White-washing the working class

 By Daniel Margrain

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During my teenage years through to my mid-20s (roughly 1975-1985), people in the north of England and Scotland always appeared to me to be far more class conscious than those of us down south. This admittedly anecdotal geographical distinction can probably, in part, be explained in terms of how, historically, the development of modern capitalism tended to result in higher relative concentrations of heavy industry in the former compared to the latter.

But can it be inferred from my anecdotal observation that the UK population during the early 1980s, in general, were more class conscious than they are today? It would appear not. According to the British Social Attitudes Survey, “the proportions of people identifying as working and middle class, and the perception that a person’s class affects their opportunities have remained stable since the early 1980s.”

So what’s going on?

One key issue that has resulted in a dramatic shift in attitudes over the last few decades is the extent to which the perception of class relates to welfare:

“In 1984 measures of social class such as economic status, socio-economic group and income level had strong correlations with both welfare and liberal attitudes. For example, lower socio-economic groups were more likely to support increased government taxation and spending … In 2012, although there is a relatively high continuity, there are some indications that class has declined in importance.”

The BSAS survey would appear to reinforce the widely held notion that working class attitudes to people on benefits have hardened over the last three decades as the harshness of neoliberalism has kicked in.

Many workers display, at best, an ambivalent and at worst, a morally superior attitude towards other working class people who they regard as being lower on the socioeconomic scale than they are. In the more extreme cases, this has manifested in violence directed against immigrants and disabled people on the streets of Britain.

The obvious corollary of this set of relationships, is that rather than the prospect of the poor uniting outwardly as one against the forces that oppress them, many instead turn inward by attacking others in similar situations to themselves. Implicit in this, is the notion that the ruling class, through the implementation of the classic divide and conquer tactic, seek to weaken working class resistance to their politics of cruelty.

The way the ruling class achieve this is by shifting the public’s perception of the importance of class understood objectively in terms of the relationship workers have to the means of production, towards their acceptance of its re-definition, subjectively, as an occupation and lifestyle category.

Media complicity

The corporate media is deeply complicit in this process. Mass consumption and corporate advertising reinforce the notion that subjective lifestyle choices supplant class as the overriding driving force in society. Consequently, instead of the perception that individuals are part of a broader collective schema identifiable as an objective class-based stratified system, they are made to feel powerless and their lives absent of tangible meaning.

Retail therapy, embodied in consumption, is the form of displacement activity preferred by the establishment as their method of ensuring the working class is contained. The role retail therapy plays in the transformation of the citizen from political actor to passive consumer and subject, is crucial to the process of negating collective class-based mobilizations and revolutionary impulses.

Following the obliteration of the concept of the working class, the need for overt forms of oppression are correspondingly minimized. This is where the corporate mass media comes into its own. The celebrity lifestyles of the rich and famous and other forms of ‘infotainment’ whose purpose is to encourage the masses to consume, fill the gap left over by ‘news’.

It’s hard to disagree with journalist Jonathan Cook who said that consumers “are being constantly spun by the media machine that’s the modern equivalent of “soma”, the drug in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World that its citizens were fed to keep them docile and happy.”

Thus, under such circumstances, the use of violence by the state against its subjects is unnecessary. The creation of a passive and docile public is the ‘secret’ that lays behind the ability of governments’ to engender an overarching false sense of social stability.

Crucially, a ‘successful’ totalitarian democracy is one in which the ruling class manages to convince a significant amount of its working class minions that what defines them as human beings, is not the extent to which they may, or may not, exercise collective economic control over the productive resources of society, but rather the extent to which they are able to engage them politically by way of the individual choices they make as consumers.

Propaganda

The ruling class have succeeded in their propaganda by deliberately separating out the economic and political spheres. The strategy serves an ideological purpose predicated on an illusion. The illusion is that the granting of political rights matters.

Unlike formal authoritarian regimes, their formal democratic counterparts understand the important role the use of language plays in terms of the ability of the ruling class to sustain this illusion.

In this sense, formal dictators have largely failed to grasp that it’s not necessary to engage in traditional methods of oppression in order to maintain control of the levers of the state. In other words, they have largely failed to understand that ‘successful’ thought control reduces the need for tanks, guns and torture.

Far better from the perspective of the ruling class to create the illusion of freedom by legislating for the right of the masses to demonstrate, politically, outside the Ritz while simultaneously convincing them of the parallel illusion that economically they will be able to join with the ranks of the elite class on the inside if only they were to work hard enough.

It’s precisely the perpetuation of this myth that, for example, continues to sustain a post-Mandela South Africa apartheid state reconfigured from a system based on politics-race to one based on economics. The South Africa example illustrates, vividly, the fact that granting the political right of the masses to vote and demonstrate does nothing to fundamentally change the underlying uneven economic class structure of society.

Although racist apartheid officially ended decades ago, black people in South Africa proportionately continue to suffer the worst social and economic outcomes. The ideology of aspiration perpetuates a myth that assumes an acceptance by the masses of what Peter Stefanovic aptly referred to as the ruling classes prevailing ‘Downton Abbey’ vision of the world where everybody’s role in society is fixed and follows a set pattern.

This is a regressive colonial faded notion of society in which the ruling class is able to project its power onto the rest of the world. It’s an archaic and retarded vision favoured by the likes of pro-nuclear weapons and fox hunting enthusiast, Theresa May and medievalist racist, Nigel Farage. This prevailing orthodoxy, in other words, is one in which the inherent structure of society is regarded as unchanging and everlasting.

The Conservative party are the embodiment of the notion that the existing class structure is in stasis. The attempt by the political-media establishment to white-wash class as an objective category from public discourse at the expense of the promotion of the cult of aspiration and lifestyle enhancement, is key to their ability to control the masses. For how much longer they will be able to continue to fool enough of the people all of the time, remains to be seen.

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Fraudulent democracy

By Daniel Margrain

Image result for pics of corbyn and may together

In a genuine democracy, contrasting and conflicting ideas would be presented in the media in a fair and balanced way to allow the public to make informed choices at General Elections. But in reality, the media corporations who provide the electorate with ‘news’ are antithetical to the kind of democratic accountability they purport to espouse.

That the growth of democracy in the twentieth century has occurred alongside the growth of corporate propaganda, is concomitant to the lack of genuine democracy which prevents the public from being able to make the kinds of informed political choices described. In short, corporate media propaganda is used to protect corporate media power against genuine democratic forces.

Nowhere is this better illustrated than the media’s negative reaction to Jeremy Corbyn’s rise to the position of Labour party leader which was secured through genuine grass-roots democratic forces. The well documented attacks against Corbyn which are largely ideological, will almost certainly increase in intensity as the General Election gets closer.

The leaking of Labour’s election manifesto pledges by the Tories accompanied by an obliging mass media were intended to form part of the strategy of attack. However, what they didn’t take into account was the extent to which the public were supportive of the proposals. Rather than proving to be unpopular, Corbyn’s plans that include “a series of [viable] proposals on investing in public services, taxing the wealthiest and scrapping tuition fees…are popular with millions of people” [1]. Indeed, the public overwhelmingly support Labour’s nationalization pledges across the board.

