Won’t get fooled again? The Brexit sideshow that could distract the UK from real change.

The people of the UK go to the polls on December the 12th bitterly divided by class, geographical differences, education, economics, race, culture and of course Brexit. Forty years of unbridled capitalism and now we have working class people supporting an Etonian, upper class Conservative Party and a metropolitan, middle class, Eurocentric group who may vote Labour (or Liberal Democrat), but hate their leader. Among this, there is still a very sizeable group who see Jeremy Corbyn’s politics of anti-austerity, pro people and fervently against the ruling self-serving elite as a way out of this neoliberal hell.

You would like to think it would be intuitive for people who have very little and have witnessed their town or city obliterated, while being turned into a giant Amazon warehouse to vote for someone who opposes this. Alas not. It is also difficult to imagine people voting against someone whose aim is to directly fund the NHS, thus providing better and cheaper services. In contrast to the Conservative’s who plan to expand the external market for exploitation by massive corporations. Sadly, this is exactly what is occurring in many impoverished regions.

The health of a society, the education of kids, utilities for the elderly in the winter and public transport should not be a business opportunity for the rich to gain off peoples’ daily predicaments. After decades of this, it has become a way of life, with a number of people not knowing of a time when things were different and now many individuals are unable to look outside of the corporatist matrix. We have been told we are “worth it”, that we are inherently competitive, while social cohesion has been destroyed and the population reduced to consumers.

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Neoliberal ideology has stripped us of our compassion. The idea of a strong functioning community and the notion of not leaving people behind who are struggling seems a distant memory. This has been replaced with a ultra punitive society, that locks more people in prison than any nation outside of the US and regularly celebrates the very people who make sacks full of money from our labour. This is a system that encourages us to buy shit that we really don’t need or simply can’t afford, in order to feel better than the family living next door. We buy newer or bigger, all to prove we that we are superior to the other lot, whoever they may be.

The upper class who control the media, who lobby the government, while hiding their dosh in British Overseas Territories through trusts, convince the aspiring middle classes to look down on the primary culprits. Who are invariably defined as uneducated, working class types sat on their collective backsides all day. The middle class Conservatives hate them because they apparently drain the government coffers while adding nothing to the pot, meanwhile the middle class ‘moderates’ despise them, because they are considered racist, stupid and probably a supporter of Brexit.

People from impoverished areas are cajoled by the likes of Nigel Farage. The story is told that immigrants are stealing their jobs and that the nation needs to be in control of its borders. This is despite the fact that most immigrants arrive in the UK qualified to do the jobs that the country requires and provide skills the nation lacks. Are these people stupid? No, they are desperate and have gained nothing from 40 years of ultra-capitalism. Additionally, being a part of this ‘magical’ organisation called the EU doesn’t appear to have helped most people in the former industrial heartlands. When mainstream politics fail, often individuals look to the margins for change. Leaders who will say anything and offer the world to gain favour. Enter Mr Trump and Mr Johnson.

Brexit is yet another fissure for which to divide the population of the UK. Whether this was intentional by David Cameron and his staff is hard to know, but since then it has been manipulated skilfully to shatter any cohesion the UK once had. As it stands right now with a Conservative government, whether the UK leave or stay in Europe the world will still cater for the rich and powerful at the expense of everyone else. The EU is by design a capitalist, pro corporatist entity. It promotes “free trade”, “free movement” of capital, business austerity, low pay, flexible labour markets, privatisation of public services and the destruction of the welfare state.

To see the EU’s true colours we only have to look at Greece and other nations hit hardest by the economic crisis. The vast majority of bailout funds went straight to French and German banks, while very little actually made its way into the economies of these beleaguered countries. As part of the conditions for these bailout packages collective bargaining rights have been drastically eroded, estimated to have been reduced by an average of 21% across the 10 hardest hit nations. In Greece, workers rights have been reduced by an estimated 45%. The EU has continued to make an example of Greece, with privatisation and austerity, forced upon them at every turn.

Does this mean I support Brexit? No, in all honesty I’m pretty ambivalent towards Brexit. But what the EU isn’t, is some benevolent social democratic club that protects the UK from the vile Tories. Of course, the Tories can do all of those things previously mentioned and much worse without the help of a bureaucratic behemoth in Brussels. The Tories have devastated public services, workers rights and given half a chance they would rip up any remaining human rights that exist. So what’s the answer? Quite clearly, none of the above. I’m sure a portion of the metropolitan, superbly educated, suitably housed, well paid professional classes may benefit from the EU, but many people elsewhere have experienced little in the way of joy.

