses of the Left to reaffirm the system. In demonstrations against universal health-care and "socialism" the Tea Parties are undermining progressive tendencies that were absent, crushing any signs of an opposition to the consistently pro-business agenda of the US government. Beck does not attack "Obama-care" for obligating even more Americans to buy into a dysfunctional and bureaucratic insurance industry. Instead Beck accuses the administration of being "communist" and feeds the Tea Parties as a movement pushing for a more regressive health-care system.

Lee Atwater Populism.

It was 20 years before Beck when Lee Atwater obfuscated the real issues to smash the Democrats and keep the White House Republican for 4 more years. In 1986 the Reagan administration had been exposed as supporting the Contras, and their campaign of terrorism in Nicaragua, funding them through a state-sponsored trafficking in arms and drugs. The major issue of the election of 1988 should have been Bush's involvement in funding the terrorism. Lee Atwater resorted to the Southern Strategy and turned the discourse away from the Iran-Contra affair through a campaign of race-baiting. A campaign which Roger Ailes, who now runs Fox News, was deeply involved in from day one. This extreme-rightist brand of populism is designed to appeal to the Southern working-class, who have been marginalised by the bicoastal elites historically.

Today Beck is part of a similar mud-slinging campaign to excuse the crimes of the Bushites and undermine the Obama administration, by leading people to flock to the Right and elect a Republican President just as bad if not worse than Bush. This time the race-baiting is focused mostly on Muslims, as Islamophobia has become a major tool of mobilising angry white men. The "Ground Zero Mosque" being the newest tool, even though it is actually an Islamic Cultural Centre featuring a swimming pool, basketball court; a restaurant and prayer rooms for Muslims, Christians and Jews. The Centre isn't even at Ground Zero, but the desired effect has been accomplished. On the part of the Right this is a conscious way of undermining any progressive tendencies that might emerge, either in the state or from the grass-roots. Glenn Beck is deserving of his reputation for inducing laughter, but not in the intended way.

The Beck routine typically begins with a satirical attack on his opponents and their arguments, rounded off with a "serious" message of sentimental moral proportions. The first part is supposed to be the source of hilarity, though Beck's brand of satire would embarrass any decent human being. As Žižek pointed out, it is the ridiculous "serious" conclusion that is laughable. Beck is avidly reducing the political discourse to entertainment and comedy, the realm in which the conspiracy theories of ultra-conservative Mormons can be passed off as "serious" content. He consciously distorts the political spectrum to the extent that Barack Obama is both a "socialist", a "racist" and a "fascist" surrounded by loony lefties, whilst Roger Ailes is a "hero" of the Civil Rights Movement. The aim being to exploit the crisis of the American working-class for reactionary ends, against what little progress is being pursued in Washington.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

What About Corporate Dole?

There is talk of deficit reduction and austerity measures, on both sides of the Atlantic, a lot of the "debate" is geared towards dismantling the welfare state which FDR constructed. In the US the Obama administration is looking to pursue greater spending initiatives for now, but it is spending cuts which we will see at a later date. In Britain, on the other hand, a series of deep spending cuts are about to be rammed through by the Con-Dem Coalition. These programmes of austerity will hit the poor hardest and function like an increase in taxes on working-class people everywhere. The impact is regressive, as it removes or severely undermines services which millions of people depend upon and have done for decades. The cuts will increase the amount of money that ordinary people will have to spend to get by on a day-to-day basis. The disposable income of the wealthy will be unscathed as they are the less reliant on institutions of the welfare state, like the NHS.

Typically the welfare state, particularly benefits, are a target of these cuts. The aim being to destroy a corrosive "culture of dependency". Even though in the US the trillion-dollar deficit is mostly due to the enormous costs entailed by a dysfunctional health-care system and a bloated military budget. Offense spending, not defense spending, has increased to $1.5 trillion in recent years and Obama has increased the military budget even further. Today 50% of military spending in the world is just the US offense expenditure, it is higher than the military budgets of the rest of the world combined. Though it should be noted that a great deal of this spending is funneled into the economy, to fund research and development of technology for high-tech industry. Along with enormous subsidies and protectionist measures, 'Corporate America' benefits enormously from government intervention in the economy.

