Biden: The Democratic Party’s preferred corporate lamb to the slaughter.

Make no mistake Joe Biden had an excellent Super Tuesday, while Sanders in contrast had somewhat of a nightmare. Following Biden’s win in the South Carolina primary, one centrist candidate after another coalesced around this questionable establishment politician in an effort to dampen Bernie’s popularity. In all honesty this strategy was smart and timely. Not only that, but to compound Bernie’s problems, the quintessential political chameleon Elizabeth Warren remained in the race until today, further splitting the progressive vote and most probably contributing to Sanders losing some states such as, Warren’s home state of Massachusetts, plus Maine, possibly Texas and Minnesota.

A couple of weeks ago the ruling elite had a collective meltdown, viewing Sanders increasingly as an existential threat to their privileged way of life. Therefore, something had to be done. This ultimately brought about tactics of alliances between candidates and a 24/7 blanket support of Biden post South Carolina by the mainstream propaganda machine. Biden has also courted and been supported by corporate America, recently hosting 250 big money donors in New York. Meanwhile, his recent Super Tuesday victory was reflected by a Wall Street surge who perceive Biden as a benign candidate.

Like any great prize fighter, following the Super Tuesday setback, Sanders needs to regroup, clear his head and fire back at Biden. Finding easy targets against a lacklustre, lifelong establishment candidate should not be a difficult task for the Sanders campaign. At this point Bernie needs to find his killer instinct and repeatedly hit Biden’s weak spots, which frankly is his entire political career. If Joe Biden is elected there is no doubt he would be eviscerated by Trump come debate time. It would be akin to watching a heavyweight top ten pugilist go up against a washed up punch drunk, ageing club fighter and it won’t be pretty to watch.

In 2016 many people voted for Trump because they were disillusioned with corporate, mainstream, establishment politics. Joe Biden embodies this down to his very core, he has even reaffirmed this on stage, espousing a lazy, uninspiring “steady as she goes” rhetoric. This is exactly what the US and the world do not need at this particular point. The planet is burning, huge inequality is effecting health, education and general wellbeing. Wars continue all over the world, as a part consequence of a system that requires infinite growth on a finite planet.

libya deathFurther to this, the US continues to expand it’s empire by systematically destroying nations who fail to toe the line, either through conflict or economic sanctions. Trump will undoubtedly continue down this path if re-elected, as his last few years have clearly indicated. So too would Biden if he wins the nomination and is elected later this year. To be fair the POTUS has very little control over foreign policy, as the deep state rarely deviates from its interventionist position.

It’s is difficult to attain what changes Bernie Sanders could make regarding foreign policy, considering the might of the military industrial complex. Domestically, however, there is only one anti-establishment change candidate around right now and that’s Bernie. Does he go as far as I’d like on many issues? Of course not. But we have to put this into perspective. This is the US, and as much as Bernie’s proposals would seem mainstream to most of Europe, they would signify a much welcomed radical shift in policy within the US.

So who really is Donald Trump’s potential punching bag Joe Biden? Biden has had 45 years in politics, he spent 36 years as a senator and a further 8 as Obama’s vice president. He is reputedly a ‘moderate’ who calls himself “middle class Joe”. However, over his career he has taken big money contributions at the expense of ordinary hard working Americans. This is the kind of politics that turned many people away from the Democrats and towards Trump in 2016. So let us take a little look at Biden’s politics of transaction.

Throughout his 36 years as a senator he has been financed by credit card companies. Between 1989 and 2000 MBNA was Biden’s single largest donor. In 2005 he authored and voted for a bankruptcy bill which made it increasingly more difficult for Americans to clear their debts. Consequently, this has had the effect of skyrocketing student debt since its inception. A study from the Federal Reserve of New York went as far as to suggest that this bill led to a rapid surge of foreclosures that may not have occurred otherwise. Coincidentally MBNA hired Biden’s son straight out of Law School as a lobbyist in 1996 and again as a consultant between 2001-2005, this was the same period Biden was working on the bill.