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Falinge Estate, Rochdale.

The north of England where I am originally from have 10 of the 12 most economically declining cities in the UK, two of which I worked in for the NHS, performing clinics in some of the most run down areas. As money has been syphoned into the South East (primarily London), real wages in these former industrial areas have consistently fallen or at best stagnated. The EU isn’t going to save the working class, but a bold plan from Labour led by Jeremy Corbyn might just start to turn things around. Sadly many people would rather cry into their G & T’s about Brexit than get behind a set of policies that would benefit the most amount of people.

Jeremy Corbyn is the only candidate who will go after the real perpetrators, these are ruling elites who use their money and influence to lobby government, while stashing trillions away in overseas trust accounts. It’s not the poor, the disaffected, the unemployed, the working class, immigrants or anyone else who are destroying societies in the UK or anywhere else. Already this week Jeremy Corbyn has vowed to take on “tax dodgers, bad bosses, big polluters and the billionaire media owners”, while pledging support for public services in particular the NHS.

Further to this, Labour is the only party totally committed to protecting the NHS from further privatisation. NHS officials have reportedly been in talks with US pharmaceutical firms preparing for a post Brexit trade deal. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour is the only party who clearly have the people in mind. If we look at the last manifesto of 2017 the main features were; to scrap student tuition fees, renationalise water, mail and rail, increase spending on public service including the police force and fire brigade, end zero hour contracts and crucially increase taxes on the rich and corporations.

This assault on the rich and powerful by attempting to close tax loopholes is in my opinion the primary reason Jeremy Corbyn has been savaged on all on sides and even within his own party. He stands to make the ruling elite accountable, something that hasn’t been attempted for decades. If you are opposed to what Labour proposes, you seriously need to ask yourself why. Have you been propagandised by the elite, convinced that politics is only performed by the rich and powerful for the sole benefit of them. If so that isn’t democracy. Democracy isn’t a spectator sport that rolls around every 4 years (or less). Democracy is a 24 hour a day activity, you may not partake, but I guarantee the people with the power will. I can assure you, apathy and petty squabbles on this occasion will not win the day.

 

 

Infinite growth on a finite planet: The ecological case against capitalism.

In light of the hysteria provided by both sides surrounding Greta Thunberg, questions have started to formulate in my mind; “can we get out of this environmental mess by primarily using market solutions or is this, as I strongly suspect, just wishful thinking”? These thoughts permeated my grey matter predominantly because many people supporting and backing Greta seem to think or certainly indicate that this is the most viable way. Or do they, as some people have suggested, simply consider this is as an opportunity to re-boot capitalism?

One of the first questions we need to tackle is, what are the conditions necessary for capitalism to be successful and is one of these a fundamental requirements continual growth, as suggested by adversaries of the status quo. In opposition to this view, there is a group of environmentalists who suggest that the end of growth doesn’t necessarily mean the demise of capitalism, these can loosely be termed as “steady staters” and are supported by environmentalist titans such as; Bill McKibben and Prince Charles. So does capitalism need perpetual growth or is this a spurious myth purported by those ‘nasty’ socialists?

Let us start with the basics, money becomes capital when it used as a fund for ongoing investment designed to increase itself, rather than being spent or saved. What makes a capitalist system is when the entire economy becomes dependent on the investment of capital. Both trade and production are financed in this way, with the production of goods and services chiefly created to generate profit to be reinvested in further production.

Marx simplified this using M-C-M’ (M=money for investment C=commodities & M’= money from the selling of commodities), this stated that money is used to invest in commodities which is subsequently sold for more money. The whole point of a business is to make more money than you started with, therefore, the economy in it’s entirety must continue to grow.

Growth predictably has a huge impact on the environment as the system and economy must keep increasing, thus taking its toll on our natural resources. Total growth/wealth must be backed up by the overall volume and the value of goods and services to be exchanged by it, thus representing an increase in wealth. Defenders of capitalism will argue that as consumption switches from goods to services economic growth can be separated from the use of materials. However, recent studies suggest that an increase in consumption of resources so far in the 21st century has matched or exceeded the rate of economic growth.

