Tag: anthony giddens

The carnage in Nice didn’t emerge from a metaphorical clear blue sky

By Daniel Margrain

Bullet imacts are seen on the heavy truck the day after it ran into a crowd at high speed killing scores celebrating the Bastille Day July 14 national holiday on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France, July 15, 2016. © Eric Gaillard

There is something deeply unsettling about the manner in which President Hollande and other leading political leaders and powerful establishment figures responded in the aftermath of the violent carnage that occurred in Nice on Thursday evening. The rolling media coverage that followed this tragic event, was accompanied by the predictable rhetorical flourishes from across the political spectrum highlighting the need for terrorism to be defeated. After every tragedy of this nature the same kinds of statements are repeated again and again even though the politicians making them must know that such an eventuality is impossible. The kind of crude public pronouncements that invariably follow tragedies of this kind are, in other words, seemingly inevitable as they are intellectually indolent.

It would appear that the establishment’s intention after these kinds of appalling acts of violence occur is to reinforce the invocation of ‘loyalty oaths’ as part of a broader strategy to marginalize and isolate minority Muslim communities. Whenever, for example, an atrocity is committed by those who self-identify as Muslims, the wider Muslim community are effectively urged to pledge an allegiance to the country of their birth or, alternatively, they are encouraged to collectively condemn the violence ostensibly undertaken in their name. Often it’s both of those things.

Any attempts to resist apology projection is deemed by the establishment to be akin to a form of treachery in which tacit support for an official enemy is implied. Crude loyalty binaries are invoked. Opposition to this sort of binary analysis often evokes the specter of the ‘enemy within’ trope among significant sections of the corporate-controlled media and the political establishment. Thus, whether implicitly or explicitly, the result is that the Muslim community often ends up being tarnished with the ‘terrorist sympathizers’ epithet. Consequently, over time the Muslim community in France, and elsewhere, has tended to become less trustful and more fearful of the wider community and vice-versa.

It has been the inability of successive French governments to successfully integrate its Muslim community minority within wider mainstream French society that has in part contributed to feelings of alienation among this community which is exacerbated as a result of the mainstream media’s response to it. The alienation that Muslims experience in France cannot be separated from the broader sociological context in which the political situation described above also plays a significant role. In relation to how the sense of alienation has manifested in Nice, Sky News’ Sam Kiley remarked:

“In the emergence of an active criminal underworld there exists a natural synergy between organised crime and violent Jihadism. …A number of people from Nice have gone to fight in Syria and Iraq alongside Islamic State…The killer in this case, wasn’t one of them. This is somebody who was a petty criminal and who was possibly radicalized on the internet as opposed to somebody who had direct relationships with terror groups.”

Kiley continued:

“Many immigrants feel left behind and excluded from the opportunities in a way that some of the wealthier residents in the city don’t. This makes them easy prey for the radicalized programme which is very effectively campaigned by Al-Qaida and IS, both of whom have been encouraging their followers and disciples to be these lone-wolf characters to use vehicles to mow people down….We need to recognize that Tunisia is the single biggest foreign fighter volunteers that go to join the Islamic State. This has been the case for well over a year.”

The misplaced notion that any long-term sense of community cohesion has been overstated, has resulted in an intellectual and media narrative in which the great social conflicts and ideological struggles were said to have been a thing of the past. This notion gained intellectual credence following Francis Fukuyama’s End of History thesis. Numerous newspaper editors and television presenters agreed.

A little over a decade after Fukuyama wrote his thesis, it’s premise had been shattered by real life events when Islamist obscurantists attacked the Twin Towers in New York. The attack was, in part, the result of Wahhabism’s ideological opposition to Western imperialist hegemony. Anthony Giddens, the former director of the London School of Economics and court sociologist to Britain’s then New Labour Prime Minister, Tony Blair, repeated a similar message to that outlined by Fukuyama in his 1998 book, The Third Way.

Giddens who, by uncritically accepting a widespread but unsustainable assumption  said“We live in a world where there are no alternatives to capitalism.” Numerous imperial wars as well as counter-insurgent violence on Western soil have been launched since Giddens and Fukuyama made their remarks. Leaving aside the possibility of global catastrophe resulting from climate change or nuclear war, the notion that capitalism will continue to exist indefinitely into the future, is highly improbable. Moreover the notion that Islamist extremist violence does not represent an ideological challenge to Western imperialist hegemony in light of the numerous atrocities since 9-11, is clearly wishful thinking. The violence in Nice is, in part, indicative of the continuation of the reactionary forces who are opposed to Western imperialism.