Concentration of power

If the election was to be hypothetically decided on the basis of Corbyn’s policies alone, the Labour leader would win it hands down. But the media conglomerates are guided by another agenda which is to ensure their privileges and concentration of power are maintained. As Corbyn potentially prevents them from sustaining this state of affairs, the public’s attention has to be diverted from the core issues, towards the emphasis on the Labour leader’s alleged personal traits.

All things being equal, it’s not the case that Corbyn hasn’t a realistic chance of winning the next General Election, rather, it’s more a case that the corporate political-media establishment will do everything in their power to ensure that he doesn’t. If that means it’s necessary for them to depict him unfairly as a bumbling idiot, then so be it.

The disconnect between the popularity of Corbyn’s policies, and his inaccurate portrayal by the media, is deliberate. The intention is to dis-associate him, as an individual, from his popular policies in the public’s collective mindset.

The strategy appears to have traction. Labour’s gap with the Tories in the polls is huge, albeit steadily closing. Yet, as previously highlighted, Corbyn’s policies on key issues are widely popular with voters. How else to explain this apparent dichotomy other than putting it down to the notion that the media’s demonization of Corbyn is working?

Isabella Stone provides some useful observations:

“It’s hardly difficult to discern how people might be being influenced to a negative view of Jeremy Corbyn and Labour. I’ve just come back from my local Co-op where I had to stand in the checkout queue next to the newspaper stand. Virtually all the papers (except the Mirror) had negative headlines about Corbyn; the Mail, Sun and Express featuring unflattering photos of him and shrieking headlines about how much his policies are going to cost us all.

The Daily Telegraph even stooped to showing a photograph of Len McCluskey sprawled on some steps, having accidentally tripped. The implication of this last was that the man is a clumsy prat, rather than an unfortunate person who may have hurt himself in an accident. Even the Radio 4 Today programme presenters had a little giggle this morning over a joke about Mr McCluskey’s “clumsiness”. You don’t have to be remotely interested in politics to get the message.”

But it’s not just the typical right-wing press who are engaged in the smearing of Corbyn. The corporate media’s hostility towards the Labour leader crosses the traditional left-right divide (in truth, a close-knit ideological consensus of opinion). The “liberal-left” Guardian is no exception. This is despite the fact they are eager to portray themselves as being above the fray in terms of the promotion of the laughable idea their mission is to bring power to account:

“Here at the Guardian, ideas and opinions have the power to change the world for the better. Our independent journalism holds power to account across the globe and brings information that is suppressed into the public domain.”

Presumably, what the Guardian refer to as “holding power to account” includes their demonization of the leader of the opposition in terms professor James Curran described as “an enormously simplifying first draft of history.”

To my knowledge, not once has the Guardian challenged any of the Corbyn propaganda myths reproduced by their market competitors. They include the notion the Labour leader supports Hamas, is a cheerleader for anti-semites, has funded Holocaust deniers, has tolerated anti-semitism in the Labour party, has been on the payroll of state-funded Iranian media and is an apologist for the IRA.

While the media regularly bring up Corbyn’s connections with the latter, they have never mentioned Michael Fallon’s support for apartheid South Africa, his opposition to all international sanctions against the apartheid regime, in addition to British government interventions in individual cases of human rights abuse (see Craig Murray).

This kind of bias and media hypocrisy is consistent with academic research:

  • The London School of Economics and Political Science found strong media bias against Corbyn, claiming the press had turned into an “attack dog” against the opposition leader.
  • The UK’s public service broadcaster gave double the airtime to Corbyn’s critics than to his allies at the start of the 2016 Labour coup, according to content analysis from the Media Reform Coalition.
  • An LSE survey found that 74 per cent of newspaper articles ‘offered either no or a highly distorted account of Corbyn’s views and ideas’ and that only 9 per cent were ‘positive’ in tone.
  •  Research carried out at Birkbeck similarly found a strong bias in ‘mainstream media coverage’.

Battle lines

Given the evidence outlined above, it is clear that battle lines have been drawn, not between left and right competing political factions and policies, but rather what are regarded as the acceptable boundaries by which these contrasting narrative are allowed to be expressed and the lies and misinformation challenged.

What is rarely acknowledged is that the true nature of corporate power would be revealed if these forbidden lines were to be exceeded. But since they are not, the media’s:

“changing contours are seldom explored, its goals and targets seldom identified. This is counterfeit journalism because the surface of events is not disturbed. It is ironic that, while corruption among the system’s managers and subalterns is at times brilliantly exposed by a group of exceptional journalists, the wider corruption is unseen and unreported” [2].

The extent to which counterfeit journalism is able to continue functioning depends largely on its ability to manipulate the public through media propaganda by manufacturing their consent. This is largely achieved through coordinated political and corporate media mass campaigns that combine sophisticated public relations techniques. As Noam Chomsky explains:

“The primary function of the mass media…is to mobilize public support for the special interests that dominate the government and the private sector. The need for the dominant forces in society (a relatively concentrated network of corporations including media), to satisfy their interests, imposes some very sharp constraints on the political and ideological systems”.

The greater Jeremy Corbyn’s perceived threat to the corporate media’s attempts to manufacture the public’s consent, it correspondingly stands to reason the greater will be the media’s personal attacks against him. Under these circumstances, a fair and honest evaluation of Corbyn’s popular policies would, from their perspective, be counter-productive. Far better to undermine his credibility by drowning out his policies.

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Theresa May’s dictatorship wouldn’t be possible without the complicity of the corporate mass media

By Daniel Margrain

Image result for pics of kim jong-theresa may

In 1978, the Australian social scientist, Alex Carey, pointed out that the twentieth century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: “the growth of democracy; the growth of corporate power; and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.”

In order to defend their interests against the forces of democracy, the corporations that now dominate much of the domestic and global economies recognize the need to manipulate the public through media propaganda by manufacturing their consent. This is largely achieved through coordinated mass campaigns that combine sophisticated public relations techniques.

The result is the media underplay, or even ignore, the economic and ideological motivations that drive the social policy decisions and strategies of governments’. Sharon Beder outlines the reasoning behind the coordinated political, corporate and media attacks on democracy:

“The purpose of this propaganda onslaught has been to persuade a majority of people that it is in their interests to eschew their own power as workers and citizens, and forego their democratic right to restrain and regulate business activity. As a result the political agenda is now largely confined to policies aimed at furthering business interests.”

This is the context in which the UK political and media establishment continue to attack Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. The establishment are well aware that Corbyn can’t be bought off on their terms. The Labour leader’s sincerity, integrity and incorruptibility, represents a potential threat to these privileges and the gravy train that sustains them.

It’s the possibility that Corbyn will break the iron-clad neoliberal consensus that underscores what has arguably been some of the most vitriolic and biased reportage ever witnessed against any British political figure.

Media hate-fest

What Media Lens accurately described as a “panic-driven hysterical hate-fest right across the corporate media spectrum,” began during Corbyn’s campaign to become leader. As the media analysts noted at the time of the leadership election, “the full extent of media bias against Jeremy Corbyn can be gauged simply by comparing the tone and intensity of attacks on him as compared to those directed at the other three candidates: Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall.”