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Another reason why capitalism is compelled to grow is competition. Marx suggested that this factor is probably the most important driver for ensuring expansion. The central feature in capitalism is the mythical “market”, here all bets are off and anyone can be outflanked or undercut to get an edge on their rivals. This world consisting of fundamentally volatile, economic agents tend to react quickly, continually seeking ways to lower costs while increasing sales. Historically speaking, there have been periods of stability, such as during wartime efforts and post war rebuilding. However, since the 1970’s the market has become more fierce due to the arrival of international competition particularly from Asia.

Another factor that compels capitalism to expand is credit. As well documented banks create credit out of thin air, providing loans and overdrafts injecting new money into the economy. Ordinarily, this would end up increasing inflation, however, banks lend money for businesses who seek finance for initial production. If capitalist production starts in debt, it must require an expansion in the overall value of goods and services that can be exchanged for money, due to the loan being made with the promise of additional sales income returning as a result. If the entire economy is in net debt, then it must increase in size to afford to pay it back. In effect, the economy is continually playing catch up. This issue was first posed by Rosa Luxemburg.

It doesn’t end there, another problem whether we care to admit it or not is, between 1950 and 2000 the global population grew from 2.5 billion to 6 billion. Over this period, consumption of major natural resources increased sixfold on average, and much quicker for other resources such as natural gas (12 fold). Additionally, half the world’s great forests have been destroyed and it is expected that a similar fraction of the Earth’s animal and plant species may be extinct by the end of the century. So, are corporations inherently evil? Some certainly are, but on the whole they are simply doing the job they are designed to do, which is to benefit their shareholders.

Fossil fuel companies continue to extract oil regardless of any damage, cost to the land or the people, in places as diverse as Nigeria and the Arctic. IKEA the 3rd largest consumers of lumber in the world, continues to level forests in Siberia and Malaysia to feed Chinese mills, in order to build cheap flimsy furniture for it’s western consumer hungry market. Apple are compelled to destroy the Congo to extract “rare earth’s” all to construct the next iThingy, so first world activists can use them to organise climate change marches. Massive corporations such as Monsanto, Bayer Crop Science and DuPont wipe out bees, butterflies, birds and small farmers, while extinguishing crop diversity to control the worlds food supply. These are just a few reasons highlighting why capitalism and sustainability simply do not go together.

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Here are 4 unofficial laws of ecology and 4 laws of capitalism. It doesn’t take too much reasoning to conclude that these two sets of values are diametrically opposed;

  1. Everything is connected to everything else. Ecosystems are complex and interconnected.
  2. Everything must go somewhere. This summarises the second law of thermodynamics; in nature there is no waste, matter and energy are conserved, waste from one process is recycled in the next.
  3. Nature knows best. This proposes that any man made intervention in a natural system is likely to have a detrimental effect upon it.
  4. Nothing comes from nothing. This law offers, that the exploitation of nature always carries an ecological cost.

Now for capitalism;

  1. The only lasting connection between things is the cash nexus. Thus expressing the point that all social interactions between people and relationships of humans to nature are reduced to mere money relations. A good example of this is GDP, which is invariably used as a measure of how a nation is doing, which in effect is a sum total of financial transactions.
  2. It doesn’t matter where something goes as long as it does not return to the circuit of capital. This reflects that capitalism is linear as opposed to nature which is a circular system.
  3. The self-regulating market knows best. In capitalism the market governs all life. As an example this turns the idea that food is for nutrition into a means of earning profit, sacrificing nutritional value for bulk.
  4. Nature’s bounty is a free gift to the property owner. This proposes that ecological costs associated with the appropriation of natural resources and energy are rarely factored in to the economic equation. Marx suggested that classical liberals saw nature as a “gratuitous” gain for capital.

What drives these continued contradictions between ecology and capitalism is simple, profit. So while there may well be new sustainable forms of technology that would help to a degree the environmental problem, these decisions are made by capitalists under the system of capitalism. Thereby, the primary motivation regarding any future technology is profitability. “Big Green” supporters more accurately could be labelled “Green Capitalists” such as Bill McKibben and Al Gore, who generally suggest little more than we should leave fossil fuels in the ground. Which is of course is true, but not the entire story.

