Author: Daniel Margrain

I graduated in 2001 with an Upper Second Class Honours degree in Human Geography and Social Policy. I then successfully completed my masters in Globalisation, Culture and the City at Goldsmiths, London. I am a massive fan of the musician Neil Young. My favourite book is Murder In Samarkand by Craig Murray. My favourite album is Van Morrison's Astral Weeks and my favourite film is Giuseppe Tornatore's Cinema Paradiso. I have traveled widely and fell in love with Cuba and Madagascar. My other interests include politics and current affairs and social and urban theory.

The Naked Emperor

By Daniel Margrain

Image result for pics of theresa may on a throne

After ten days of Tory-DUP negotiations, Arlene Foster returned to Belfast with a £1.5 deal in exchange for the 10 votes Theresa May will potentially need to enable her to shore up a discredited minority government. Most of what the British government campaigned for in the election has now been junked.

The Tories, whose election manifesto closely resembled that of the BNP fascists in 2005, have aligned themselves with a similarly extremist political party in the form of the DUP, many of whose senior members are avowed creationists. The party is also linked to the fundamentalist Free Presbyterian Church which campaigns for creationism to be taught in schools and for museums to hold exhibitions on the subject.

In addition, the DUP are officially endorsed by loyalist terrorists; they don’t believe women who have been raped are entitled to abortions, are opposed to same-sex marriage and, if that wasn’t enough, they employed a climate change denier as an environment minister. It is worth noting that the Tory government who are propped up by these homophobes, creationists and terrorist endorsers, smeared the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, as a terrorist sympathizer.

The Tory-DUP deal, which is clearly incompatible with the Barnett Formula, will almost certainly threaten the 1998 peace accord, the Good Friday Agreement. Contained within the text of the agreement (Article 1) – the fundamental principle that lies at its core – is the phrase “rigorous impartiality”. The concept flows from the complex right of self-determination on which the current British-Irish constitutional compromise is based.

This is the notion that the future constitutional status of Northern Ireland should be decided by the people of Ireland alone; subject to the wishes of a majority of people in Northern Ireland (the consent principle). That is a choice that should be freely made and without detriment to anyone. It means that whoever exercises sovereign jurisdiction now (UK) “shall” do so on an impartial basis “on behalf of all the people” and that this:

“shall be founded on the principles of full respect for, and equality of, civil, political, social and cultural rights, of freedom from discrimination for all citizens, and of parity of esteem and of just and equal treatment for the identity, ethos and aspirations of both communities.”

It’s clear that maintaining any semblance of rigorous impartiality cannot be reconciled with the fact that the UK government has effectively favoured one party by giving it £1.5 billion to distribute within the province as it pleases in return for votes. Ireland’s former PM, Enda Kenny, warned about the possible implications of infrastructural investment that favoured one side over the other. He reminded Theresa May about the requirement of rigorous impartiality and questioned the governments ability to adhere to such a commitment.

It would appear that Kenny’s cynicism is justified. The succession of UK governments’ meddling either overtly or covertly in the conflicts of the middle east – notably in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria – indicate the British establishments preference for war over peace. Thus, the Tory governments close ties with the anti-peace party, the DUP, should not come as a surprise to anybody.

Indeed, ideologically and historically the two parties are more closely aligned than is perhaps generally appreciated. Both are staunchly pro-establishment, pro-war and socially and politically regressive. Not only are the DUPs attitudes to the likes of gays and progressives retarded, but from the outset they have actively campaigned against the Good Friday Agreement.

But more than that, as far back as the Sunningdale Agreement of 1973, they have opposed all previous measures intended to promote power-sharing and peace. Their deal with the Tories gives them the justification they need to undermine the Good Friday Agreement and thereby re-assert the establishments hegemony over the province, and hence, the right-wing political status quo that underpins it.

No sooner had the ink dried on the Tory-DUP deal, lawyers in Ireland began to examine ways that it could be challenged. It’s difficult to envisage a situation in which a successful legal challenge on the basis the deal undermines “rigorous impartiality” could not be made.

There appears to be no historical precedent whatsoever for a political settlement that favours one side in Northern Ireland over another based on a scenario in which money has been exchanged for votes in Westminster and whose sole intention is to prop up a minority government.

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How They Speak to Us

Image result for pics of tory politicians and their buzz words

The 1% who run this society, the capitalist ruling class, speak to the rest of us i.e. the general public, a majority of whom are working class, mainly through the media, that is via a series of intermediaries – politicians, TV producers and presenters, news readers, newspaper editors, journalists and so on. It is true that not all ‘politicians’ are establishment lackeys and not all journalists are careerist hacks, but most are and they set the tone. What we see and hear on the media is mainly what our rulers want us to see and hear.

Some people react to this by dismissing the mainstream media as ‘all lies’. This is indeed the case at some fundamental level but, of course, it is not literally true: newspapers and TV News contain much factually accurate information and we all know this. More important than the actual ‘lies’ they tell is what media fail to report or barely report and especially the way they report things, the subtle spin they build into their reporting to ensure that events and the world are seen from the point of view of the ruling class.

What follows are a few critical reflections on the language politicians and media use for this purpose. This is based mainly on current Irish practice but some of it will apply internationally

Populism.

One of the most important functions of the media is to discredit any opposition to the system. This is more important – for them – than actually trying to persuade people that all is well with the world. So long as people can be got to believe there is no viable alternative to the present set up i.e. capitalism, most people will accept it albeit reluctantly. To this end it is important to devise pejorative labels for political opponents of capitalism. Once upon a time the favourite label was ‘anarchist’. Thus, for example, Jim Larkin used to be described, in the papers of the time, as an ‘anarchist’. [This had nothing to do with Larkin’s beliefs but was probably because some actual anarchists had been doing armed robberies and throwing bombs elsewhere in Europe.] After the Russian Revolution, Bolshevik or Bolshie became, for a short while, the label of choice. Then, especially during the Cold War, it became Communist. Today it is ‘Populist’. Why?

Our rulers are aware that internationally the political establishment, which they like to think of as ‘the centre’ is losing ground both on its right and its left flank – to Trump and to Sanders, to Le Pen and to Melenchon, and in Ireland to Solidarity and People Before Profit and some left independents. They have decided to describe this phenomenon as ‘the rise of populism’ for two main reasons. First because it suggests that the far left, us, are some how the same as the far right, including the racist, fascist and Nazi right like Le Pen and Golden Dawn, when in fact they are opposites and profound enemies. The far left, especially the revolutionary left are far more strongly opposed to the far right than are ‘the centre’ and, as history has often shown, the establishment would prefer the victory of fascism to the victory of real socialism. Second because it suggests that articulating the anger of ordinary people at austerity  is ‘irresponsible’. Responsible politics, implication is, involves inflicting pain and suffering on people ‘for their own good’. Any one who suggests there may be an alternative to cutbacks and wage restraint is irresponsibly and dangerously raising the hopes and expectations of working class people.

While on the subject it is worth mentioning that this use of ‘populism’, borrowed from academia, is of recent origin – it has only become prevalent in the last few years – but is now almost universal and it is used usually without explanation and as if it were a politically neutral statement of fact. Was this planned somewhere? I don’t know but my guess is that probably was but it also relies on the intellectual laziness of so many journalists who once they hear a new buzz word simply repeat it so as to seem ‘in the know’

Extremists and moderates.

The use of the extremists versus moderates dichotomy is much older than ‘populism’ but serves similar functions. It is VERY politically loaded. Imagine there is a conflict – an election or a war – in Mongoliaabout which you know nothing at all. Then you hear on the news that it is between the extremist Xs and the moderate Ys. You now know immediately a) who ‘the West’ [US, NATO, EU etc] supports and b) who you are supposed to support. And these messages have been transmitted with having to tell you directly which might compromise the image of media ‘impartiality’.