This is nothing new, the US government from it's origins in revolution and war to the present has reflected the interests of the wealthy class of white men. In fact if the US economy had been truly laissez-faire from the beginning the country would have remained an appendage of the British Empire for much longer. In the 1850s, the railroads received 20 million acres of land free from the US government and during the Civil War this amount increased to around 100 million acres of free land. This land had been "cleared" of Native American tribes, not by the free-market, but by the state so that rich white people could become the owners of it. Today it is corporations, like Lockheed and Microsoft, which are the primary beneficiaries of supply-side economics dressed up as free-market economics. The US is no different to other first world countries in that development and economic growth was a result of state-intervention in the economy.

The free-market rhetoric of the Tea Parties and the right-wing ideologists spurring them on is absurd. The Tea Parties are for a free-market, small government, family values and a strong defence. Notice that a strong defence and a free-market are specifically in opposition with one another as the offence budget is used to subsidise high-tech industry. The ideologists of the movement are not free-marketeers, Newt Gingrich is a cynical reactionary seeking to manipulate people with legitimate grievances to support a narrow right-wing agenda. We can see this just by looking at Gingrich's record of supporting a welfare state for the rich. For over 20 years, Newt Gingrich represented the 6th district of Georgia and a leading recipient of federal subsidies in the country - namely Cobb County, Georgia. There Lockheed produces F22s at a subsidised rate which exceeded $70 billion a year under Gingrich.

Accumulation by dispossession comes to mind, the opulent minority accumulate wealthy and property at the expense of the poor majority. As for the Con-Dem Coalition, David Cameron has a proposal for job creation that will supposedly provide the "unworthy poor" (benefit cheats and single-mums etc) with work. The proposal is the cut in national insurance, which Cameron described repeatedly as a "jobs tax" during the campaign. The policy of "job creation" could be summed up as subsidies to firms who hire the unemployed at the minimum wage. It's likely that this policy could drive down the wages of other workers and it has the potential to undermine trade unions. A cut in "jobs tax" doesn't sound as wonderful when described in these terms. Especially if you consider the massive spending cuts as a form of taxation, decimating the ability of many people to live comfortable lives.

It's interesting that we think of the welfare state as a safety-net providing health-care and education, as well as financial assistance, to the poor. We do not think of the bailouts, tax-cuts and subsidies as falling under welfare. Even though a regressive tax-system funnels money into the pockets of the uber-rich. Naturally, the reactionary press have a problem with the poor living off of the "dole" and regularly accuse them of living parasitically on the hard-work of the "deserving poor". The assumption being that tax-cuts which benefit the wealthy, and spending cuts that harm the poor, reward the worthy and punish the unworthy. It is not the case that individuals thrive according to their own merits in this world. The self-made man is mostly a myth, as almost all "self-made men" are a product of centuries of affirmative action for rich-white-men and the dole queue of fat cats.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Can't Pay, Won't Pay.

Alternatives to Cutting.

The cuts are almost upon us and will be delivered unto us by the Oik, otherwise known as George Osborne, from the dispatch box. The media have been loyally spouting the party-line of "Cuts! Cuts! Cuts!" and have even gone as far as putting together "debates". In such "debates" the public has a role of discussing where the incisions should be made, prominent economists and politicians participate to make sure the discussion does not drift too far off the party-line. Consequently, Ken Livingstone was scoffed at for mentioning that the current debt is equal to a third of the debt Britain had accumulated during the war against fascism. Even though it's true, today Britain's debt adds up to about 70% of GDP and after WW2 the debt made up over 260% of GDP. In the years following, there was no austerity, we founded the welfare state and nationalised major industries.