The level of the media attacks against Corbyn continued after he secured ‘the largest mandate ever won by a party leader’. The focus of these attacks included what colour poppy he would wear, his refusal to sing the national anthem or whether he would wear a tie or do up his top button. All of this was granted national news headlines and incessant coverage.

Not to be outdone, in October 2015, the BBCs political editor Laura Kuenssberg featured in an almost comically biased, at times openly scornful, attack on Corbyn’s reasonable stance on nuclear weapons. The BBC then broadcast five senior New Labour figures all opposing Corbyn without any opportunity for an alternative viewpoint.

Kuenssberg followed up this hatchet-job three months later when she helped to orchestrate the live resignation of Labour shadow foreign minister Stephen Doughty on the BBC2 Daily Politics show as a pre-requisite to accusing Corbyn’s team of ‘unpleasant operations’ and ‘lies’. Then came the April 12, 2016 Telegraph article – a non-story about Corbyn’s state-funded salary and pension.

Not to be outdone, eleven months later (March 5, 2017), the same rag continued with the smears by suggesting Corbyn had paid insufficient tax on his declared annual earnings – a claim subsequently debunked within hours on social media. Meanwhile, the news that Tory Chancellor, Philip Hammond, refused point-blank to publish his own tax returns after being prompted to do so by Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, did not receive anything like the same kind of media scrutiny.

The implication was that Corbyn had misled the public. However, similar media outrage was not leveled at PM Theresa May after it was revealed (March 7, 2017) that she had lied to parliament after having falsely claimed that Surrey Council had not engaged in a ‘sweat heart’ deal with the Conservative government.

Academic studies prove that when it comes to criticising Corbyn’s political opponents, a completely different set of media standards are applied:

  • A major content analysis from Cardiff University revealed that the BBC is pro-business and Conservative-leaning in its coverage.
  • The London School of Economics and Political Science found strong media bias against Corbyn, claiming the press had turned into an “attack dog” against the opposition leader.
  • The UK’s public service broadcaster gave double the airtime to Corbyn’s critics than to his allies at the start of the 2016 Labour coup, according to content analysis from the Media Reform Coalition.

The graphic below indicates the extent to which the powerful frame the media agenda:

Image may contain: 14 people, people smiling

Popularity

The evidence of bias outlined by the academic research and the concentration of power above, is proof-positive that the media propaganda against Corbyn is systematic and entrenched. Nevertheless, this is having no negative impact on the Labour leaders popularity among members and supporters. On the contrary, it seems to be having the reverse affect.

The Labour party gained 60,000 members in one week following the attempted coup against Corbyn. Membership is currently higher than it’s previous peak of 405,000 last seen under Tony Blair’s leadership. In his constituency of Islington North, Corbyn inherited a majority of 4,456, which is now 21,194. He’s one of the few Labour MPs whose vote increased between 2005 and 2010, when he added 5,685 to his majority.

Furthermore, LondonBristol and Greater Manchester now have Labour mayors, rolling back years of Tory dominance, while Labour’s majorities in by-elections have generally increased. It must also be remembered that pre-coup, Labour led the Tories in three polls in a row over 41 days. The long-term decline in Labour’s fortunes that preceded Corbyn can hardly be blamed on the Labour leader.

Nevertheless, that hasn’t prevented many opportunistic and self-serving careerists within the party from doing so. Corbyn’s alleged weakness at the dispatch box is presented as evidence of ‘ineffectual opposition’ despite the fact that under his leadership the Tories have been forced into some thirty policy u-turns. In terms of some of the core domestic policy issues, Corbyn has the support of the majority of the British public.

Snap election

Following Theresa May’s surprise decision to call a snap election for June 8, 2017, the media bias against Corbyn appears to have been stepped up yet another notch, particularly by, but not limited to, the gutter Murdoch press.

During the build-up to the General Election, the BBC for example, no longer even pretend to be impartial, as the Tweets below illustrate:

 

 

The latter, more than any other BBC correspondent, seems to have a particular dislike of Corbyn that borders on the outright contemptuous. This is best summed up by Media Lens who critiqued Kuenssberg’s “subtle insidious use of language” in a hit-piece that “betrays an inherent bias against Corbyn and his policies”:

“…rather than scramble to cover up his past views for fear they would be unpopular.”

The media analysts continue:

“Just putting those words in her piece – ‘scramble’, ‘cover up’, ‘unpopular’ – immediately inserts those words in the reader’s mind along with ‘Corbyn’; it encourages the reader to associate those words with the Labour leader. Consciously or not (likely the latter), she is deploying a well-known propaganda technique.

Moreover, when has Kuenssberg ever pressed May over the PM’s voting record on Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen? There is no need for May to ‘scramble’ to ‘cover up’ her past views because the ‘mainstream’ media rarely, if ever, seriously challenge her about being consistently wrong about her foreign policy choices; not least, decisions to go to war.”

In response to the Media Lens quote above, reader Matthew Alford, remarked on an “equally grotesque” example of BBC bias he witnessed on the BBC 10 O’clock News the previous evening: “This certainly did not look like a manifesto that had been scribbled on the back of a fag packet”. So why not just say “This was a professionally presented manifesto? Is it remotely conceivable that they would have said: ‘Theresa May’s manifesto was definitely not done on the back of a beer mat’?”, exclaimed Alford.

This kind of sustained bias against Corbyn is, as to be expected, the result of an increasingly concentrated foreign ownership of the UK media who favour the Tories at the General Election, not least because of May’s hard Brexit strategy. This the mass media frequently depict as being indicative of the PMs ‘strength and stable’ leadership. Conversely, their antagonistic tone and depiction of Corbyn as weak and calamitous, is the opposite of the truth.

In a rare moment of honesty, The Guardian’s Roy Greenslade wrote:

“Mainstream media as a whole took its gloves off and Corbyn’s electoral hopes have been doomed from day one. He was “a great leap backwards”, said the Mail. Beware this “absurd Marxist”, said the Express, while the Daily Telegraph referred to his “divisive ideology” and “atavistic hostility to wealth and success”. And the Sun? It just called him “bonkers”. There was scepticism too from the liberal left. The Independent thought he would not persuade middle England to accept his policies.

Neither the Daily Mirror nor the Guardian greeted him with open arms. Support for Corbyn on social media made no impact. Meanwhile, the overall anti-Corbyn agenda, repeated week upon week, month after month, was one that broadcasters were unable to overlook, despite their belief in balance and adherence to impartiality. News bulletin reports reflected the headlines. Current affairs programmes picked up on the themes. That’s how media narratives are constructed.”

Strategies

The election campaign strategies of the two leaders couldn’t be more different. While May’s robotic and lacklustre performance overseen by Lynton Crosby’s single issue Brexit strategy is being engineered to avoid public and media scrutiny, Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign has been marked by a willingness to engage with the public. While Corbyn has been open, transparent and accountable, May has been robotic, secretive and aloof.