This is not a question of logic. Was it better to be extremely opposed to Hitler or only moderately opposed to him? But it is a question of established usage and it works pretty effectively. To this we must add the way in which ‘extremist’ has now come to signify terrorist and probably Islamist terrorist. Again this is not a question of logic. Personally I am an ‘extreme’ leftist, certainly not a ‘moderate’, but I am also ‘extremely’ opposed to the use of terrorism (planting bombs etc) as a political strategy or tactic. But logic is not the point here – that is how it is used.

Recently the left has been countering this labelling by referring to the establishment as ‘the extreme centre’.

Radical

Another example of the insidious way in which the ruling class is able to manipulate language to serve its purposes is provided by the media’s use of the word ‘radical’. A radical used to refer to someone who advocated far reaching and progressive reform or social revolution. Of course, Conservatives and right wingers viewed radicals with contempt but the left claimed the term with pride. There was a great radical tradition stretching from the Levellers and the Diggers through to modern times. Tom Paine, William Blake, Michael Davitt, Sylvia Pankhurst, James Connolly, Countess Markiewicz, Mother Jones, Paul Robeson, Che Guevara, Aneurin Bevan, Arthur Scargill, Tony Benn were all ‘radicals’.  Eamonn McCann, Paul Foot and John Pilger are radical journalists. Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn, Jean-Luc Melenchon, Julio Iglesias can all be described as ‘radical’ left.

But by systematically attaching the term to Islam or Islamic and using it in the context of terror attacks politicians and the media have done their best to pervert and tarnish the term. It is now common to hear of the production of guidelines to ‘spot signs of radicalism’  and programmes to ‘counter radicalisation’. ‘Moderate’ mosques and Muslim leaders are urged to ‘do more’ to combat ‘radicalism’. Of course it would have been possible simply to urge them to combat terrorism but using the terms ‘radicalism’ and ‘radicalisation’ creates – for our rulers – a very useful ambiguity and amalgam.

Jobs

When it comes to legitimating the system as a whole and the specific actions of government and businesses there is very little to compare with the mantra of ‘Jobs!’.

Propose increasing taxes on the rich or the corporations (Apple for example) and they will immediately scream about ‘Jobs!’ Propose closing down any heinous institution (e.g Direct Provision) or ending any horrible practice ( allowing the US to use Shannon for extraordinary rendition flights or bombing missions) and you will be met with the cry that this will cost jobs.  And in a sense it is true. If Auschwitz was operating in Connemara, or there was a poison gas factory in Cork closing them down would cost jobs.

But the slogan of ‘Jobs’ functions much more widely than just as an alibi for disreputable operations. Ask any billionaire how they justify their immense wealth and the chances are they will cite the jobs they have created for people. Indeed if it were the case, as the capitalists claim, that they somehow ‘create’ jobs and that without them nothing would be made or get done at all then capitalism would indeed have found its perfect justification as an everlasting system. Of course this is an absurd claim; jobs, as in work that needs doing and that human beings do, existed for tens of thousands of years before the first capitalist was ever thought of. But most of the time most people don’t think historically or in terms of thousands of years. Therefore, the fact that, in the immediate situation and for as long as people can remember, the capitalist as a class have, by virtue of their possession of the means of production, cornered the market in ‘jobs’, makes it appear plausible that they do actually ‘create’ work for people.

Another factor in our rulers’ emphasis on jobs is that it is precisely through employing the labour of working people – and paying them less than the value of the goods and services they produce – that capitalists make their profits. Thus focusing relentlessly on ‘jobs!’ enables the bosses to pass of the very means through which they line their pockets as an act of social benevolence.

We

The way this very simple little word is used is of crucial importance. When it is used in political discourse by the 1% and their media spokespersons it usually refers to the nation and its people as a whole. ‘We’ in Ireland do this or that; we, the Irish, tend to think such and such or should do the following. ‘We’ will be hit hard by Brexit but ‘we’ feel very close to the Americans and so on.

Sometimes ‘we’ refers to the actions of the Irish government, other times it used to create the impression that there is an Irish identity or character or set of views which ‘we’ all share. This is manifestly not the case in reality but speaking as if it were helps to reinforce the currently dominant attitude or views which are often the views of the dominant class, the 1%. Moreover, it tries to subsume those of us who don’t share the dominant view or else to erase our existence.

The same practice is also adopted in relation to other countries. It is common to hear that Germany or the Germans think something or have said or the French have taken a certain view when in fact what is being talked about is simply the views or actions of the German or French Government. This is particularly misleading and ideologically loaded given that most current governments – beginning with the Irish Government – are actually elected by quite small minorities of their national population.  For example, Trump, far from being elected by the American people as a whole, was actually only voted for by about 20% of the adult population.

Above all this persistent use of ‘we’ serves to mask what is by far the deepest the division in interests and attitudes in Ireland and in every other capitalist society –the division of class.

The public – taxpayers, customers and workers.

In so far as differences among the people or the public are acknowledged at all, social class, the most significant division, is barely mentioned. Much more frequently deployed are the terms ‘taxpayer’ and ‘customer’ and the way they are used is important.

Whenever there is a proposal involving state expenditure – for example on health, education, welfare or some other public good – the ‘taxpayer’ is sure to be invoked, or often ‘the hard pressed taxpayer’. Fair enough you might say in that it is a matter of fact that public expenditure must come out of taxes. But the way in which the tax payer is invoked suggests, almost always, that there is a special category of people who are ‘taxpayers’ as opposed to others who are not and who are particularly imposed upon. Hear mention of ‘the taxpayer’ and there immediately springs to mind a comfortable middle class manager with BMW and semi in Dublin 4 who bitterly resents how much of his hard earned income goes to bail out the indolent and feckless scroungers.

This is nonsense, of course. There is no special category of taxpayers. Every single citizen in Ireland pays taxes in one form or another. Even schoolchildren pay VAT on some of the things they buy. But logic and facts count for little here – its how the term is used that matters and it is used with the political effect of expressing the resentment of the middle classes.

‘Customers’ are another group of people who are very much approved of by business, politicians and the media – at least in words. Businesses always claim to be devoted to the welfare of their customers; you would almost think they were charities. ‘The customer is always right!’ they proclaim. Except, of course, a business that really operated on that principle would not last a day since ‘customers’ would be able to determine prices, if they paid at all.   Health service and transport managers want their patients and passengers to see themselves as ‘customers’ so as to spread the ‘business model’ of life to as many aspects of society as possible. Everything – health, education, personal relations, sex, love, water – should be about cash transactions, everything should be up for sale and this attitude to life should be infiltrated into our language and our consciousness as much as possible.

‘Customers’ really come into their own whenever there is a strike.  On thing you can be sure is that when there is a strike the media will approach the dispute from the standpoint of badly affected ‘customers’. If there is a strike by bus or train drivers the media will look for stranded commuters to interview, preferably ones missing vital appointments such as job interviews. If it is a nurses strike it will be patients whose operations or appointments are postponed; if it is teachers then the first port of call will be concerned parents worried about their child’s exams or education.  In this way the strike is always seen as a ‘bad thing’ and the striking workers are always presented as a, probably selfish, minority in contrast, not to their employers but to the public or community as a whole. In this way the report will invariably serve to undermine the strike and back up the position of the employers without ever having to say this explicitly (which would compromise the media’s image of neutrality).