The problem with cuts is that it could increase the deficit, since it could increase unemployment and by extension lower tax-revenue whilst causing benefits to rise. In a nutshell, if the government cuts the job of an employee earning £25,000 it would only save the Treasury about £2,000 a year as the rest would go on benefits and be lost in tax-revenue. So if the government fired say 10,000 people earning £25K a year, costing £250 million to employ every year, it would only save £20 million if that. At the same time this could lead to a wave of redundancies in the private sector. This would go a long way from cutting down the "fiscal gap" of £170 billion. In fact, if we wanted to pay off the deficit we would have to fire 85 million people earning 25K a year. The word austerity is a euphemism, stupidity is more befitting.

Luckily, it is not as Thatcher used to say "There is no alternative." This kind of defence is the short-term kind, a method of shooting down opponents to the economic agenda. Similarly Ken Livingstone was derided for raising facts which conflict with the aims of the Con-Dem Coalition. It should be noted that from 1920 to 1960 the debt never fell below 100% of GDP. It is only in recent years that it has become an expectation that we have less debt less than 60% of GDP. This standard was set during the Thatcherite years, of massive spending cuts and regressive taxes, when John Major signed the Maastricht Treaty. The huge budget deficit is down to the sharp drop in tax-revenues during the recession. As a result, the level of public spending which had been increasingly steadily with tax-revenues until 2008 became unsustainable. Public spending is not a problem, taxation is.

The current tax system is losing an estimated £100 billion a year in tax-revenue due to evasion and various loopholes in the system. The rate of public spending is partly what has been driving economic growth for decades. It should be noted that during the social democratic era, which began in 1945 and ended in 1975, public spending and taxation was far higher on the rich than it is today. Throughout that period Britain was the subject of greater economic growth, higher productivity and a level of employment higher than anything seen since 1979. Wages also had a tendency to increase with productivity and reached a peak in 1967, when the workers' share of GDP was at its highest, because there was a strong labour movement in the UK. So we should not be aiming to cut public spending, instead we should be looking to increase taxes along fairer lines.

If we want higher and fairer taxes, where do we start? Well 10% of the British population own £4 trillion, with an average of £4 million per household, and the total personal wealth of the UK is £9 trillion, the bottom half of the populace owns less than 9% of such wealth. The richest 10% hold the bulk of the wealth in the form of property and pensions, as well as paintings and antiques etc. Greg Philo proposes a one-off 20% tax of this group, it would rake in around £800 billion and would hold the richest people in Britain accountable for their role in the financial crisis. The tax could be paid at a low rate of interest over a number of years, like student loan repayments really. If they wish they could make it a charge on their property when they die. Of course, this might be extreme to some so let's survey other options.

A crackdown on tax evasion and closing of loopholes in the tax system could save around £50 billion to £100 billion a year. Raising the rate of income tax on those earning over £100,000 a year to 50% would raise £2.3 billion. £15 billion more could be raised by blocking high earners, those earning more than £100,000 a year, from claiming more than £5,000 a year in tax relief. An empty property tax could raise £5 billion a year and replacing VAT with a progressive "bank debit tax" could deliver over £4 billion to the Treasury a year. Removing the cap on national insurance contributions, extending national insurance to investment income, would raise £10 billion a year. It's estimated that the 'Robin Hood Tax' could yield £20 billion a year. And these are only a few suggestions, there are many others out there. There is never no alternative.

Taxation is not the only area in need of change, the entire economy needs change. The financialisation of the economy since 1979 has led to a decline in the manufacturing sector share of GDP, falling from 20% in 1997 to 12% in 2007, whilst the financial services share of GDP has risen from 5% in 1995 to 7% in 2007. Meanwhile employment in manufacturing has fallen by around 75% over the last 30 years, a 30% fall from 1979 to 1990 alone. For the long-term future we need to consider ways of reversing this process of financialisation, implementing tight regulations and capital controls. So that we can start thinking about greater economic stability, higher rates of employment and productivity. This is not just a call to return to the social democratic era that began in the 1940s - which gave us such wonders as universal health-care. As it is possible to go even further down this road in pursuit of greater equality and freedom for ordinary people.