While May comes across as cold, calculating and lacking in human empathy, Corbyn comes across as being totally at ease with the public, smiling and relaxed in their company. Corbyn has openly espoused his philosophy and numerous policy initiatives, many of them significant. May, by contrast, appears to have no policies to discuss and comes across as somebody who is instinctively autocratic and awkward.

Whereas Corbyn’s campaigning has been marked by spontaneity and his willingness to reply to previously unseen questions in public meetings and press conferences, May’s series of stage-managed PR stunts are exemplified by an eagerness to rely on focus groups and a carefully selected media who provide her with questions pre-vetted and selected in advance by the Tory Party.

The attempts by the Tories to restrict the media from asking May any probing questions, was highlighted by Channel 4 News journalist, Michael Crick, after he admitted to apparently being shocked that “reporters collaborate with May’s press team by agreeing to reveal their questions to them in advance.”

In contrast to Crick’s realism, the BBCs Eleanor Garnier is clearly of the opinion that she is not subject to this kind of overt media censorship. Garnier tweeted: “I didn’t discuss question or topic of question with May’s team. If I was ever asked to give my question there is no way I would. Ever.”

Whatever is being taught on journalism courses these days, the work of Chomsky and Herman is clearly not on the syllabus. My advice to Garnier is to spend 30 minutes watching the formers demolition of Andrew Marr before taking on her next journalistic assignment. That Garnier, as a BBC journalist, fails to recognise that access is determined by the lack of difficult or challenging questions indicative of how the media works, is frankly staggering.

What is equally staggering, is the fact that lack of access and the closing of journalistic ranks with the governments complicity, is not seen as an outrageous attack on civil liberties, democratic accountability and press freedom.

Dictatorship

In Britain in 2017, we are faced with a situation in which the public are being denied information to enable them to be able to make an informed choice ahead of the General Election. This is totally outrageous. As Craig Murray puts it:

“The idea that the head of the government both gets to choose what they have asked, and gets advance warning of every question so they can look sharp with their answer, is totally antithetical to every notion of democratic accountability. If we had anything approaching a genuine free media, there would be absolute outrage. All genuine media organisations would react by boycotting such events and simply refusing to cover them at all.”

It should be remembered that Theresa May was not elected as PM. She is silent about what her policies are, refuses to engage with the public and be open with journalists, and finally, is denying the opportunity of a face-to-face TV debate with the leader of Her Majesty’s official opposition.

This is akin to a dictatorship. If the UK media were to report on a similar scenario in North Korea they would be describing the government their as authoritarian or similar. What is happening in Britain, under the guise of a free media, is that basic democratic norms are being trampled on by the government and there media accomplices, and hardly anybody in the British establishment is blinking an eyelid.

 

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Why I will be voting for Corbyn on June 8, *not* for the Labour candidate

By Daniel Margrain

Image result for pics of jeremy newmark

On May 4, 2017, the free weekly newspaper, Barnet Press, reported on the announcement of the three Labour candidates who are to contest the seats in my area at the forthcoming General Election.

The candidate standing for the Finchley and Golders Green constituency is Jeremy Newmark, who the paper describes as a “former chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council” and “former spokesman for Jonathan Sacks, who was Chief Rabbi from 1991 to 2013.”

Currently, Newmark chairs the Labour party-affiliated, Jewish Labour Movement (JLM). The JLM is also affiliated to the Israeli Labor Party and the World Zionist Organization. According to the UN, the latter pumps millions into building in the occupied West Bank through its settlement division.

In my view, Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader is the best thing to have happened to the party and, potentially, to the people of the country, in decades. But I’m going to find it extremely hard, on a matter of principle, to vote for my selected Labour constituency candidate whose credentials I regard to be highly questionable.

A great deal has been written and covertly filmed about how the Israel lobby and the JLM are using both journalists and the Blairite fringe of Labour MPs within the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership with a view to his eventual toppling using the specter of antisemitism as a weapon with which to achieve it.

Journalist Asa Winstanley contends that no mainstream journalists “have disclosed Newmark’s long-standing role in the Israel lobby, or his record of lying about anti-Semitism.”

In an excellent piece published by the Electronic Intifada (April 28, 2016), Winstanley comprehensively analyses the McCarthy-style witch-hunts by the JLM against Israel’s critics and outlines the links between right-wing, anti-Corbyn Labour and the Israel lobby within the party.

Bogus antisemitism crisis

Winstanley meticulously shows how the Israel lobby manufactured an ‘antisemitism crisis’, pinpointing the individuals involved, the tactics and dirty tricks used and the connections to individuals whose ties lead to pro-Israel groups both in London and Israel.

The investigative journalist also shows how media outlets such as the Telegraph, Huffington Post and the Jewish Chronicle have been complicit in the systematic attempt to disorientate Labour party members and supporters by either printing misinformation or reproducing unsubstantiated accusations and antisemitic smears against individuals. This in turn, has contributed to a false media narrative.

Among the individuals who instigated the fake antisemitism row highlighted by Winstanley, are David Klemperer who opposed Corbyn’s run for the labour leadership (but has since been kicked out of the party), and former Israel lobby intern, Alex Chalmers. But it is Newmark who is arguably the most influential.

The intention of the lobby is to create the impression that antisemitism is not only more prevalent within the Labour party compared with other political parties, but that it’s also more widespread compared to other forms of racism in UK society.

Neither claim stands up to scrutiny. In relation to the latter, a 2015 survey by Pew found that seven percent of the UK public held ‘unfavourable’ views of Jews. By contrast, about a fifth held negative views of Muslims and almost two-fifths viewed Roma people unfavourably.

In the aftermath of the massacres in Gaza in 2014, the London Metropolitan police recorded 358 anti-Semitic offences. Two hundred and seventy three of these were online, 36 involved criminal damage and 38 constituted “harassment”. Eleven cases of assault were recorded in which four resulted in personal injury.

One hundred and eighty thousand offences in these categories were recorded within the wider population throughout Metropolitan London. In other words, attacks against Jews in 2014 against a backdrop in which Gaza was being pulverized, made up only one in 500 of the total, while they made up around one in 86 of the population of London as a whole.

Community Security Trust (CST) figures for the first six months of last year show a rise of 15 per cent above those from the previous year. But this is from an extremely low base. The actual number of such incidents recorded for the first half of 2016 was 557. And that figure is still below that for 2014 when the Israeli assault on Gaza occurred. So claims that there has been a ‘surge’ in antisemitic incidences in recent years are false and misleading.

In terms of the former, there is no evidence to suggest that antisemitic views are any more prevalent in the Labour party which historically has been at the forefront of anti-racist and anti-fascist campaigns. On the contrary, racism and fascism is more likely to be symptomatic of far-right politics then left-wing politics.

Take the far-right ideology of Zionism as an example. Far-right political parties court the Zionist vote because Zionism is a far-right and racist political movement which, as Tony Greenstein put it, “sought to establish a Jewish state by accepting the anti-Semitic notion that Jews don’t belong in the countries they were born in.”