In contrast to taxpayers and customers (or consumers) workers are invoked relatively little. When they do get a positive mention from establishment politicians it is usually in the form of ‘hard- working people and their families’. These phrases are always loaded. It is only workers who ‘work hard’ that are wanted or deserve to be represented [NB Leo Veradkar said this week he wanted ‘to represent people who get up early in the morning’] with the implication there a lots of lazy workers out there who don’t merit representation. There has always been a  theme in capitalist ideology of trying to divide the ‘deserving’ and the ‘undeserving poor’ (George Bernard Shaw wrote about in Pygmalian) , the ‘respectable’ and the ‘unrespectable’ working class, and to set the former against the latter. And this is always done with a high moral tone. It is never mentioned, of course, that capitalists make more profits the harder they can get workers to worker.

Politics and Politicians

Most people don’t like politics or politicians. This is perfectly understandable given the way most politicians behave and much politics is discussed. But actually the establishment are quite happy for large numbers of people to be turned off politics and to be apathetic and through the media they endorse and encourage this state of affairs. One tactic used for these purposes is to promote the idea that any really important issue should be ‘above’ or ‘outside politics’. ‘This is not about politics, this is about human rights/justice/health/ethics/ fairness/economics/ people’s lives etc.’ Sport, religion, art, music, poetry,  are all areas we are told ‘politics’ should kept out of. But if politics is not about human rights/justice/health/ethics/ fairness/economics and the things that are really important in people’s lives, then it is an entirely frivolous activity – a kind of game being played out by small and strange group of people divided into various rival teams who compete for the sake of it.

In reality all the most basic matters of life and death, all the things that have the most vital effects on the lives of the mass of people – war, peace, wealth, poverty, health, housing, education etc – are the very stuff of politics. But if this is hidden from the  mass of people and politics is presented as just a game played by politicians, of interest only to a tiny minority, then this enables that tiny minority to get on with organising how these issues of life and death are handled without interference from ‘the people’.

Consciously or unconsciously this has a big influence on the way politics is discussed in the media. It leads to a quite disproportionate focus on the personalities of individual politicians and how they are currently performing in the game  – Veradkar v Coveney, May v Corbyn – at the expense of discussion of actual issues. And if ordinary people, people who are not professional politicians, try to assert themselves politically by any more effective means than ringing Joe Duffy, this is seen as very threatening indeed – ‘mob rule’ beckons!

I’ve been very clear about this

The professional establishment politicians have evidently been trained by their media and PR consultants to proclaim their own clarity on all possible occasions, and they do so with a vengeance. ‘I’ve been clear about this from the beginning’, ‘I want to say very clearly’, and ‘I am saying very clearly’ and so on ad nauseam: the trouble is these proclamations are immediately followed by statements and exclamations that are as clear as mud and go to any length to avoid answering the question they have been asked.

This combination of self proclaimed clarity and actual lack of clarity serves their purposes very well because, in fact they are more than happy for the mass of people not to understand an issue being debated. They know that if people feel that they cant understand an issue – that its ‘over their heads’ – this will make it easier for the elites to carry on getting away with things. Consequently politicians on talk shows and the like, faced with an awkward question, follow the rule: talk as long as possible without drawing breath and try to sound clever – throw in a few statistics and terms people don’t really understand. If people don’t know what you’re talking about it doesn’t matter, indeed it’s greatly preferable to them actually sussing what you are up to.

Transparency

Along with ‘being clear’ another favourite buzzword of both politicians and businesses is ‘transparency’. Everything is always supposed to be, or more likely is going to be, ‘going forward’, transparent. We even hear that An Garda Siochana is going to be transparent. Now, taken seriously this is just ridiculous. No police force, or government department or business can possibly really be ‘transparent’; it would mean having no proper security or confidentiality at all. But then it is isn’t meant to be taken seriously because, as with An Garda Siochana, it is used in connection with organisations and processes that are the extreme opposite of transparent.

People say to me

One of the favourite sayings of politicians is ‘I’ve been going round the country talking to people and what they say to me is …’ Presumably the politicians think this makes them sound in touch with the people but what is funny is that what these people say always seems to be exactly what the politician concerned wants to hear.

I remember Joan Burton using this device at the height of the water charges campaign. People were marching on the streets of Ireland in their hundreds of thousands from Letterkenny to Waterford shouting ‘No Way, We Wont Pay!’ and ‘From the River to the Sea, Irish Water will be Free!’. But according to Burton what people were saying to her was‘We want clarity and certainty’. What’s not clear and certain, you wonder, about, ‘Enda Kenny, Not a Penny!’?  And of course when Joan did actually interact with some real people they turned out to be saying something different altogether. No doubt Theresa May is currently claiming that people are telling her they want ‘strong and stable leadership’.

In reality politicians spend very little time ‘going round the country talking to people’ other than to their own committed supporters and ordinary people don’t talk in politicians’ campaign slogans. In other words these claims are just routine  lies. Actually they along with such terms and phrases, as ‘I want to be very clear’ and ‘the customer is always right’, are  repeated because they are familiar clichés which politicians and spokespersons think sound good and will help to pull the wool over people’s eyes.

They are, at bottom, an expression of deep contempt for the mass of people who they see as backward and ignorant and in need of standing up to – they call standing up to people ‘showing leadership’ and ‘courageous’. Which brings us back to where we started with ‘populism’. Politics is about a few serious moderate centre politicians together with a few serious moderate billionaires and corporations managing society on behalf of the rest of us, because they know best after all, and everything else is just spin to keep the masses happy. And anyone who thinks differently is probably one of those dangerous ‘populists’.

The above article was written by, and reproduced from the blog of socialist author and activist, John Molyneux (originally published on June 10, 2017).

I rely on the generosity of my readers. I don’t make any money from my work and I’m not funded. If you’ve enjoyed reading this or another posting, please consider making a donation, no matter how small. You can help continue my research and write independently..… Thanks!


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Class matters

By Daniel Margrain

Image result for photos of class divide

Defined in the objective Marxist sense, class is an historical constant. However, the extent to which workers, historically, are conscious of their class and its potential power in helping to shape and transform society, is dependent upon prevailing socioeconomic circumstances.

The long demand-led economic boom which had gathered pace during the 1950s in Britain, alongside the developments in the welfare state and the growth in power of social democratic discourses of meritocracy, had led to the emergence of a new social formation of better educated, assertive and frustrated, younger people who wanted to see the stuffiness of a system based upon status and respect shift into a meritocratic environment.

The social realism and British new wave movements in film-making that emerged from the optimism generated after the 1950 Festival of Britain and its espousal of new technologies, produced talents of the stature of Ken Loach, Jack Clayton, Tony Richardson, Karel Reisz, John Schlesinger and Lindsay Anderson. All of these directors produced memorable films whose cinematic themes reflected the deep underlying societal shifts of the time, indicative of the new meritocratic scene in which the working class were largely at the forefront.

As the post-war consensus between capital and labour began to ebb away and be replaced by the growing inequality of the neoliberal years from the mid-1970s onwards, so the confidence of the working class began to recede also. Whereas identifying as working class during the 1960s opened up opportunities, by the 1980s, the perception was that class negatively impacted on them.

Low point

As the British Social Attitudes Survey indicate, the 1980s marked a low point from which the working class haven’t recovered. One particularly depressing shift over the last few decades that the survey highlights, is the extent to which the perception of class relates to welfare. The survey states:

“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.”

Many workers today display, at best, an ambivalent and at worst, a morally superior attitude towards other working class people – usually immigrants and those on benefits – who they regard as being in some way inferior to them. In extreme cases, this has manifested in violence directed against these groups on the streets of many British towns and cities.

These behaviour traits are consistent with the BSAS survey above which 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.

The obvious inference that can be made, 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 they 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.