See also:
Let's Really be in it Together
Countering the Cuts Myths 
Coalition of Resistance: Can't Pay, Won't Pay
Is there an economic crisis?
All Pain, No Gain
The Axeman's Jazz 
The Great Tax Parachute
Tory Cuts: 1979 All Over Again? 
Robin Hood Tax
There is no alternative 

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Rule by Abaddon.

Orthodoxy, Autocracy and Nationality.

There are plenty of reasons to be concerned or even outraged at the conduct of the Kremlin in recent years. At the top of the list should be the atrocities committed by Russian troops in Chechnya. Let alone the anti-democratic and extreme nationalist tendencies of Putinism, which has led to the establishment of the Nashi movement, as well as the harassment of the opposition and attacks on civil society. To top this off the Kremlin has actively tried to stamp out all dissent in the mass-media and has succeeded in marginalising independent news. The judiciary has been "compromised" and the direct election of governors has been abolished. In short, Putin is busily "hollowing out" democracy in Russia. But at the top of every one's list right now is the Kremlin's move to ban wheat exports from Russia, which came after a severe drought and a series of wild-fires. As the protectionist measures of the Kremlin are forcing up prices all over the world, though the developing world will be hit hardest by this.

The genius of Putinism is that the Russian people seem indifferent to policies which infringe on civil liberties and human rights as they have been pacified. A rising standard of living is one reason for this, according to one source, when Putin came to power the middle-class consisted of 8 million people and today the middle-class consists of 55 million people. This is partly the reason that Putin's approval ratings have never dropped below 60%. The logic of the wheat ban is to minimise the impact on the electorate and to keep them at bay all at once. The last thing the Russian people want is to return to the 1990s when the economy descended into chaos as Boris Yeltsin put the country through economic "shock therapy". This "shock therapy" brought an end to all price controls, leading to rampant inflation, and saw all of Russian industry sold-off at dirt cheap prices to the likes of Boris Berezovsky.

This series of free-market reforms left the Russian people subject to the forces of the market and no adequate safety net to fall into. It was Putin who exiled and arrested the major oligarchs, under him a kind of order was brought to the economy along nationalist lines. It is the nationalist populism of Putin which filled the void left by the fall of Soviet communism in the early 90s. Whereas neoliberalism became a source of malfunction, servility and dispossession, from nationalism a sense of dignity, pride and security could be taken. Nationalist populism is also compatible with the permissive elements of late capitalism, as demonstrated in Putin's ridiculous public displays of machismo. Neoliberal dogmatism lacks the "You may!" quality which post-modern nationalism seems to provide for many. You may be proud of your country, you may use racial slurs, you may use violence in defence of the motherland and so on.

For the Motherland.

In banning wheat exports, in order to sustain his position in the Kremlin, Putin may have sentenced millions to death around the world. In 2008 the food crisis pushed 250 million more people to the verge of starvation, bringing the total number of the world's hungry to over 1 billion people - as a consequence of decisions made by banks and financial institutions. The food crisis led to riots in over 30 countries as prices soared, as food prices increased to a point where most people couldn't afford the most basic of food. The price of wheat had increased from $3 per 60-pound bushel to $25 per bushel in 2008. At a time when more wheat was produced in world history. This was a result of a "demand shock" created as the likes of Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers accumulated a mountain of long-only wheat futures. Once the financial crisis of 2008 began Western governments began to bailout banks, cutting down on food aid to the developing world along the way.