As a Labour supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, the decision of whether to put my cross next to the name of a hard-line Zionist and member of the Israel lobby who has lied about antisemitism and, in my view, seeks to undermine the democratic process from within, by prioritizing the interests of a foreign power over and above those of his own constituents, is not a difficult one. Zionists like Newmark have about as much in common with Corbyn as Gandhi has with Pol Pot.

Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA)

The cynical attempts to weaponize antisemitism for right-wing political purposes is also the role of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, a British propaganda organization and registered “charity”. Formed in August 2014 during a major Israeli offensive against Gaza, the aim of the CAA is to paint Palestine solidarity campaigning and opposition to Zionism as antisemitic.

The organisation is chaired by Gideon Falter, who is also a board member of the Jewish National Fund which has a long history of supporting ethnic cleansing in Palestine. The CAAs preferred McCarthyite tactic appears to be to target left-wing political activists, Corbyn supporters and journalists who are critical of Israel by abusing and smearing them with unsubstantiated allegations.

Among those who have been libeled by the group include Rebecca Massey, a prominent Labour Party activist in Brighton and Hove, Labour parliamentary and council candidate, Dinah Mulholland and the campaigning journalist and Labour party activist, Mike Sivier.

In relation to the latter, the CAA submitted an article to the press that contained “lies, doctored quotes and misinterpretations” of Sivier’s work. This resulted in his subsequent suspension from the Labour party without a proper investigation of the facts having taken place.

If the role of the CAA is to expose genuine cases of antisemitism and to promote social harmony, one would expect it to condemn far-right fascist organisations and their supporters. But as Tony Greenstein, who has himself been a victim of CAA smears, highlighted, a search of the campaign’s archive revealed just two articles that mention Britain’s main fascist organizations – the British National Party, the English Defence League and the National Front. Those groups include Holocaust deniers within their ranks.

By contrast, Greenstein pointed out there are some 77 articles attacking Jeremy Corbyn and 32 articles in the archive that attack Shami Chakrabarti, a civil liberties campaigner and now a prominent Labour politician serving as shadow attorney general.

It is obvious that the activities of the CAA and other Zionist and pro-Israel lobbying groups such as the Board of Deputies of British Jews are designed to achieve the exact opposite of what they purport to set out to do. Rather than create peace and harmony between people, they actually create tension, discord and antagonism.

This, of course, serves a political and ideological purpose. The promotion of the idea that Jews within the diaspora are under threat of antisemitism, intimidation and violence is intended to encourage their emigration to Israel thereby helping to further reinforce Zionism’s role as Israel’s state ideology.

The Israel lobby, who have a significant financial stake in the Labour party and further afield, clearly see Corbyn as an anathema to the realization of these interests. A Newmark victory in Golders Green and Finchley would almost certainly strengthen the Zionist position within the political establishment and thus help to bring the Zionist dream closer to fruition.

The disproportionate power the Israel lobby is able to exert is a major concern for anybody who values the principles of democracy. While it is wrong to suggest that Zionism and Judaism are synonymous, it is nevertheless apposite to point out that the majority of the Jewish demographic (59 per cent), which in its totality represents just 0.5 per cent of the British population, identify politically as Zionists.

The democratic process is not best served in a situation in which such a tiny section of the population supposedly has a disproportionately powerful lobby at its disposal. Although the majority of the world’s Zionists are non-Jewish, Zionism is at its core unquestionably a Jewish movement – indeed the major Jewish communal movement.

Over-representation

It’s the over-representation of Jews in the capitalist ruling class that gives the Israel- Zionist lobby it’s power. This is a historical phenomenon that actually explains the Zionist project itself and it’s purpose – to create a state expression for this distinctive bourgeois layer. The history of different peoples, of the relation of oppressed and oppressor peoples, is class based and linked to the different evolved class structures of those peoples.

The Jews have a more distinctive historically evolved class structure than many other groups. An understanding of the issues concerning questions of material reality and historical fact, is crucial to evaluating where we are today. The exploitation by racists of the facts, don’t make these facts less valid. As a society we need to talk about them as opposed to having them suppressed within the cloak of ‘antisemitism’.

The suppression of such questions risks their monopolization by the small minority of antisemites who have a racialised hatred of Jewish people. They are thankfully very rare. It’s important to keep talking about Zionism as a political category in order to refute the conflation between Zionism and Judaism that public figures such as Chief Rabbi Mirvis and others have so scandalously made.

Given the attempts to conflate the two, it should not come as any surprise why people would make the innocent mistake of using the term the ‘Jewish lobby’ in discussions or debates. Under such circumstances, it is easy to see how others with nefarious motives are able to exploit this misunderstanding for political and sectarian- racist purposes.

One such individual is the Zionist antisemite, Rupert Murdoch, who has complained that “Jewish-owned” newspapers are too critical of Israel. This illustrates how Zionists who loathe and resent Jews as Jews, unless they support a pro-Zionist political stance, are able to perpetuate the Jewish global conspiracy trope for their own narrow political objectives.

This rationale is used to explain why the JLM are able to prevent non-Zionist Jews from affiliating to their organisation while conversely accepting that non-Jewish Zionists are welcome to join. Significantly, in this sense, the JLM are more accurately described as a Zionist movement as opposed to a movement of Jews.

Arguably, nowhere is this dichotomy best illustrated than by the treatment meted out by the JLM to the Jewish anti-Zionist activist, Jackie Walker. The controversy that surrounds Ms Walker and others, as Mike Sivier posited “is not about antisemtism, but removing a person who does not support Zionism from a position of influence.”

The media attacks on Jeremy Corbyn, Ken Livingston, Jackie Walker and others, are politically motivated and represent a determined effort by the Israel lobby to make Britain’s Labour Party ‘a safe pair of hands’ for Israel and Zionism.

Defining antisemitism

The confusion that surrounds antisemitism could be easily clarified if the widely used definition of the term was simplified. But as a result of their decision to adopt the long and convoluted European Union Monitoring Centre (EUMC) definition of antisemitism, groups like the CAA and the JLM are deliberately muddying the waters.

This deeply flawed 500 word ‘new antisemitism’ or even ‘antisemitic anti-zionism’ definition authored by attorney Kenneth Stern (strangely accepted by Jeremy Corbyn), intended to combat political criticisms of Israel, is so wide in scope that it’s essentially meaningless.

Brian Klug, an Oxford academic who specializes in the study of antisemitism, manages it in 21 words: “Antisemitism is a form of hostility to Jews as Jews, where Jews are perceived as something other than what they are”.

Ultimately, the real target of Zionists like prospective Labour MP for Golders Green and Finchley, Jeremy Newmark, who insist on the EUMC definition, is not antisemitism, but the undermining of a Corbyn-led Labour Government, which they view as a very real threat to their Eretz (Greater) Yisrael project of a territory stretching from the River Nile to the River Euphrates.

As far as this writer is concerned, what is strange is that by agreeing with the Zionists that the EUMC definition has legitimacy (when in truth it is deeply flawed and has no status) does, is it emboldens Zionists in their political attacks against Jews and non-Jews alike who are rightly critical of the illegal actions of the state of Israel. I can only assume that there is still a long way to go before the corrupting influence of Zionism is removed from the democratic institutional structure of the Labour party once and for all.