Propaganda

The corporate media is deeply complicit in this latter process. Instead of workers self-identifying as being part of a broad objective class-based stratified system, they are encouraged, through mass consumption and corporate advertising campaigns, to buy things they don’t need with money they haven’t got. In this way, retail therapy embodied in consumption, becomes a form of displacement activity.

This in turn, reinforces the notion that the working class are best defined by the subjective lifestyle choices they make thereby ensuring class consciousness is minimized. The role retail therapy plays in the transformation of the citizen from political actor to passive consumer, is crucial to the process of negating collective class-based mobilizations and revolutionary impulses.

The subtle form of media propaganda described which attempts to obliterate the concept of the working class, correspondingly reduces the need for overt forms of state oppression. As Noam Chomsky put it, “propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.” In this sense, formal dictators have largely failed to understand that ‘successful’ thought control reduces the need for tanks, guns and torture.

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.”

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

Separating the economic & political

The ruling class have succeeded in their myth-making by deliberately separating the economic and political spheres. The strategy serves an ideological purpose predicated on the illusion 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 an illusion of freedom. They succeed in this totalitarian image-making by metaphorically 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 work hard enough.

It’s precisely the perpetuation of this myth that continues, for example, to sustain a post-Mandela South Africa reconfigured from a system based on politics and 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 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.

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, lifestyle enhancement and identity politics, is key to their ability to control the masses.

However, what Jeremy Corbyn’s relative electoral success indicates, is a class re-awakening. The days in which the political establishment are able to use the corporate media as their propaganda echo chamber, is coming to an end. But, as Theresa May’s recent meeting with Emmanuel Macron highlights, the ruling class will do their utmost to resist the threat social media poses to their control of the flow of information.

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Grenfell tragedy: Woven into the fabric of neoliberal Britain

By Daniel Margrain

Residents were trapped

Back in January, 2016, former Tory Prime Minister, David Cameron announced in the media his intention to demolish some of England’s worst council estates and “rebuild houses people feel they can have a future in”. The key motivating factor that underlined Cameron’s decision was not a genuine desire to improve the quality of life for ordinary people, but to help sustain the fractional reserve banking racket and to perpetuate asset bubbles.

Housing and Planning Bill

Cameron’s announcement was made two days in advance of the Commons vote on the Housing and Planning Bill. The bill, which became law last May, compels local authorities to sell ‘high value’ housing, either by transferring public housing into private hands or giving the land it sits on to property developers. In other words, what is driving the government’s housing policy is not to bring to an end the housing crisis, but rather to bolster the investment opportunities of the rich. MPs also have a stake. This will make a bad situation worse.

The 126 MPs who have declared they receive rental income from property, represent over 19 per cent of the House of Commons, the vast majority of whom are Conservatives. All 72 Tory MPs who voted against a Labour amendment to the bill which would have required private landlords to make their homes “fit for human habitation” are themselves landlords.

Clearly, major fire hazards within homes render such homes unfit for human habitation. The voting through of the bill into law, which clearly represents a major conflict of interest, have led to soaring rents meaning that ordinary people have found it increasingly difficult to afford to live in the capital city. As the statement on a flyer that promoted a protest against the bill argued:

“It [the bill] takes public funding away from affordable homes for rent and does nothing to improve security or control rents for private renters.

“This is turning back the clock, taking away security and pushing up rents. It would force the selloff of council homes on the open market, to pay for housing association ‘right to buy 2’. Councils and housing associations will not be able to build replacement homes for rent.”

In short, the bill forces local authorities to sell off council housing. The proceeds are then used to encourage housing associations to extend Right to Buy. The bill has also accelerated the extent to which housing associations behave like private companies. This kind of privatization agenda isn’t the case in countries such as Holland or Germany where government investment in social housing for rent is the norm.

Sell-offs

According to the Department for Communities and Local Government annual report into social housing selloffs, of the 21,992 dwellings sold in the year to 2016 in the UK, 12,557 were sold by local authorities and 9,435 by housing associations. The local authorities figure is a 1 per cent increase on the previous year. The housing association figure represents an 18 per cent rise. Government funds for housing associations are drying up. In order to make money, these associations are effectively forced to sell their properties to the private sector. The profits gained are then reinvested into their businesses reducing the overall availability of affordable housing stock.

Mass council house building is the most effective way to house people but this undermines the profits of private firms. One way they do this is by holding onto land rather than developing it, so that prices are pushed upwards. As prices within the private rental market soar, more firms are trying to get their hands on the profits generated.

According to research from Paragon PLC, the private rented sector (PRS) “is the second largest housing tenure, accounting for one-in-five homes in England alone, overtaking the social rented sector for the first time since the 1960s. This represents a significant increase in the number of households living in private rented homes.” The report added, the PRS has “more than doubled since 2001 and is now the second largest housing tenure…PRS is now home to 4.9 million households.”

Tory fractional reserve banking has resulted in the rise of private rented homes and created asset bubbles. This is illustrated by the exponential growth in the construction of new tower blocks throughout London and other major cities. These are not intended for local residents to live in, rather they are being built for foreign investment funds and billionaires to buy as financial safe havens.

However, investment opportunities of the rich are undermined following any attempts by the government to increase supply which also adversely affect the property investment portfolios of politicians. It’s in the joint interests of MPs and major property developers who lobby on their behalf to continue to deregulate the housing market and to loosen planning controls.

The combination of lax planning, greater deregulation and the lack of availability of affordable housing, is two-fold. First, it results in the social cleansing of the poor and those on middle incomes from major cities. In terms of London, for example, the graph below shows the number of families with children who have been moved out of the capital each year since 2010/11 (Thanks to Dan Hancox):

 

Introduced by the Tory-Lib Dem coalition government, the Public Space Protection (PSPO) is another form of social cleansing that is intended to criminalize those sleeping rough and to drive them from towns and city centres.

In other words, the formal ordering and disciplining of the poorest within urban spaces has had the affect of pushing them to the periphery, out of sight and out of mind of urban powers for whom responsibility is increasingly disavowed. In this way, urban spaces are shaped by economic forces which seem beyond the control of ordinary people, that alter the landscapes of cities and communities and re-package them under the banner ‘urban renaissance’, ‘regeneration’ and ‘gentrification’.

Secondly, the combination of factors described alters the dynamic of urban space whose reconfiguration not only changes the demographic, cultural and ethnic mix of spaces, but also undermines social networks and local economies upon which local businesses depend for their livelihoods.

Hollowing-out

More broadly, the hollowing out of large parts of cities alters perceptions of what constitutes private and public spaces and for what use the state intends to put them to. Last year, the Guardian reported on a London rally that protested against the corporate takeover of public streets and squares. Protesters cited London’s Canary Wharf, Olympic Park and the Broadgate development in the City as public places now governed by the rules of the corporations that own them.

The issues underpinning the protests relate to how neoliberalism is re-redefining many urban spaces as cultural centres of production. This is leading not to diversification and aesthetic pleasure, but instead to a uniformity of corporate culture. These kinds of privatized public zones are increasingly a feature of modern Britain. Examples include Birmingham’s Brindley place, a significant canal-side development, and Princesshay in Exeter, described as a “shopping destination featuring over 60 shops set in a series of interconnecting open streets and squares”.

Contradictions

Begun under New Labour, the neoliberal ideology that underpins these shifting landscapes, reflects a historical contradiction between planning in terms of social need and the process of competitive accumulation – a contradiction that can be traced back to the 1947 Town and Planning Act. Although urban planners have often been cast in an heroic role protecting the public from shoddy contractors and the short-term drive for profit by speculators, town planning has been skewed historically by deeply undemocratic practices.