It took the UK corporate media some 15 hours following the atrocity in Nice to actually address the likely causes of the attack. Speaking on Sky News, Anna Guidicelli, former security analyst at the French Foreign Office, was explicit in her assertion that the state of emergency system in France is politically motivated as opposed to operationally motivated, the intentions of which, she claimed, are to undermine civil liberties. Guidicelli stated that the state of emergency in France would do nothing to address the issue of prevention or to aid justice. “I’m convinced that the underlying problems are geopolitical”, she said. “I’m trying to stress to the government the significance external foreign policy plays in these kinds of attacks.”

Guidicelli continued:

“People are radicalized, not only because they are crazy and lost but because they have a political view. While we have to recognize that the launching of war abroad has an effect domestically, the real question we have to address, is what are the interests, as part of the coalition, does our government have in places like Iraq and Syria? We have to address this issue in parliament. When we launch war we say we are doing so in order to protect our territory. But it’s exactly the contrary to what is happening. Our contribution as a country to the coalition is lethal.

In emphazising the sociopolitical context highlighted previously, Guidicelli remarked:

The attacks in France are a consequence of a complex combination of both sociological and political factors. The problems are deep-rooted and in order to address them long-term in any fundamental way it is necessary to go beyond the five year mandated electoral cycle which is dependent upon short-term ‘solutions’. What we can do now as part of a long term mix is to withdraw our troops from the Middle East. What is disappointing is that the government is not addressing this external aspect.”

On the contrary, French foreign policy predicated on the concept of endless warfare, appears to be perpetuating the kind of violence witnessed in Nice that the establishment claims it wants to prevent. This concept evokes the Project for the New American Century which predates the US-led slaughter in Iraq, the emergence of Al-Qaida and IS and the attacks in New York that preceded them. It’s therefore not Islamist terrorism that represents the catalyst for chaos and destruction in the world, but rather the United States, it’s allies and their proxies.

 

Britain’s high-debt, low-productivity economy spells long-term disaster

By Daniel Margrain

The collapse of the Berlin Wall which was the trigger that brought the totalitarian dictatorships of the former Soviet Union and those of its satellite states to their knees, came to symbolize for many the triumph of capitalist free market democracy over tyranny and oppression. An adviser to the US State Department, Francis Fukuyama, received international acclaim in 1989 when he reiterated this message by declaring, no less, that the collapse of communism was ‘the end of history‘. Great social conflicts and great ideological struggles were said to have been a thing of the past. Numerous newspaper editors and television presenters agreed.

A little over a decade after Fukuyama made his famous declaration, Islamist terrorists attacked the Twin Towers in New York. The attack was, in part, the result of Wahhabism’s ideological opposition to Western imperialist hegemony. Numerous imperial wars have been launched against Muslim countries since. Thus, Fukuyama’s thesis was trounced on a single day back in September 11, 2001. Anthony Giddens, the former director of the London School of Economics and court sociologist to Britain’s then New Labour Prime Minister, Tony Blair, repeated a similar message to that outlined by Fukuyama in his 1998 book, The Third Way.

Giddens  said“We live in a world where there are no alternatives to capitalism.” He was accepting and repeating a widespread but unsustainable assumption. The earliest merchant-form of capitalism began to emerge in the 17th century and industrial forms of capitalist production developed from the late 18th century. The organizing of the whole production of a country by capitalist means is barely three centuries old. It only began to become a dominant feature in terms of the universal dependence on markets some 60 or 70 years ago. Yet modern humans evolved about 200,000 years ago. In other words, what Giddens argued is that a capitalist economic system which represents a tiny fraction of our species’ life-span is set to last for the remainder of it.

Leaving aside the possibility of global catastrophe resulting from climate change or nuclear war, the notion that capitalism will continue to exist indefinitely into the future, is highly improbable. As the saying goes, ‘forever is a long time in history’. In just under two decades following the publication of The Third Way, capitalism has transformed into a finance-based neoliberal variant predicated on a form of systemic corruption underpinned by booms that zap productivity. The reason why financial booms impact on productivity in this way is in part the result of too much capital being mis-allocated to low productivity sectors which crowds out real economic growth.

Company buybacks illustrate this practice. Take Viacom as an example. The company issued debts of £10 billion and then bought back the shares which had subsequently reduced in value by 55 per cent. Similarly, Amazon issued £5 billion of debt prior to announcing they would also engage in this highly unethical practice. Issuing debt in order to buy-back stock implies an inability to grow companies organically. Rather, increasingly, the approach seems to be to boost the stock price artificially by a process of financial engineering. The problem is that levels of industrial production, the latest figures of which indicate a 0.3 per cent fall from the previous month, are not sufficient to support these kinds of debts.