The suspension from the party of the likes of millionaire Zionist donor, Michael Foster, who compared Corbyn supporters to Nazi storm troopers, is insufficient and clearly more needs to be done. Corbyn’s apparent cosying up to Zionists like Newmark and others within the party who are among the first in line to stab him in the back, while leaving long-term comrades like Ken Livingston out to dry, is a situation that ultimately, can only end in tears for the Labour leader. Corbyn’s lack of a principled stand on this matter reflects a serious weakness in his leadership.

The kind of democratic socialism espoused by the Labour leader on the one hand, and the political ideology of Zionism on the other, are irreconcilable concepts and if he fails to get a grip on the situation it could ultimately contribute to his downfall.

 

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The UK government’s failure to answer questions relating to the alleged sarin gas attack hints at a cover-up

By Daniel Margrain

Image result for pics of sarin gas attack claims

On April 4, 2017, the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad was accused of intentionally deploying poison gas in Khan Seikhoun in Idlib province in the north of the country, In response to the alleged attack, and with near-unanimous journalistic support, the United States government launched an illegal missile strike on Syria’s al-Shayrat airbase three days later (April 7, 2017).

Cathy Newman on Channel 4 News (April 10, 2017) stated as if it was a fact that President Trump’s unauthorized attack on the airbase was “in retaliation to a sarin gas attack by president Assad”. Among those joining in the chorus proclaiming Assad’s ‘guilt’ as if they were as one, was the New York Times. Reporter, Michael B Gordon, who co-authored that papers infamous fake aluminum tube story of September 8, 2002 as part of the media’s propaganda offensive leading up to the 2003 U.S-led Iraq invasion, published (along with co-author Anne Barnard) another propaganda piece.

Showing no scepticism that the Syrian military was responsible for the gas attack, the authors cited the widely discredited $100m-funded terrorist-enablers, the White Helmets, as the basis for their story. Meanwhile, Jonathan Freedland, without a shred of evidence, wrote in the Guardian: “We almost certainly know who did it. Every sign points to the regime of Bashar al-Assad”. Three days later on twitter (April 7, 2017) George Monbiot exclaimed: “We can be 99% sure the chemical weapons attack came from Syrian govt.”

In an attempt to get to the bottom of the alleged attack amid the fog of anti-Assad propaganda, I wrote an extensive article which raises a number of issues regarding the authenticity of the various claims made. More recently, journalist Peter Hitchens announced to his readers in his Mail on Sunday column (April 30, 2017), that he had sent a series of questions to the Foreign Office (FCO) about their apparent confidence with regards to Assad’s guilt over the sarin gas attack claims. In Hitchen’s view, the answers he received – which he has been prevented from publishing – were “useless, unrevealing and unresponsive”.

Three days later (May 3, 2017), Hitchens published the said questions, which the FCO “won’t or can’t answer”, in his Mail column. The questions the journalist poses are thoughtful, perceptive and often detailed. They include legitimate requests to the UK government to clarify contradictory statements and accounts. The fact that the FCO refused to answer them satisfactorily, or allow them to be published, hints very strongly at a government cover-up.

These are the questions Hitchen’s asked upon which he received worthless replies:

“In his article in the Sunday Telegraph of 16th April 2017, the Foreign Secretary states that:

‘British scientists have analysed samples from the victims of the [Khan Sheikhoun] attack.’

Where and when did they do this?

What assurances did they have of the provenance of the samples?

Who controlled the custody chain, and vouched for it?

How did they know that the samples were at no stage handled by persons with a propaganda interest in a certain outcome?

Were they at any stage under the control of Tahrir al-Sham, formerly Jabhat Fateh Al Sham (previously the Jabhat Al-Nusra), or any other part of that faction?

If not, how did they leave Syria?

Under whose custody were they between Khan Sheikhoun and the Syrian border?

How do we know?

He also says : ‘These have tested positive for sarin or a sarin-like substance.’

Eyewitness reports (cited in evidence by the Foreign Secretary) speak of ‘clouds of smoke’ (Independent 05/04/2017) and say ‘We could smell it from 500 metres away.’(Guardian 07/04/2017) and ‘The smell reached us here in the centre; it smelled like rotten food.’ (Daily Telegraph 06/04/2017).

Sarin is odourless and invisible. Videos of the attack also show responders without protective clothing, handling victims, which would be highly dangerous in dealing with victims of sarin. Does the Foreign Secretary have any view on the apparent contradiction here?

The Foreign Secretary also writes:

The UK, the US and all our key allies are of one mind: we believe that this was highly likely to be an attack by Assad, on his own people, using poison gas weapons that were banned almost 100 years ago, under the 1925 Geneva protocol. In view of this horrific evidence, the world last week once again had a choice, just as we did after the gas attack at Ghouta in 2013.

This is doubly interesting.

‘Highly likely’ is well short of a declaration that the matter is in fact proven. Yet the United Kingdom has endorsed a missile attack on a sovereign country by the United States, the pretext or reason for which was given as the alleged gas attack, which the Foreign secretary himself categorises not as proven fact but as ‘highly likely’, allegedly by the Assad government on Khan Sheikhoun.

What is the status of this attack under international law? Under which part of the UN charter is it lawful? If it *is* lawful in the case of such an action being proven, then is a belief that the alleged action by the Syrian state is ‘highly likely’ sufficient?

Who, if anybody, does the Foreign Secretary say is responsible for the Ghouta attack? On what basis does he say this?”

These are extremely important questions that need answering in order for the public to ascertain what the UK government’s role was in the events that led to the illegal US attack on Syria. The public need and demand answers to these legitimate questions to avoid a potential eventuality in which Theresa May’s government drags the country into yet another unnecessary war based on false pretenses.

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“Time to trash the Tories” by *not* voting: Steve Topple intends to spoil his ballot paper at the General Election

Image result for pics of steve topple

By Daniel Margrain

It came as a complete bolt out of the blue for this writer to learn that one of the most politically astute, articulate, insightful and widely respected journalists in a generation is to abstain from voting at the forthcoming General Election.

Steve Topple, who in many ways I saw as mentor, and who has often promoted my work on twitter where many others ignored it, yesterday (May 1, 2017) came out publicly on social media to effectively state that he sees no political value in voting at elections.

According to Topple, placing a cross next to the name of a candidate at elections is akin to endorsing a corrupt capitalist system.

In response to criticisms from readers, Topple announced the following on Facebook (May 1, 2017):

“Oh dear.

So, seemingly because I’m going to spoil my ballot at the election, I must have come to this decision from a position of privilege.

NOPE. I’ve spent years at the hands of the DWP, living off crisis loans, money people have dropped in the street, hand-outs and generally eating thin air.

I now live on a council estate with my GF and her ten-year-old son, the former who has just had all her benefits stopped. So we’re living off my Canary wage.

SO DON’T COME ONTO MY TL TELLING ME THAT BY SPOILING MY BALLOT I DON’T CARE ABOUT ALL THE BAD SHIT THAT WILL HAPPEN IF THE TORIES GET IN AGAIN.