Having been granted wide-ranging powers as a result of the Town and Planning Act, that include the approval of planning proposals, local authorities are able to carry out redevelopment of land themselves, or use compulsory purchase orders to buy land and lease it to private developers. With the authorities playing lip-service to objections to the way communities are prioritized to corporate interests, public voices are being drowned out and the bureaucracy of the state seemingly ever more remote from the issues and concerns that affect the daily lives of ordinary people.

Grenfell

It’s precisely the contradictions and the lack of a culture of democratic accountability described, that culminated in the Grenfell Tower fire which has brought the UK housing crisis under intense scrutiny. As journalist James Wright put it:

“Successive Conservative-led governments have created artificial housing scarcity that further enriches property owners. Starving the supply of genuinely affordable accommodation inflates house prices and rents. Such a housing strategy, coupled with a deregulatory agenda, is forcing more and more ordinary people into dangerous and uncomfortable conditions.”

In what is one of the most economically unequal and ethnically diverse neighbourhoods in arguably the most expensive real estate locations in the world, local resident, singer and activist, Lily Allen described how the local Tory-run council is driving communities apart. “People are encouraged not to congregate and discuss what is happening in the area. They are not encouraged to have a community spirit”, she said.

Allen argued there could well be a reckoning in the pipeline for a Conservative deregulatory agenda that appears to trample over the safety of working class residents. In addition, the singer claimed the death toll is being “micro-managed” by the government and the media for political purposes. At the time of writing (June 19, 2017), mainstream media reports have stated that 79 people are believed to have died. However, the real figure is likely to be closer to 450.

The notion that the mainstream media are deliberately drip-feeding information in attempt to pacify the community, is borne out by two local residents on the ground who agreed the media including the BBC are deceiving the public. “What you are seeing here [on the ground] and what you are seeing on the news are two different stories”, they claimed.

The systemic and structural issues outlined, underscored by a complicit corporate media, is what led Labour MP David Lammy to contend the fire that engulfed the Grenfell Tower was akin to “corporate manslaughter”. Academic and activist, Rob Hoveman, was explicit in naming and shaming four individuals who, as a minimum, he regards are worthy of being charged with the offence. These are:

  1. Councillor Nick Paget-Brown, Conservative leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
  2. Nicholas Holgate, Chief Executive of RBKC. (Anyone who knows anything about local government will know the Chief Executive is an immensely powerful usually extremely well-paid employee of the council who works hand-in-glove with the leader).
  3. Robert Black, Chief Executive of the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation.
  4. Councillor Rock Feilding-Mellen who is both Deputy Leader of RBKC and “has the specific responsibility for promoting better housing for borough residents…and regeneration initiatives”.

The alleged crime scene, in which the UK government under Theresa May is also potentially complicit, must be viewed within a context in which, according to the Equality Trust, the UK’s richest 100 families have increased their wealth by £55.5bn since 2010 while average incomes have risen by £4/week. The Office for National Statistics point out that the UK’s richest 10% of households own 45% of total wealth – 5.2 times greater than the bottom 50% of households.

This level of austerity and inequality is reflected in government cuts to front line emergency services which have come under intense scrutiny since the fire. Tory cuts in London resulted in ten fire stations closing, three of which were in the area of Grenfell Tower. In the UK as a whole, 10,000 firefighters – one in six – have been cut since the Conservatives came to power in 2010. The Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition cut fire and rescue funding by 30 per cent. Furthermore, as a consequence of the reduction in staffing levels, safety checks in tower blocks have been cut by a quarter.

Grenfell Action ignored

In the months and  years leading up to the fire, a residents’ organisation, Grenfell Action Group (GAG), expressed major health and safety concerns in relation to the Grenfell Tower which included out of date fire extinguishers and inadequate fire fighting equipment.

The group also accused Kensington and Chelsea Council of ignoring health and safety laws. In January 2016, GAG warned that people might be trapped in the building if a fire broke out, pointing out that it had only one entrance and exit. GAG frequently cited other fires in tower blocks when it warned of the hazards at Grenfell.

The undemocratic and contradictory forces that prioritize profit before people, were further highlighted after GAG alerted the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) Cabinet Member for Housing and Property about their numerous concerns. They even warned them that a catastrophic fire was likely to break out in the block. Not only did GAG not receive any replies  to the concerns raised, but the group alleged Kensington and Chelsea Council harassed them and threatened GAGs blogger with legal action. But because of Tory cuts to legal aid, the group couldn’t afford lawyers to defend themselves.

The Grenfell tragedy is a salutary reminder of how neoliberal ideology, the politics of austerity and corporate corruption that lie at its root, are interwoven within the fabric of the British state. More than ever, the country desperately needs a Corbyn-led government in order to begin to turn things around.

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No, Jeremy, don’t do it

By Daniel Margrain

Image result for pics of yvette cooper attacking corbyn

Those who were paying attention during Yvette Cooper’s challenge for the Labour leadership last year would have been aware of the undisclosed £75,000 businessman Peter Hearn contributed to the New Labour enthusiasts campaign.

The mainstream media didn’t pay much attention to the scandal at the time. On September 22 of that year, columnist Fraser Nelson wrote tellingly of “the terrifying victory of Jeremy Corbyn’s mass movement” at staving off the coup attempt against him. Two days later, New Labour Corbyn critic and MP for Normanton, Ponefract, Castleford and Nottingley tweeted the following:

Congratulations re-elected today. Now the work starts to hold everyone together, build support across country & take Tories on

Less than 48 hours after her insincere message on Twitter, the Blairite MP engaged in a media publicity stunt intended to draw a wedge between the PLP and the membership.

Cooper’s crude ‘politics of identity’ strategy inferred that shadow chancellor John McDonnell was a misogynist for his use of emotionally charged language in defending the “appalling” treatment of disabled people by the last Tory government.

The context in which McDonnell attacked the former Tory Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Esther McVey, was set against a backdrop in which she planned to cut the benefits of more than 300,000 disabled people. That Cooper rushed to the defence of a Tory who presided over some of the most wicked policies of arguably the most reactionary and brutal right-wing government in living memory, is extremely revealing.

What was also revealing, were the media’s obvious double-standards. A few days prior to the media’s onslaught against McDonnell’s “sexist” comment, Guardian journalist Nicholas Lezard called for the crowdfunded assassination of Corbyn. Needless to say, there was no media outrage at this latter suggestion.

Selective outrage is what many of us have come to expect from a partisan anti-Corbyn media. In May, 2015, independent journalist and Labour activist, Mike Sivier reported on Yvette “imaginary wheelchairs” Cooper’s criticism of those “using stigmatising language about benefit claimants”.

But as an article from April 13, 2010 below illustrates, while in office as Labour’s Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Cooper had drawn up plans that would almost certainly have met with the approval of Iain Duncan Smith and the newly appointed Secretary of State for Work a Pensions, David Gauke

Indeed, the policy plans outlined by Cooper were subsequently adopted by the Coalition government under the tutelage of Esther McVey. In policy terms, it would thus appear Cooper has more in common with McVey than she does with McDonnell. This, and her disdain towards both Corbyn and McDonnell and the mass membership they represent, explains her outburst. She was not motivated by sisterly love.

This is the relevant part of the 2010 article implicating Cooper’s policy outlook with that of the Tories she supposedly despises:

“Tens of thousands of claimants facing losing their benefit on review, or on being transferred from incapacity benefit, as plans to make the employment and support allowance (ESA) medical much harder to pass are approved by the secretary of state for work and pensions, Yvette Cooper.

The shock plans for ‘simplifying’ the work capability assessment, drawn up by a DWP working group, include docking points from amputees who can lift and carry with their stumps.  Claimants with speech problems who can write a sign saying, for example, ‘The office is on fire!’ will score no points for speech and deaf claimants who can read the sign will lose all their points for hearing.