This message gives the erroneous impression that climate change is caused primarily by fossil fuel driven electrical power plants. Therefore, if we switch to renewable energy and usher in the “green new deal” (GND) we can all return to normal. The problem with this is, fossil fuel powered electricity only accounts for 17% of greenhouse gas emissions, with other big players including; industry 14.7%, transportation 14.3%, agriculture 13.6% and land use changes (primarily deforestation) 12.2%.

Alas, the GND will not be our saviour and nor will Greta Thunberg despite her recent impassioned plea. Greta’s corporate backers and her supporters from the Non-Profit Industrial Complex (NPIC) have unsurprisingly the same goal, this is not about saving the planet, but saving capitalism. As the global economy is experiencing stagnation, this movement is more interested in uncovering new financial markets. For the ruling elite, this is a golden opportunity to seize unprecedented growth and profits, estimated to be around $100 trillion. As briefly mentioned one of the main strategies to preserve capitalism is the GND.

The “green new deal” will not rescue us or the planet if it is implemented under the current system. With this in mind, let us review some of the proposals under the “green new deal” to uncover what it would consist of, it’s limitations and who would benefit from it. Firstly, for those who are unaware for whatever reason, the original “new deal” was a period of time consisting of democratic reforms and massive investment in infrastructure within the US. It began in 1933 and was designed to stabilise an economy destroyed by the “Great Depression”. Capitalism had stalled, leading to a distinct possibility of mass starvation and revolution. Millions of people were either unemployed or employed under terrible conditions.

Although this period has been romanticised by the like of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, make no mistake this was less about supporting the needs of the working class and much more about protecting capitalism. Firstly, the banks were bailed out. Sound familiar? While big business was subsidised in an effort to provide the infrastructure and backbone for the US to become a major developed capitalist nation and eventual superpower. The President of the day Franklin D Roosevelt wanted market based solutions, using the housing crisis to bolster the banks, by inventing new markets for capital, in the form of the modern mortgage system, which eventually led to the 2008 economic crash.

Of course, there were benefits for working class people, thousands of parks were built, plus museums and schools nationwide. Other notable victories were social security/unemployment insurance, however this didn’t apply to all workers unlike similar schemes in other developed nations. The payments were just enough to hold back mass starvation, but they were temporary and not distributed evenly. The whole period of the “New Deal” has been vastly exaggerated, partly to prove that transformative change can be achieved within the system of capitalism. In effect it was an elite driven project manufactured to stave off a revolution and to push the population to war, which FDR had been preparing for since about 1937.

As stated earlier, the premise of the “green new deal” is to secure the future of capitalism rather than the planet. The GND claims that it would create “green jobs” in order to kick start the economy. But the GND might not provide long term employment and could actually cause the planet lasting damage. It’s probable the GND will not provide full employment or anywhere near to it, as green production fails to completely replace non-green production. Green production could conceivably lead to wars in a desperate fight for “Green Territories”, in fact land grabs are already occurring in Africa and Latin America.

On a planet wide scale, the “global green new deal” has been proposed by the UN. We need to be mindful of who some of the collaborators are; the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation (WTO). This list alone should sound alarm bells inside any mind who seeks long term sustainability on the planet. What we are witnessing is a powerful merging of multi-national corporations and the non-profit industrial complex (NPIC), who are pushing similarly to the original “New Deal” for market solutions to a deeply complex crisis.

Thunberg herself has stated that the climate strikes will continue until Sweden is aligned with the Paris Agreement. But this recommends the expansion of nuclear power, the financialisation of nature and further privatisation on an enormous scale. Technologies such as carbon capturing equipment and “sustainable investments” are seen as the way forward to ‘save’ our beleaguered planet. In 2018 Al Gore proclaimed that sustainability is history’s biggest investment opportunity, while disclosing that “climate wealth” is not for the many but rather the few.

These elite ‘opportunities’ are offered by entities such as Generation Investment, a firm who lists approximately 125 companies which they use, but offer that they are not chosen based on sustainability rather on “the quality of their business”. Some of these multinationals have terrible ethical track records and include names such as; Amazon, Colgate, Nike and Mastercard. So let us explore this “green revolution”, to figure out how it plays out in real life and uncover the winners and losers. The chosen company for this little case study is M-Kopa Solar “power for everyone”.

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M-Kopa Solar is a pay per use solar power provider, in the form of solar kits that has been lauded for providing their services to impoverished African communities. Incidentally this is a company run by rich white capitalists for rich white capitalist. Countries that have been targeted up to this point are; Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. While they have been funded by such liberal luminaries including; Richard Branson and in particular Al Gore.