If leading economies like the US had created an international grain reserve this kind of crisis may have been averted. As it was an artificial "demand shock" that caused wheat prices to skyrocket as aggregate demand exceeded aggregate supply. Of course, the desperation of millions of people exacerbated the rise of prices. The price of retail wheat flour increased by 82% in Pakistan between 2007 and 2008. The global price of food increased by 80% in 2008, this included not just wheat that was affected but the price of soy, cooking oil, maize and rice etc. In Thailand the price of wholesale rice increased by 73% whilst the price of white maize in Ethiopia increased by 141%. Protectionist measures were taken in counties like the US, Britain and Russia to make sure that the impact on the market of these practices had minimal impact on the populations of their countries.

Now it looks as though a new global food bubble is on the way as speculation in the commodity futures market has led to the price of food to increase since 2009 - which is the result of financial deregulation. Putin's ban on wheat exports will further exacerbate the problem and has the potential to lead to a "domino effect" of intensified protectionist practices throughout the developed world. The bubble will inevitably burst, like the last one did in 2008. It could be that we need not just an international grain reserve, but greater economic integration, tight regulation and capital controls that transcend borders. Internationalism is the answer today, whereas nationalism should be tossed aside into the margins of history. Putin only offers the Russian people a crude answer to complex problems, at the expense of other peoples around the world, for the sake of personal gain and glory.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Staring into the Abyss.

Tony Blair has scrapped his planned book signing at Waterstones in Piccadilly, London. The stated reason was "to avoid the inconvenience to the public it would have caused". The inconvenience being the costs entailed by travel, as well as rampant egg and shoe-shopping, to show Mr Blair just what we think of him. After the debacle in Dublin Blair quickly realised that the people, who he described as a "demonic rabble" in his book, who supported him as the "lesser evil" against John Major still hate him for the way he betrayed them. Unlike Narcissus Mr Blair decided not to stare at his own reflection until he wastes away. Instead Blair has retreated to avoid confrontation and save the public from an overstretched police force. In doing so, Blair projects his own image over the situation highlighting his "considerate" decision and not his cowardice at the possibility of the "demonic rabble" spoiling his moment in the spotlight.

The Poodle also called for "understanding" for those who were hoping to attend the event. Even though the only moral reason to attend such an event would be to pelt him with shoes and stale food. The most moral reason to even touch a copy of his emetic propaganda is to abduct it from the biography section and leave it in the crime section for a confused Mafiophile to stumble upon. Blair is leaving signed copies for the people to buy, vandalise and displace however we see fit - gee thanks T. Another "considerate" gesture towards the ungrateful herd and ignorant masses who will trample him out of spite, I suppose. Though much of Blair's behaviour is typical of a narcissistic cynicism. Cynicism is corrosive of political idealism and when combined with Blair's brand of reactionary self-love what you have is a source of rot and not just corrosion.

Instead of just leading to compromise in the Labour Party, as the cynics who preceded him had, Blair has "hollowed out" the Labour Party and deprived the British people of a progressive party that truly represents them. The Blairites are not progressives or socialists they are neoconservatives, the most vile kind of Tory. The self-portrayal of Blair as a "moderate" who is considerate to the "rabble" but strong enough to make the right decisions is a joke and not even Blair believes in this facade. The personally signed copies of his books left for consumers are a lot like the minimum wage and the fox-hunting ban, gestures made to buy the public and continue to get away with it all. But Blair showed his colours in claiming that the BNP might turn up and wreck the day, when it was the anti-war movement that were preparing to rally outside Waterstones. To insinuate that the people who opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are "fascists" is typical of Blair's character.

We the people don't fit into Blair's world, if he could go back he would undo passing the Freedom of Information act and he would have never banned fox-hunting, at best we are to be placated but not pleased by our leaders. Blair is not unique in his contempt for the working-class, he is part of a long history of elite contempt for the poor. The patronising manner in which Blair delivers his speeches - slowly, with some forced stuttering - is further evidence of his contempt for the populace. The Founding Fathers of the USA saw flaws in democracy and were opposed to dictatorship, they instead aimed to create a "moderate government", in the words of Alexander Hamilton, which is neither totally democratic nor totalitarian. The threat of democracy is that it could enable the poor to seize the property and wealth of the upper-class. The problem of democracy goes way back and there have been many proposed solutions to the problem.