Meanwhile, for ‘health and safety reasons’ all points scored for problems with bending and kneeling are to be abolished and claimants who have difficulty walking can be assessed using imaginary wheelchairs.

Claimants who have difficulty standing for any length of time will, under the plans, also have to show they have equal difficulty sitting, and vice versa, in order to score any points.  And no matter how bad their problems with standing and sitting, they will not score enough points to be awarded ESA.

In addition, almost half of the 41 mental health descriptors for which points can be scored are being removed from the new ‘simpler’ test, greatly reducing the chances of being found incapable of work due to such things as poor memory, confusion, depression and anxiety.

There are some improvements to the test under the plans, including exemptions for people likely to be starting chemotherapy and more mental health grounds for being admitted to the support group.  But the changes are overwhelmingly about pushing tens of thousands more people onto JSA. 

If all this sounds like a sick and rather belated April Fools joke to you, we’re not surprised.  But the proposals are genuine and have already been officially agreed by Yvette Cooper, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.  They have not yet been passed into law, but given that both Labour and the Conservatives seem intent on driving as many people as possible off incapacity related benefits, they are likely to be pursued by whichever party wins the election…..”

What the above indicates is that Cooper laid the groundwork, and was responsible for, setting in motion the Tories regime of welfare cuts and system of testing to the most vulnerable of our citizens, many of whom would have been Labour voters.

It should be deeply concerning that some activists and others within the party are seemingly prepared to overlook Cooper’s treachery as a trade off for her alleged ‘hard-hitting’ experience. Cooper is one of many Blairites who have suddenly had an apparent Damascene conversation and have seemingly bought into the popular wave of Corbynism.

But activists shouldn’t be fooled. Actions speak louder than words. The plans Cooper drew up seven years ago against disabled people were so brutal, they were kept in place by the hard-line Tory, Iain Duncan Smith, who oversaw the excess deaths of thousands.

My advice to Corbyn, for what it’s worth, is that he should think very carefully before appointing his new team. He should stick as much as possible with those who loyally remained by his side over the last two years and who have worked hardest against those Blairites within the party who would have preferred a Tory landslide over a Corbyn victory. Cooper, who is a cynical opportunist careerist motivated by money and self-interest, is one such person.

I would go further. Corbyn and his team should seriously consider looking at ways to clear-out Blairites at constituency Labour party level. Many people, including millions of Iraqi’s, Libyan’s and Syrian’s would not consider that to be mere spite, rather a small step towards justice.

Compulsory deselection is the obvious way forward but to date, Corbyn has suffered from an inability to influence constituency labour parties at the local level whose full-time paid staff are institutionalized. They see in Corbyn somebody who is a potential threat to the status quo. The General Secretary, Ian McNicol represents the apex of this kind of tendency towards self-preservation.

This explains why during the election campaign the website Skwawkbox was able to allege that “almost no resources were made available for the fight to win Tory-held marginals or even to defend Labour-held ones.” Party officials and and national executive right-wingers either assumed that Labour could not win seats or deliberately sought a bad result to undermine Corbyn.

The Morning Star reported on the case of Mary Griffiths-Clarke, the Labour candidate in Arfon who won 11,427 votes to Plaid Cymru MP Hywel Williams’s 11,519 — missing out on the seat by just 92 votes, or 0.3 per cent of the vote. She told the paper that her campaign had received “no support — not even a tweet” from the Labour Party at the British or Welsh levels.

It was the party machine, not the leadership, which declined to put resources into her campaign, she said. “Jeremy [Corbyn] was amazing. He was in touch throughout the campaign and even on polling day itself.”

But Ms Griffiths-Clarke says she did not get a campaign manager from central office and had been told by an official in Welsh Labour, when she asked for help, that the party’s priorities in north Wales did not include Arfon.

“It was like campaigning for a franchise — I had the logo and the excellent manifesto, and that was it. Labour sent no activists to campaign in Bangor even on the day of the vote.” She said she was speaking out as it was important for Labour to not make the same mistake if another election is called.

Of the 262 parliamentary Labour MPs, roughly 60 hold genuine left-wing views, while a similar amount tread the ground between the left and right. The vast majority of the PLP – roughly 140 – however, are right-wing disciples of the Chicago school  who are unprincipled cynical opportunists or, as Tony Benn put it, “weathervanes”. They will only go with the Corbyn programme if it looks good for their money-making prospects. This illustrates the battle Corbyn and his supporters are up against.

Disappointingly, the influential commentator and economist, Paul Mason, was quick to announce on the BBC that Corbyn’s subsequent electoral “success” should be used to broaden his cabinet and policy platform by bringing Blairites like Cooper back into the fold. I have often found Mason’s commentary to be convoluted at best and highly contradictory at worse.

His latest appeal does nothing to alter my suspicion that he is a controlled opposition figure in much the same way Owen Jones is/was. If Corbyn ends up being too accommodating to the Blairites it will only encourage them, resulting in the blunting of Corbyn’s radical message which is the major part of his appeal and the very reason why Labour voters, especially the young, voted for him in such large numbers in the first place.

Keeping young voters on board is particularly important given the fact that the proposed boundary changes that the Tories will be keen to bring in before the next election will benefit them by 18 seats. This will provide the ideal opportunity for Corbyn to force through the compulsory re-submission of candidates to members who are energized by a very different set of priorities to that of the Blairites.

Those motivated primarily by money will disappear by stealth into the ether. But in order for this to happen, Corbyn needs to grab the bull by the horns by cleverly negotiating the tide of optimism sweeping throughout the grass roots of the party. He must, in my view, seize the moment by taking control of the hierarchy of the party that he currently lacks.

The Blairites are currently on the defensive and Corbyn should exploit this situation to the maximum. The worse case scenario is one in which the former wrestle back significant control. By giving the likes of Cooper prominence, will only encourage this eventuality.

The contradiction between Cooper’s deeds and words outlined above, highlight the extent to which the ideological consensus between the New Labour hierarchy and the ruling Tory establishment, is structurally embedded within a dysfunctional system of state power that is no longer fit for purpose. Corbyn’s task in changing this situation around is difficult but not impossible. He should resist all calls to bring ‘heavyweights’ like Cooper back into the fore.

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Theresa May & the frog

By Daniel Margrain

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In the famous anti-capitalist fable, a scorpion, eager to get to the other side of a stream and unable to swim, pleads with a frog to allow him to ride on his back, across the stream.“Certainly not,” said the frog. “You would kill me.”

“Preposterous!,” replied the scorpion. “If I stung you, it would kill the both of us.”

Thus assured, the frog invited the scorpion to climb aboard, and halfway across, sure enough, the scorpion delivered the fatal sting.

“Now why did you do that,” said the frog, “you’ve killed us both.”

“I am a scorpion,” he replied, “this is what I do.”

A century ago, the Russian Nicolai Bukharin argued that the growth of international corporations and their close association with national states hollows-out parliaments. The power of private lobbying money draws power upwards into the executive and non-elected parts of the state dominated by corporations.

The growing concentration and internationalization of capital causes economic rivalries among firms to spill over national borders and to become geopolitical contests in which the combatants call on the support of their respective states. As professor Alex Callinicos put it:

“The… system embraces geopolitics as well as economics, and…the competitive processes….involve not merely the economic struggle for markets, but military and diplomatic rivalries among states.”

In refining Bukharin’s classical theory, Callinicos argues that capitalist imperialism is constituted by the intersection of economic and geopolitical competition which, if left unchallenged, will lead to the death of democracy and, ultimately, the capitalist system itself.