Another illustration of the mis-allocation of capital to a low productivity sector, is in the realm of housing. Essentially, the UK economy is based on speculative-based property booms that are sustained through zero interest rates. This means that banks have access to almost unlimited credit which enables them to finance enterprises risk-free, underwritten by the tax-payer. The Conservative government under PM David Cameron is not investing in the productive parts of the economy but in financial ‘bubbles’ of which housing plays a significant part.

UK Chancellor, Gideon Osborne’s ‘help to buy scheme’ in which the UK tax-payer provides 40 per cent of the deposit for first-time house buyers, is clearly a policy aimed at the potential Tory voter in London. Many of the properties purchased will be used for the rental market as speculative investments thus boosting the housing bubble. Meanwhile, people who are part of the productive economy and make London tick, are steadily being priced-out and socially cleansed from the city. This is contributing to the decline in UK industrial output which has seen its biggest fall since August 2013. More importantly, this has impacted negatively on the UK’s trade deficit figures which are one of the highest, as a percentage of GDP, of any country within the OECD.

To emphasize this point, the UK’s trade gap with the European Union increased to a record high of £8.6 billion. The government’s suppose aim of re-balancing the economy by allegedly supporting its productive parts, is contradicted by its creation of risk-free speculative property bubbles of the kind described. The concept of free-market capitalism is supposed to be predicated on incentives, not state sanctioned socialism for the wealthy as the means to prop-up unsustainable economic bubbles. Yet the corporate controlled media, with their lurid headlines, continuously promote the latter.

The government’s subsidizing of house purchases is unhealthy for the medium to long-term economic well-being of the country as a whole. The subsidized property speculation bubble outlined is part of a centrally-planned Tory policy, no different in principle, to the socialist planned economies of the former Soviet Union and its satellite states that ‘the end of history’ allegedly supplanted. Low productive sectors within the UK have a knock-on effect in terms of the broader economy which is destined to decline as a result. This is because more needs to be produced for the pound sterling in order to counteract the affects of subsidized speculation which adds no value to the economy.

This principle also applies under conditions in which global investors pour money into government bonds which currently result in negative yields to the tune of some $6 trillion and growing. The infusion of greater amounts of subsidized money into the London economy runs counter to the government’s stated argument that they intend to diversify the wider economy by spreading investment throughout the UK as a whole. As a consequence of the Tory policy of socialism for property speculators, house prices in London are the most over-valued of any major city in the world.

Nevertheless, as long as potential property buyers and those already on the ladder in London have a perception that their homes are worth more than is actually the case, they will more likely be inclined to vote for the kinds of politicians who will perpetuate the bubble by continuing to offer some first-time buyers an injection of a huge cash-free gift as part of their deposit. If this was indeed the Tory plan prior to the London Mayoral election in order to assist the Tory candidate, Zac Goldsmith, then the strategy failed miserably. Whether Labour’s newly elected Mayor, Sadiq Khan, will attempt to scupper any moves by Jeremy Corbyn to put a break on the Tory’s high debt-low productivity economy policy, in order to further his broader opportunistic political ambitions, remains to be seen.

Is the U.S heading towards military conflict in the South China Sea?

Famously, Albert Einstein defined common sense  as  “the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.” When viewed from the prism of the perspective of the apologists for capitalism, Einstein’s condescending approach to conventional wisdom belied much of the Western prevailing orthodoxy up to the events in New York on September 11, 2001.

The prevailing view, particularly among a large swath of intellectuals, was one in which capitalism was seen as the bedrock of society underpinned by an economic booster model of globalization that supposedly limited the scope for war and conflict. Intellectual proponents of this worldview understanding of capitalism included Third Way ideologues such as Anthony Giddens and Ulrich Beck. For them, globalization was reshaping liberal democracies into states that transcended the need for “enemies”.

The limitations of this thinking was brought sharply into focus following George W Bush’s proclamation of a global state of war on September 20, 2001: “Americans should not expect one battle”, he said , “but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen.” To accept the notion that the capitalist system is shaped purely by economics that under the guise of globalization ameliorates the pressures among states to go to war with one another, is to grossly misunderstand the nature of the beast and what the main catalyst is that drives the war machine forward.

In truth, the system is underpinned by “competitive processes that involve not merely the economic struggle for markets, but military and diplomatic rivalries among states.” In other words, capitalism embraces geopolitics as well as economics. This was first understood during the early 20th century when the expansion and intensification of capitalism began to make its mark. It was during this period that economic rivalries among firms began to take the form of conflicts which spilled over national borders.

Consequently, combatants called upon the military support of their respective states to protect them. Thus, the close and complex interweaving of economic and security competition became geopolitical in nature which was to develop into the tragic era of inter-imperialist war between 1914 and 1945.