I’ve spent 12 years living at the hands of Labour and Tory governments. And the DWP. So probably know far better than half the people commenting just how FUCKING BAD things can be.

So you can take your assumptions about ‘virtue signaling’ journalists and shove them up your prolier-than-thou arses. Or come to my estate, knock my door and try telling it to my face.”

To a certain extent, I understand and sympathize with Topple’s predicament, particularly as I learned through recent exchanges on twitter (May 3, 2017), that Steve lives in a safe Tory constituency. Just for the record, I’ve not spent twelve years living in the hands of successive Labour and Tory governments like Topple has, but thirty-eight years having first voted in 1979. So if anyone can claim to feel embittered and disillusioned, it’s people of my age who have suffered for far longer.

I, like Topple, have abstained at elections in the past in situations where no meaningful choices have been offered to the electorate. I understand the arguments that override his rejection of a capitalist system that benefits the elite ruling class minority at the expense of the rest of us.

Under normal circumstances, his arguments could be seen as a legitimate response to the actions of corrupt Labour party leaders who have put the interests of the establishment above the electorate. But these are not normal circumstances and Corbyn is far from being the usual Labour leader.

Those who have argued that the reason Topple intends to spoil his ballot paper on the basis that he is doing so from a position of privilege, are barking up the wrong tree. Anybody who has followed Steve’s journalistic career, will know that his various articles focusing on political and current affairs issues that rally against injustice and inequality are sincere and heartfelt.

This makes it all the more perplexing why Topple hadn’t decided to make an exception by refraining from spoiling his paper this time around given circumstances in which a Labour government under Corbyn would almost certainly usher in a much needed transformative kind of politics.

Apart from what I regard as Steve’s lack of wisdom in relation to his decision to spoil his ballot paper, I also reject his justification that underpins this decision. Topple’s apparent insistence that the inherent structural failings of capitalism cannot be reconciled with a democratic polity to help rein-in the systems worst excesses is, in my view, indicative of a narrow defeatist outlook.

There is no reason to believe that engaging in the political process and putting the case for a revolutionary transformation of society cannot go hand in hand. It might not be the kind of revolution Steve imagines, but that is cold comfort to those who have lost loved ones as a direct consequence of Tory austerity.

The notion that increased hardship and suffering is a necessary prerequisite to the onset of revolution, which is what Topple seems to be implying is, I would argue, ultimately selfish and, should in my view, be rejected. Too many people who are suffering untold pain under the Tories, cannot afford to wait for people like Steve Topple to be awoken from their slumber at the point at which the revolution begins.

People are suffering under the Tories in ways not witnessed since the Victorian era and they are desperately hoping for some light in what is a very long tunnel. Corbyn is the first Labour leader in decades that provides them with some much needed optimism for the future.

What we are currently seeing unfold, is potentially one of the greatest periods in British political history. An honourable and decent man who has fought off two coups against him, has too many decent folk riding on his success at the election for him to be dismissed out of hand by people who should know better.

In the hope that Steve might reconsider his decision to spoil his ballot paper, Corbyn supporter, Felicity A Wright, wrote on Facebook (May 1, 2017):

“Listen, Steve, I get it. I’m a crip and on benefit and I felt so let down by Labour that I spoiled my ballot last time by writing “None” across it. My husband, who is my full-time carer, spoiled his with more panache by writing “Clement Attlee” across it. And that’s the thing: I believe Jeremy Corbyn IS the new Clement Attlee. Have you seen his record? He’s been on the side of the poor, the weak, the voiceless from the beginning. He has been arrested for protesting against Apartheid & for refusing to pay the Poll Tax. I believe he is a genuinely good man and that, unlike the Kinnock/Blair side of the Labour Party, he cares about making a fairer society. So I’m voting Labour & so is my husband, in the hope that Jeremy really is what he seems to be. Please do the same! The Canary is one of the things which has given me this hope and is the only news outlet I actually subscribe to. Keep the faith. xxx”

Felicity is right.  There are literally millions of voters out there who see in Corbyn somebody who is not just another self-serving careerist politician, but a man who is sincere and whose is motivated by a need to make society better for the many as opposed to the few.

Having read Topple’s often brilliant polemical articles, it would seem highly improbable that he is oblivious to the differences between New Labourism exemplified by Blair and the old Labour of Corbyn. Moreover, given the political landscape since Thatcher, the notion he intends to abstain from voting, particularly as his anti-Tory polemics are so incisive, means that I’m at a loss to rationalize his thought process.

The truth is, as ill-judged as I think Topple’s decision to spoil his ballot paper is, it’s not my main point of contention. What I find particularly strange are the contents of a recent tweet of his in which the slogan “Time to trash the Tories” is invoked. It’s bizarre that “trashing the Tories” is seen by Steve as being concomitant to spoiling ones ballot paper.

Topple is not just any old bloke, but a highly influential and respected journalist who many people look up to for inspiration and guidance. In short, in the age of social media where more people than ever rely on alternative sources of information to counter the fake news of the mass media, opinions of the calibre of investigative journalists like Steve Topple matter.

Despite it’s supposed non-corporate credentials, the on-line publication Topple often writes pieces for, the Canary, is still heavily dependent on advertising revenue streams for its existence. As such, the news outlet is interwoven into the very fabric of a system Steve purports to hate.

Further, it is reasonable from the perspective of his many readers, to deduce that his effective absolving of responsibility of the election outcome, is undermined by the content of his polemical articles in which he consistently prosthelytizes against the Tories. Unfortunately, because of the contrarian position he has taken, Topple’s visceral attacks on the Tories from here on in, will lack credibility.

Yesterday (May 1, 2017) was a very sad day for me personally having learned that a writer I have long admired and respected made the incredulous decision to spoil his ballot paper – a decision that can only benefit the Tories.

I sincerely hope Steve changes his mind in the days ahead.

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In whose hands is the system safer -Corbyn or May? The views of a venture capitalist might surprise you

By Daniel Margrain

hanauer copy

“Inequality and the rise of a super rich elite is undermining the foundations of capitalism. The trappings of capitalism could be swept away by the pitchfork of revolution unless capitalism is fundamentally re-imagined”, so says American venture capitalist Nick Hanauer,

In a BBC interview with journalist Stephen Sakur in front of a live audience as part of the Hard Talk series of programmes (since removed from the BBCs i player service), one of America’s wealthiest individuals argues that capitalism, as currently configured, is not working. The thing that is said to drive Hanauer on is status not money:

“I’m not driven by money but by the need to be king of the hill. If capitalism doesn’t change fundamentally, it will destroy itself. If you allow wealth to concentrate in fewer and fewer hands over time, in the end it cannot be good for anybody, particularly people like me”, he says. “You show me a highly unequal society and I’ll show you a police state or a revolution.”

According to Hanauer, there is truth in the notion that in ‘go get’ societies like the U.S people are able to crawl out of the clutches of poverty. However, there are limits: “Aspiration is a good thing”, he says, “But aspiration in the absence of opportunity creates resentment, anger and violence. The idea that if the disenfranchised are given more incentives, they would magically become software engineers or Wall Street executives isn’t true.”