M-Kopa estimates that about 80% of its customers live on less than $2 per day. By 2015 M-Kopa had made $40 million (USD), but this company accrues the bulk of their money not through selling solar products, but through credit. M-Kopa charges poor Africans high interests rates for the use of their products, with even higher dividends returning back to the pockets of the rich.

Customers must pay a deposit, while paying off the rest of the loan on a daily basis. If they fail to make payments they are swiftly punished, the device can be shut off remotely meaning a loss of electricity. On a continent where 600 million people are without electricity, 300 million are without clean sanitation. What exactly is M-Kopa offering? The answer, Televisions, a 24 inch solar kit TV at an astronomical $648.88 (USD) on finance or $546.61 (USD) for cash. This for someone living on less than $2 a day is extortionate, especially when considering a similar item can be bought on Amazon for $157.99 (USD). Clearly this has less to do with providing a service, rather a plan revolving around psychopaths making money out of a shitty situation, while exploiting the most vulnerable in society, as per usual.

One of the scariest prospects in all of this is what’s called the “New Deal for Nature” which lays the foundation for payments for ecosystem services (PES). This in affect is the commodification of nature and is created by an intricate web of NGO’s and corporations, sold to us under the guise of environmental protection. The result of this is the financialisation and privatisation of all nature throughout the entire planet. Capitalism and the markets are so much in control, while being thoroughly disconnected from reality that economic growth is considered more valuable than our planetary ecosystems.

However, for all of these grand plans and schemes to materialise changes in legislation are required. NGO’s such as those already mentioned plus many others who are involved in this global scam are designed to create popular demand from the citizenry to support legislation required to benefit industry and the ruling elite, rather than the planet. This is cunningly re-packaged and named climate change solutions, while Greta Thunberg’s carefully cultivated persona is being used to manufacture consent. In this way, corporate power and the ruling elite do not have to directly impose its will on the people, we will impose it on ourselves, accepting false solutions to climate change, which are the very ideas the elite have been working on for years, all to benefit the few.

This ‘magic trick’ is performed through the idea of emotional investment. The more emotionally invested you are, the less critical and objective you become. This can be witnessed by the knee jerk reactions people are displaying when even the most mild of criticism is levelled at Greta or the movement she represents. The whole plan is to mobilise the public into emergency mode and was first presented in 2016 by “The Climate Mobilization” NGO in 2016, through a paper called, “Leading the public into emergency mode: A new strategy for the climate movement“.

Greta Thunberg’s well documented message, “I want you to act as if your house is on fire. Because it is”, was designed to encourage the public to recognise and accept there is a life threatening situation in order to go in to emergency mode. Once this occurs on global scale, it will enable the release of “a huge amount of resources toward solving the crisis”. This crisis will rapidly become the main priority for society. The whole point for “The Climate Mobilization” and psychologist founder Margaret Klein Salamon is to create something akin to “war-time mobilization”, however, rather than saving civilization which it claims as its mission, it will in truth bail out the corporatocracy.

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In contrast, while we are in non-emergency mode there are clear budget restraints, with less access to capital. Effectively “emergency mode” will trigger a social and industrial revolution and the construction of a modern industrial economy. Of course, as discussed earlier certain individuals in particular regions of the globe (western corporations) will benefit more than others.

Besides leading the public down this faux activist cul de sac and re-booting capitalism, it also provides the added bonus of derailing any radical ideas regarding climate change outside of the realm of capitalism. Anyone who dares to question the gospel according to St Greta of Thunberg is considered a climate change denier, a frightened white old man, a conspiracy theorist or even prejudiced against people with autism and sometimes accused of all of the above at once. As expressed earlier, any strategy that has the protection of the planet and the people at its core while striving for sustainability, is compelled to look outside of capitalism.

As mentioned many times before, a system supporting infinite growth on a finite planet is simply impossible. To conclude, yes there is such a thing as climate change, yes it is one of the biggest challenges we face as a species and no this current pathway will not help us in the long run. To use an old English saying, “you can’t have your cake and eat it”. Meaning, we can’t continue to live in a consumer led society and expect everything will turn out rosy. Other ideas such as those put forward by Eco Socialists may prove to be of more value, especially if we really are trying to save the planet.