What corporations do is strive to maximize the returns on the investments of their shareholders. As Milton Friedman put it, “The social responsibility of business is to increase profits.” Unfortunately, if corporations are unconstrained by law or regulation, they can, by simply “doing what they do”, suck the life out of the economy that sustains them. Like cancer cells, lethal parasites, and the scorpion, unconstrained corporations can destroy their “hosts,” without which they cannot survive, much less flourish.

Society and the environment to the corporations and complicit actions of governments, is what the frog is to the scorpion. The CEOs of the giant corporations, together with governments, compete against other, globally, for the limited resources of the planet. While the actions of the corporations are beneficial to their CEOs and shareholders, they have detrimental impacts for humanity and society as a whole.

Karl Marx

In his analysis of the capitalist system over a century-and-a half ago, Karl Marx in The Communist Manifesto articulated the processes that were to lead to the growth of the corporations: “The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere” he said. Marx describes, powerfully, the workings, impulses and aggressive dynamism of an economic system in which the units of production increase in size and where their ownership becomes increasingly concentrated.

It takes an effort on the reader’s part to remember that the passage quoted above was written before the search for oil absorbed the Middle East transforming it into a contemporary battlefield, or that globalization began stamping its mark on a thousand different cultures. The accuracy of Marx’s analysis exemplified in the exponential growth of the corporation in the century following his death, is a testament to his magnificent intellectual vigor and groundbreaking dialectical insight.

Where Marx’s analysis has yet to be realized is in terms of his expectation that the working class would become increasingly radical and ultimately revolutionary. What was impossible for him to predict was the emergence of broadcast media and, by extension, the capacity by which it has been able to disorientate the masses by redirecting revolutionary impulses into identity politics, passivity and leisure pursuits.

Also Marx’s analysis has not been borne out in terms of the extent to which workers have been coerced into an acceptance of capitalism by their economic dependence on employment and the repression of revolutionary movements that sought to overthrow the capitalist system. These workers have also been incorporated through their organizations into the political structures of capitalist societies, and are seduced by the flood of inexpensive imported goods often created by sweated labour, that capitalist production has provided.

As bad as the suffering is for many who endure poverty within the countries of the advanced capitalist states today, it is not sufficient enough in scale – as was the case in the 1930s, for example – to threaten the capitalist economic system. But although its true to say Marx’s expectation that oppressed and exploited workers would overthrow capitalism has not been borne out by events, this does not invalidate his analysis. Marx wasn’t deterministic. He viewed the working class from a position of what he perceived they were potentially capable of becoming in the right socioeconomic circumstances.

Contradictions of capitalism

In The Communist Manifesto, Marx describes capitalism at its beginnings as a revolutionary system, because it creates, for the first time in human history, the potential for liberation from want. Through the development of industrial production, it became possible for every human being to be fed, clothed and housed. But as Marx recognized, even in his time, capitalism would never achieve this society of plenty for all, because of the way production is organized, with the means of production controlled by a tiny minority of society – the ruling class – more widely known today as “the one per cent”.

Marx described the ruling class as a “band of warring brothers” in constant competition with each other – giving the system a relentless drive to expand. As Marx wrote in Capital: “Fanatically bent on making value expand itself, he (the capitalist) ruthlessly forces the human race to produce for production’s sake.” Capitalism’s insatiable drive, embodied in the growth of the corporation, has brought us in the 21st century to the edge of climate chaos and environmental destruction. This is the systems Achilles heel.

Marx’s dialectical understanding of how the capitalist system works, therefore, has contemporary relevance both in terms of explaining the growth of the corporation and its competitive drive to extract resources within the context of an environmentally finite planet. Left to it’s own devices, in the absence of any revolutionary struggle, the corporation, like the scorpion, will ultimately end up destroying its host – in the case of the former, humanity and society. In such a scenario, the contradictions of the system couldn’t be more stark.

Prisoner’s Dilemma, altruism & game theory

It should be noted that the frog/scorpion fable that is a metaphor for the propensity of capitalism to destroy the conditions upon which human life depends, does not portray a Prisoner’s DilemmaIn international political theory, the Prisoner’s Dilemma is often used to demonstrate the coherence of strategic realism, which holds that in international relations, all states (regardless of their internal policies or professed ideology), will act in their rational self-interest given international anarchy. A classic example is an arms race like the Cold War and similar conflicts.

During the Cold War the opposing alliances of NATO and the Warsaw Pact both had the choice to arm or disarm. From each side’s point of view, disarming whilst their opponent continued to arm would have led to military inferiority and possible annihilation. Conversely, arming whilst their opponent disarmed would have led to superiority. If both sides chose to arm, neither could afford to attack the other, but at the high cost of developing and maintaining a nuclear arsenal. If both sides chose to disarm, war would be avoided and there would be no costs.

In the frog/scorpion fable, the former had absolutely nothing to gain by carrying the scorpion to safety. From the perspective of the cynical outsider, the frog’s altruism is foolish because he would have lived had he not assisted the scorpion. Similarly, society, the environment and, indeed, the planet have nothing to gain by accommodating the corporation. To some, altruistic acts are consistent with the adage, “No good deed goes unpunished.”

But of course this cynical perspective is predicated on their being no mutual trust between two parties. Because the frog believed the scorpion when he said it was irrational to kill him, any intention to find a way to deflect earlier than the scorpion, hadn’t formed a part of the frogs reasoning. The frog’s actions were based purely on good faith and the acceptance of basic norms of behaviour. A rational approach in which both parties were set to benefit was understood by the frog to be a given. The frog hadn’t accounted for the fact that the scorpion was compelled to act in the way he did.

Similarly, corporate capitalists are compelled to ‘externalize’ environmental costs in order to maximize profits. It is the corporation, like the scorpion, that pulls humanity down. This kind of reasoning applies to other related areas. In the field of international relations, for example, the concept of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine of ‘pre-emptive retaliation’, expresses nothing other than a strategy based on defecting early and decisively, even though such an action is highly irrational.

The rationale appears to be that any attempts at cooperative actions are, at some point, doomed to be beset by the actions that pertain to that of the scorpion. This presupposes that all potential and/or perceived foes act in a highly irrational manner akin to the pathological actions of psychopaths that lead to unnecessary harmful deflections instead of mutual cooperation that is beneficial to the greater good.

Game theory, on the other hand, does not really take scorpions into account. It holds that people will defect because the future has no shadow and it is in their best interest to do so. Game theory fails as a tool when we are dealing with sociopathology or extreme denial.

The human dilemma is that all progress ultimately fails or at least slides back, that anything once proven must be proven again a myriad of times; that there is nothing so well established that a fundamentalist (of any religious or political stripe) cannot be found to deny it, and suffer the consequences, and then deny that he suffered the consequences.

Theresa May’s authoritarianism and her insistence on putting the short-term narrow self-interests of her party above the wider interests of the country, reflect a psychopathy, narcissism and sense of entitlement. She seems compelled to want to bring society down on its knees in order to satisfy both her own and her parties vanity. As she appears to be content to fiddle while Rome burns, May is, in other words, the equivalent to the scorpion. The British public can only hope she is put out of her misery before sinking the country entirely.

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The corporate media are protecting the establishment from democracy

By Daniel Margrain

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The fact that Theresa May was only able to cling on to power with the help of the knuckle-dragging DUP because of the gains the Tories made from the SNP in Scotland, is extremely frustrating. Had the SNP fought the election primarily on an independence platform, rather than pretending to be all things to all people, the party would have almost certainly maintained its level of support.

What this illustrates is that the strategy to fight elections on the enemy’s chosen ground, is a flawed one. Offering the electorate competent technocratic managerialism rather than principled and ideologically-based policies, is a strategy of despair as the approach of the Blairites under Milliband aptly illustrated.