Many of the Founding Fathers, most notably Madison, thought that the US should avoid the extremes of democracy, so that the rich could keep hold of a large amount of property and wealth. Whereas, Aristotle thought that the way to resolve the problem of democracy is to create a more equal society. If there is a more equal distribution of property and wealth there is less of a chance that the poor would seize the property and wealth of the elites. It could be that the enactment of the minimum wage, and other gestures of good will, were the initial way to deal with the problem of democracy. But the Blairites were also for a national DNA database, ID cards, ASBOs, the surveillance state and greater powers to the police. Not to mention the economic policies which were devoted to a lightly regulated financial system and a tax system which benefited the wealthiest of citizens. These aspects of Blairism are closer to the view that democracy should be avoided in its most "extreme form".

This is the context behind the gestures that Blair thinks make him a "progressive", as well as his displays of narcissism. It is a disgrace that such a person became the leader of the Labour Party, a disgrace to the Party's radical heritage which created the National Health Service. All of the candidates for the leadership are also an embarrassment to the likes of Clement Attlee and Aneurin Bevan. There is no radical candidate, only Blairites and cynics like Diane Abbott, and it seems inevitable that Blair will be succeeded by David Miliband. The contest fails to deliver in meeting the minimal standards of our political system, a party led by any of the candidates would not be a credible "lesser evil" to the Con-Dems. It would seem that the consequence of the leadership bout, no matter who wins, will be to strengthen the coalition and further alienate the public. Unless a truly radical or progressive alternative is presented, its positions properly defended and its arguments disseminated, change is unlikely.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Shame on You, Mr Blair!

A Journey is the title of the self-serving piece of narcissistic trash churned out by Tony Blair, like so many other lies, for the "rabble" to feast upon. Clearly, Mr Blair is not content with the Medal of Freedom from George Bush, the £20 million he has amassed since he left office or his cushy job as Peace Envoy to the Middle East. No, it is not enough for him, he must play a part in crafting his own legacy. Blair can't help himself, he must distort the truth further for the sake of self-glorification. Mr Blair would prefer it if we, the people he despises, were to remember him as a "progressive" for implementing the minimum wage, working tax-credits, repealing Section 28 and devolving power to Scotland and Wales. These were just tokens, symbolic gestures, Blair threw to the "rabble" to look like a "progressive". Blair is less proud of banning fox hunting, which he boasts of sabotaging in his book, and coming up with the Freedom of Information act, because it enables journalists to ask annoying questions.

The donation Blair has made to British troops is also a token, a symbolic gesture of caring to help the image. Of course, in donating the proceeds to soldiers Blair does not absolve him of the role he played in engineering a blood bath in the Middle East. There is no compensation for the 1 million-plus Iraqis slaughtered and the 4 million displaced because of the decision made under him. If we lived in a civilised society the Blair cabinet and the Bush administration would be in the Hague. He would rather we forgot about Iraq and Afghanistan, rather we remember him as a great man for bringing peace to Ireland and the Balkans. But we the people, whom he harbours such contempt for, should not forget him as the neoconservative who opposed tighter regulations of banking whilst supporting a campaign of violence in the Middle East.

In 2007 Blair was driven out of office, he was succeeded by the much loathed Gordon Brown, just one year short of meeting Thatcher's record of 11 years in power - a goal so petty we know it must have consumed him. In retrospect it was sad to see Blair leave office so prematurely, as we were denied the pleasure of his downfall and had to "make-do" with Brown. He has only resurfaced recently to peddle copies of his mediocre book, which Richard Seymour described as "Blair's fat little compendium of pseudo-revelations, attacks on personal acquaintances and colleagues, self-justifying circumlocutions, political polemic, and narcissistic reflections, comes with its own self-destruct button." In which Blair compares himself to Lady Diana, as she was as manipulative as he is apparently, and remarks that he felt "armoured and able to float above the demonic rabble tethering at his limbs."