Fundamental

For Hanauer, the problems are more fundamental: “If we don’t get inequality under control then it’s likely to lead to war – a similar pattern that followed the last period of massive inequality between 1925 and 1940. The most capitalist thing you can do to prevent war is to build up the middle class. From a capitalists perspective, although it may seem a good idea in the short-term to impoverish the typical family, in the long-term it’s a catastrophe.”

Although Hanaeur posits that as an economic system capitalism has been beneficial to millions of people and “is the greatest system ever produced for lifting people out of poverty”, he nevertheless accepts it’s flaws. It fails, for example, to sufficiently “knit together agreements” thereby undermining the potential for a more equitable and sustainable distribution of the wealth that growth brings:

“In my state”, he says, “since 1990, close to 100 per cent of growth has been accrued to just 1 per cent of the top earners. People are beginning to get angry and increasingly less patient with a system that rewards nearly all of the benefits of growth to a tiny minority at the top.”

According to Hanauer, the crisis of capitalism is more acute than ever before and its problems are exacerbated by any lack of purpose which capitalism encourages: “Because we are social creatures, the only thing that gets to define society is our capacity to cooperate. In the absence of a shared purpose, people will not cooperate at which point the society will dissolve”, he says.

Trickle-down

“Trickle down economics – the idea that the money of people who become rich – permeates down to the poor, is nonsense. How can it be anything other than nonsense given the fact that inequality is on the rise and socioeconomic mobility is in reverse? I’m not arguing against capitalism but simply saying that there are ways to optimize it – to make it better for everybody.”

Hanaeur is clear that his argument isn’t intended to be a moral one: “I’m not saying that we capitalists should pay workers more because we feel sorry for them, But the more they get paid, the better it will be for venture capitalists like me. The more money ordinary folks’ make, the greater the opportunity people like me have to innovate, create enterprises and sell them stuff. The better they do, the better I do.”

Hanauer is quick to point out that the converse isn’t true: “A thriving middle class causes growth, not the other way round”, he suggests. “You can’t drive a consumer-based economy – which our economies are based on – with only the extreme wealth of the few. What we need to do is to boost the minimum wage in the U.S to 15 dollars an hour.”

The venture capitalist then goes on to suggest that capitalism needs to be further controlled through a system of planned and coordinated regulation:

“Capitalists have the idea that their things will be bought by everybody else as a result of higher wages paid by other capitalists. But this logic of paying higher wages to staff to help improve business activity more generally, doesn’t seem to apply equally to them since they will insist on paying their own workers next to nothing thereby not absorbing the costs themselves.”

Hanauer continues:

“The simple truth is, if a higher minimum wage was introduced universally, not only would it be affordable, but something like 40 per cent of American’s would be able to buy more products from everybody thus benefiting all capitalists across the board. Business is challenged today because fewer and fewer people are able to buy things.”

In other words, Hanauer is arguing here that the actions of capitalists’ need to be reined-in through a system of planned and coordinated regulation in order that the system be saved from the rapacious actions of competing capitalists who are driven, as Marx put it, by their need to “accumulate for accumulations sake”.

Contradictions

Hanauer’s pragmatic arguments are similar to those being suggested by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and shadow chancellor, John McDonnell. What all three understand – but the Tories don’t – is that the ability to accumulate for accumulations sake doesn’t necessarily lead to higher profits. One of the contradictions inherent to capitalism is that the system as a whole needs to spend money to make profits, yet every individual capitalist wants to spend as little as possible. The lengths to which giant companies like Amazon, Google and Starbucks will go in order to avoid paying tax shows how that dilemma is played out.

In theory, insisting employees work 14 or 16 hours a day for peanuts correlates to higher profits for capitalists. But in reality such an approach is very wasteful – like over-exploiting the soil. Accumulating for accumulations sake is concomitant to a deregulated economy in which the absence of relevant legislation means that capitalists will insist their workers are worked to the bone for as little money as possible for fear of the former losing their competitive advantage over their rivals.

What Hanauer and the Labour party under Corbyn are able to grasp is that the introduction of labour and wage regulations that the Tories try their utmost to resist, actually improves productivity, that from the perspective of the capitalist system, is beneficial to everybody.

This brings me back to the wisdom implicit in the Nick Hanauer quote above. Hanaeur’s argument about the necessity of the United States government to substantially increase the legal minimum wage across the board in order to save capitalism from itself, is in principle, no different from the minority of capitalists in 19th century Britain who argued in favour of the introduction of the Factory Acts of the 1830s and 1840s which set down a maximum length for the working day.

Re-think

In reality, an advanced low wage and minimal welfare provision capitalist state like Britain is the modern equivalent of its counterpart during the industrial revolution prior to the introduction of the Factory Acts. What enlightened capitalists like Hanauer, as well as pragmatic socialists like Corbyn and McDonnell grasp, is the necessity to radically re-think the failed neoliberal ‘trickle up’ economic model of austerity – in which, for example, huge subsidies are paid to rich landowners – and instead reconfigure policy towards a Keynesian demand-led strategy which redistributes wealth towards the bottom.

The former is what economist Paul Krugman describes  bluntly as “a con that does nothing but harm the wealth of this nation. It has been discredited everywhere else: only in Britain do we cling to the myth.”

As inequality continues to rise, so does the potential for public disorder. At present, the richest tenth pay 35 per cent of their income in tax, while the poorest tenth pay 43 per cent. Is it too much to ask that those with the deepest pockets pay their way, thus creating the potential for the kind of equitable society in which everybody wins?

This is not pie in the sky stuff but a pragmatic solution to the problems we face. Politicians like Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Caroline Lucas, as well as economists like Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz – all of whom are ideologically as far apart as its possible to be from venture capitalist Nick Hanauer –  are nevertheless in agreement that the direction of travel the Tories are on is wrong.

As far as the possibility for change in the future is concerned, Hanauer says:

“Most American’s (and by extension, British) have accepted this bankrupt idea of how you create growth in capitalist economies. If you think that wealth trickles down from the top; if you think that the rich are the wealth creators, and if you think that the more rich people you have the more jobs you will create, then the notion that the introduction of a high rate of tax for rich people makes no sense.”

Hanauer adds:

“However, if you reject that false idea of how capitalism works and you accept a more realistic 21st century notion that the more workers earn, the more customers’ businesses have and the greater the level of jobs that will be created, then you will understand that it’s part of a feedback loop in which everybody wins. The battle ahead is to change the parameters of debate around these things. At the moment we are on the wrong track.”

One might reasonably and instinctively assume that the interests of Hanauer, whose wealth runs into hundreds of millions of dollars, would be closely aligned with the right-wing government of Theresa May. But such a notion is counter-intuitive given that politically, he is closer to Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn.

The fact that Hanauer’s political outlook and approach to dealing with the challenges society faces, has more in common with Corbyn than May, completely undermines the arguments of those who smear Corbyn with the communist epithet.

Contrary to popular mythology, Corbynism and capitalism are, in reality, congruous concepts. It’s not only the social aspects like the health service and social care that’s safer in Labour’s hands, but from the perspective of capitalism’s longevity, its the economy too.

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