Yet, disappointingly this was precisely the retrograde step suggested by Paul Mason while arguing the case on the BBC after it became clear that Theresa May would not achieve an overall parliamentary majority. “Corbyn needs to bring Labour’s ‘hard-hitters’ back into the political fold”, argued Mason. Interestingly, the journalist and economist made his comments sitting next to former Blair spin merchant, Alastair Campbell, who was also quick to suggest that Corbyn should use his success to broaden his cabinet and his policy platform in order to bring the Blairites back onboard.

Concession

This kind of concession based on the false premise it will enable Corbyn to win power, should be avoided like the plague. The election proves that the ‘unelectable’ Corbyn who at 40 per cent gained a higher proportion of the vote than his predecessors (Milliband 2015, 30%, Brown 2010, 29%, Blair 2005, 35%), can win the next election on his own terms. In a rare, honest post-election commentary, Owen Jones wrote:

“Labour is now permanently transformed. Its policy programme is unchallengeable. It is now the party’s consensus. It cannot and will not be taken away. Those who claimed it could not win the support of millions were simply wrong. No, Labour didn’t win, but from where it started, that was never going to happen. That policy programme enabled the party to achieve one of the biggest shifts in support in British history – yes, eclipsing Tony Blair’s swing in 1997…The prospect of a socialist government that can build an economy run in the interests of working people – not the cartel of vested interests who have plunged us into repeated crisis – well, that may have been a prospect many of us thought would never happen in our lifetime. It is now much closer than it has ever been.”

It’s astonishing to this writer that Mason and others apparently fail to recognise that the left is desperate for an alternative to neoliberalism which Corbyn’s policies reflect but which Blairism helps augment. Any concessions towards those who have stabbed the Labour leader in the back over the last two years will totally undermine his alternative anti-austerity vision for the country.

Those who are genuine about the need for radical change, understand how important it is to undermine the hold the Blairites have on the party, not encourage them. The huge increase in turnout and votes of the 18-24 year old demographic up (from 58% under Milliband to 72% under Corbyn) that contributed enormously towards Labour’s 30 seat gain, was predicated on a vision of the country that rejects Blairism.

Hamstrung

Had the media not been biased against Corbyn during the election campaign, had he not been hamstrung by two years of almost constant vilification from the liberal corporate media like the Guardian, and reinforced by Blairites within his own party (the kind of calculating careerist opportunists Mason alluded to), Corbyn would almost certainly have got over the finishing line.

The same media-political establishment who were relentlessly vilifying him in lock-step, now claim they all got it wrong. This is a fallback position in an attempt to obfuscate. The truth is, the media didn’t think he was ‘wrong’, rather they opposed him. As Media Lens posited:

“They were ‘wrong’ about his ability to generate support. They still think they’re right to oppose everything he stands for.”

In other words, the corporate media’s mass failure represents a structural flaw. They have virtually zero credibility. The revelation that the exit polls suggested a hung parliament, prompted Cathy Newman to tweet:

“Ok let’s be honest, until the last few weeks many of us under-estimated Jeremy Corbyn.”

This is disingenuous. The reality is rather different. As opposed to underestimating Corbyn, the truth is the media refused to give him a fair hearing because of what he represents to corporate hacks like Newman.

So-called corporate ‘journalists’ and commentators are, as comedian Dom Jolly argued,

“political PR prostitutes to a handful of billionaires with selfish agendas.”

One such political PR prostitute is Dan Hodges who in July, 2016 tweeted the immortal line:

“If Corbyn beats Owen Smith I don’t see how May doesn’t call an election next year. And that would be political armageddon for Labour.”

Agenda

From the day Corbyn was elected as Labour leader, the agenda of political PR prostitutes like Hodges, Aaranovitch, Rentoul, Cohen and McTernan, has been to get rid of him. All those who are now crying wolf are doing so, not as part of a genuine principled display of collective remorse, but as a damage-limitation exercise in order to save their careers.

Ideally, they would have preferred Corbyn to have lost badly on the premise that the existence of the status quo is better than a Corbyn win which would have engendered career uncertainty. In this sense, the Westminster commentariat’s criticisms of the Labour leader were intended as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

A Tory landslide would have given those within the Westminster bubble like Polly Toynbee and Anne Perkins the opportunity to write their Corbyn obituaries and thus create an opening through which they would effectively have been able to take back control of the Labour party and reconfigure it in their own Blairite image.

Achievement

Corbyn’s sensational electoral achievement illustrates how an increasingly informed and sophisticated public are seeing through the deceptions and lies. Consequently, the attempts by the political-media establishment to exercise their dominance over them, using the Labour party as their tool with which to achieve it, back-fired spectacularly.

Social and political historians will look back at the current period in which a mass social media, controlled by the people, overcame the corporate-media propaganda power of the state, as a watershed moment. The fake apologist tones of the liberal elite who used the pulpit of their employers to try to bring Corbyn and his supporters to their knees, are now trying to persuade the public that their supposed change of heart has nothing to do with reining in their loss of control and, by extension, the reduced revenues of their employers.

We see this, for example, in relation to the Guardian’s associate editor, Michael White, whose public back-tracking strategy on Corbyn days before the election that was intended to halt the decline in his papers readership, was as transparent as Claude Rains in the Invisible Man. This is also reflected in additional sympathetic and supportive Corbyn articles and tweets since it became clear that his pre-election poll ratings had dramatically began to improve.

It’s precisely the kind of cynical attitudes outlined, displayed by the corporate media in general towards its target audience, that creates a space for alternative social media of the likes of the Canary to flourish. The corporate press barons are rapidly losing the public’s respect in no small part due to their biased distorted reportage and crude, fake sensationalist headlines designed to demoralize and disorientate their readership. The tabloid depiction of Corbyn as a Jihadist sympathizer is an obvious case in point.

Political weapon

However, it’s a mistake to think that less overt forms of media propaganda do not also function as a political weapon by the state. As Noam Chomsky put it: “Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.” The kinds of mutually-reinforcing propaganda in the liberal broadsheets are symptomatic of the broader decline in media performance.

Michael Savage, political editor of the Observer, for example, apparently thought nothing of tweeting the views of convicted fraudster and self-serving former MP Denis MacShane. The Blairite, MacShane and the Blairite, Savage were merely reiterating their respective anti-Corbyn views in order to implant in the public’s mind the notion that Corbyn is useless. This is also true of the wider corporate commentariat who reinforce their own prejudices which become a self-fulfilling echo-chamber. Dissenters who challenge this orthodoxy are often ridiculed, smeared or abused.

Investment

The media barons will continue to invest in traditional media propaganda only if at the end of it they can be assured they get the kinds of governments they want. The opportunistic careerist politicians and corporate journalists who operate within the Westminster bubble, know which side their bread is buttered and are only too willing to adjust their views accordingly, particularly if the corporate buck is large enough and the situation demands it.

However, the rise of Corbyn, concomitant to an increasingly politically active citizenship informed by alternative social media and a sincere and incorruptible form of politics, suggests the foundations upon which corporate greed and the establishment view of the world distorts human relations, are shaking.

It’s true the Tories are still the governing party. But their ability to shape domestic policy unhindered, premised on the existence of a corrupt media and democracy, has been greatly diminished. Theresa May is only able to cling to power by her fingertips because she is propped up by the DUP who have close links to loyalist terrorists who murdered 1,016 people between 1969-2001 and who shot someone dead in a car park in an internecine dispute during the election campaign.

The DUP are also climate change deniers, creationists, homophobes and anti-abortionists. There is only so much of this kind of DUP-Tory relationship the public, and even the media, will be willing to endure in the weeks and months ahead.

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