The notion that diplomatic and military conflicts among states reflect the more general process of competition that drives capitalism on, is the basis of the classic theory of imperialism formulated by Nikolai Bukharin during the First World War. It’s a theory that provides the best framework for understanding the contemporary American war drive and, pertinent to this article, its ongoing South China Sea dispute with China which the staging of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in the U.S a few days ago is implicit.

The main purpose of the summit, from a U.S perspective, is to advance what the Obama administration calls its Rebalance to Asia and the Pacific, popularly known as the Asia Pivot which reflects a shift in U.S policy towards China which intimates more of a belligerent approach as opposed to one based on constructive rationality. This is highlighted by the projected deployment of 60 percent of U.S submarines to the region, the purpose of which is to undermine Chinese economic development by limiting its maritime access to markets.

Much has been made about how the U.S wants to “cooperate” with China and to maintain friendly relations. But at the same time, President Obama proposes to undermine bi-lateral relations in the region while China wants to enhance them on an individual basis in much the same way that it would with any other country outside the region.

Another indication that the U.S is not prepared to cooperate, was the summit agenda’s domination by the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This was in addition to the dispute regarding contested maritime territorial claims and so called “freedom of movement” issues. What the U.S has sought to do is to stifle the development of the South East Asia region in relation to China and therefore seek to undermine the trade agreements China already has in place with various other S.E Asian countries in the bloc – agreements that were formulated at an international level through the auspices of forums like ASEAN.

The crux of the conflict between the U.S and China essentially revolves around the contenting claims and the influence each player is able to exercise in relation to ASEAN. The U.S is attempting to use economic and political leverage to isolate or economically encircle China as a way of counteracting what they perceive to be the expansion of China’s political influence.

The false impression given in much of the Western corporate media is that sovereign nations in the region are under threat from an expansionist and belligerent China and that these nations are necessarily looking to the United States for assistance. How the U.S would likely respond if China were to build military bases throughout the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean or the Pacific coast off California is not a question the Western media seem to want to ask.

By reversing the roles, we can begin to understand the situation from the Chinese perspective, particularly given the painful and tragic history it has had over the last two centuries in relation to Western colonial domination of its territory. The contextual reality that underlies the Chinese position is that having emerged from a very dark period in their history, they are looking to assert their sovereignty by creating a regional sphere of influence.

Contrary to Western media propaganda, this doesn’t necessarily involve the domination of their neighbours. The perspective coming from Beijing is an insistence that the U.S respect China’s growing influence as a major political and economic power. This call, however, appears to be largely falling on deaf ears, particularly among the decision makers in Washington that really matter. What  A. J. P Taylor  called “the struggle for mastery” among the Great Powers is understood by Realists within the sphere of international relations in America. However, their views don’t hold significant enough sway within the corridors of power to influence policy.

The signing of the TPP to the exclusion of China, as well as the arm twisting by the U.S administration, appears to be intended to prohibit its European partners from joining the Asian Investment Infrastructure Bank (AIIB) which arguably has the potential to rival the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The dominant force in Washington is one which remains orientated towards greater competition which entails the possibility of greater conflict, not because the U.S wants war with with China, but because they are pushing the envelope which potentially can lead to unintended consequences.

While on the one hand, America pushes for its control of the regional trade and commerce framework through ASEAN, on the other, China is pushing to expand it’s so-called One Belt, One Road policy. This is predicated on growing Chinese economic penetration throughout the entire Eurasian land mass stretching from the Chinese coast on the South China Sea all the way to the Atlantic coast of Europe.

China is increasingly moving towards land-based commerce through Russia and central Asia and into the European space. This must be alarming to many of the strategic planners and paid-for corporate politicians in Washington. Underpinning the conflicts in the China Sea regarding disputed territory and the fomenting of others by the U.S involving China and its neighbours, is the larger geopolitical chess match, what Zbigniew Brzezinski famously referred to as The Grand Chessboard.

In exposing the real motives behind the Clinton administrations stated multilateralist strategy, Brzezinski who was one of the main architects of Nato expansion, presented The Grand Chessboard as one facet of a much broader approach to maintain American dominance over Eurasia through a continent wide policy of divide and rule. Brzezinski openly used the language of imperial power:

“America’s global supremacy is reminiscent in some ways to earlier empires, notwithstanding their confined regional scope. These empires based their power on a hierarchy of vassals, tributaries, protectorates, and colonies, with those on the outside generally viewed as barbarians. To some degree, this anachronistic terminology is not inappropriate for some of the states currently within the American orbit.”

The hosting by the U.S of the latest ASEAN summit, their TPP agenda and their attempts to contain China through the Asian Pivot, represents a worrying trend akin to the clash of imperial interests which led to the conditions from which the carnage of the First and Second World Wars emerged.