Recently, when being interviewed by Andrew Marr, Blair appeared glib as always. He was keen to come across as the maker of right decisions and humble enough to admit a few faults. The "right decision" being the invasion of Iraq, the "fault" being the ban on fox hunting. But it would be a gross understatement to say that Blair is "out-of-touch". As the old Poodle is now to the Right of Nick Clegg on foreign policy and to the Right of David Cameron on ID cards, civil liberties and immigration. Blair even claims that Brown lost the election because he deviated from the "New Labour programme" and insisted that the Labour Party has to be open to "successful people", like himself obviously. This Poodle has even gone so far as to back the Con-Dem Coalition in the cuts agenda they are pursuing, further demonstrating that his loyalty to the Labour Party is little more than a shallow tribal instinct. The only thing "red" about Tony Blair is the blood under his fingernails.

Whether he likes it or not, Tony Blair will go down in history for his part in the illegal invasion of Iraq and the shameful way in which he aligned himself with the Bush administration. He claims that aligning himself with the Bushites brought him closer to the American people, even though Bush was anointed by the US Supreme Court not the American people and out of a populace of over 300 million people only 50 million people voted for Bush. We should not forget that 'George the Anointed' and his policies only really benefited around 1% of Americans. It was the richest 1% of the population which gained $1.6 trillion under the Bush tax-cuts. So the invasion of Iraq, an act of aggression which would be condemned under the Nuremberg principles, is certainly not a crime perpetrated by the majority of the American people - the same is true of Britain. The responsibility lies on the members of the Blair cabinet and the Bush administration. To call these people "liars" would be to presuppose the false notion that they can even tell the truth.

In the Andrew Marr interview Blair proclaimed that it is moral to overthrow tyrants because they are tyrants. Though he was keen to point out exceptions, such as Mugabe, exceptions made along "pragmatic grounds". Of course King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Hosni Mubarak, dictators backed by Britain and America, were not examples of his choice. This is the principle which is supposed to vindicate Mr Blair of the illegal invasion of Iraq and the deaths of over 1 million Iraqis. Though he still claims that the invasion was down to Saddam's violations of UN resolutions over weapons of mass-destruction. Blair has backed away from a previous statement in which he "revealed" that he would have invaded Iraq even if he had known that Saddam did not have WMD. After realising that this is an indefensible position which leaves him vulnerable to even more criticism Blair backed away from it.

The Poodle also claimed that the invasion of Iraq was not for America, it was for Britain. The truth is that it was not for a country at all. The no-bid reconstruction contracts handed over to companies like Halliburton and Bechtel via executive agreements are evidence of this. It's been estimated that 80% of Iraqi oil has been seized by American and British energy corporations. Not only that, the economy of Iraq has been transformed - for the worst - with the public sector being decimated by a series of economic reforms known as "shock therapy". These policies were not the result of a "fledgling democracy" but were imposed through the Coalition Provisional Authority, which was made up of Americans and Brits. It was "shock therapy", which slashed the corporation tax down from 40% to 15% and has allowed multinational corporations to transfer 100% of their profits out of Iraq tax-free. The war Blair embarked on for Britain, was more like an armed looting spree by corporations.

Blair is not the first to bring out a book to set the record "straight", and he will not be the last either. George W Bush will be releasing his book Decision Points in November of this year. As Michael Moore once said, we live in fictitious times in which we have fictitious election results and fictitious governments who send the poor off to kill other poor people for fictitious reasons. Shame on you, Mr Blair! Though it is no surprise that these people are now attempting to sway and distort history in their favour. Let's hope that New Labour and its "noble lies" are dead now, the only way forward for the Labour Party is a return to its heritage of working-class radicalism. Nothing short of a trial in the Hague would be a moral end to this chapter in 21st Century politics. Sadly the chapter may outlive Blair and Bush, as the extremities of the past decade will reverberate throughout government for years to come.