On the day Biden announced his campaign on the 25th April 2019, he attended a fundraiser hosted by a CEO of a major health insurance corporation. He unsurprisingly, flatly refused to sign a pledge rejecting money from the insurance and pharmaceutical world. Further to this, his campaign has been bankrolled by a super Pac run by healthcare lobbyists. In return for cash, the current healthcare industry will be preserved by President Biden if elected, at the expense of 10 million uninsured Americans.

Unlike healthcare, Biden did sign a pledge not to take money from the fossil fuel industry and then reneged on it. Shortly after the CNN hosted the climate change forum, he attended a fundraiser hosted by a fossil fuel conglomerate executive Andrew Goldman. Generally speaking Joe Biden’s climate change proposals have been rated as poor by leading environmental groups, accusing him of largely paying lip service with no discernible plan. In a report by the Sunrise Group, Bernie Sanders scored 183/200 while Biden totalled a dismal 75/200, the group concluded that climate change doesn’t appear to fit into his plans.

koala

Historically speaking Joe Biden’s positions don’t look too flash either.

What seems abundantly clear is that Biden lacks any moral conviction. His policies are deeply rooted in neoliberal ideology, while also being relatively socially conservative. In any other nation he would be considered to be firmly on the right of the political aisle. Biden, like the majority of the Democratic Party is a typical transactional politician, in effect a Hillary Clinton 2.0. He has been prolific on the speaking circuit for decades while cultivating close ties with lobbyists. His career in politics has been marked by establishment rhetoric and 3rd way triangulation, exactly what the US voters rejected in 2016.

Trump would be licking his lips at the prospect of running against Biden. They do possess similarities in as much they are both corrupt and employ unhealthy doses of nepotism. Where they differ, however, is Trump somehow still has the support from many of the disenfranchised all around the country. An establishment, centrist, careerist politician will never defeat a leader who has positioned themselves as a populist, regardless whether this façade bears any resemblance to the truth or not.

This matchup would not end well for Biden, but would definitely be a preferable option for the DNC, rather than allowing Bernie Sanders to run as the Democratic Party candidate. The truth is, only a populist can beat a populist in this current political climate and Bernie is the ultimate anti-establishment candidate. Sanders is perfectly suited to dismantle Trump and his dystopian nightmare. As they say styles make fights and this would be a cracker.

 

 

 

Beware of the grassy knoll: Will Bernie Sanders make it to the big dance?

America proclaims to be the “land of the free and the home of the brave”. One thing that is surely difficult to question is the bravery of Bernie Sanders. The US is the home of demockracy, big money talks and generally wins elections. It is a land where government policy is designed primarily to benefit corporations. Even healthcare, a basic human right in most other democracies is controlled by private entities.

Meanwhile, climate change is ignored because it clashes with US interests, more specifically corporate interests. Unsurprisingly, the US has the highest levels of economic inequality in the G7 and 5th worst in the OECD, while boasting more billionaires per capita than any other nation on earth. America is very much a plutocracy, while democracy is a mere pipe dream for the majority of its citizens.

The enormity of what Bernie Sanders is fighting against cannot be overestimated. It is a country at the epicentre of Gordon Gekko’s “greed is good” philosophy (See the film Wall Street for details). A nation that has been on the receiving end of decades of McCarthyism. A place that embodies individualism to the detriment of all others and a country that has killed between 20-30 million people since World War 2. Apparently, all in an effort to implement ‘US democracy’ around the globe. This wonderful gift has been delivered via coups, wars, assassinations, election interference and propping up dictators.

To make his task ever more difficult, Sanders is a self proclaimed Democratic Socialist. Merely uttering the word socialist often raises the heckles of many a ‘patriot’ playing a banjo whilst sat in a rocking chair, on the porch of a run down shack. But this societal attitude towards socialism shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. For decades the people of the US have been indoctrinated with the idea that socialism is bad and capitalism is good (try saying this while doing a Tarzan impersonation).

Throughout the United States this narrative has been blindly regurgitated over the years in the press and of course throughout popular culture. Just think of how many films portrayed the Soviet Union as the bad guys in the 1980’s; Rocky IV, Rambo, Top Gun, Red Dawn, Firefox and of course that unforgettable cinematic classic, No Retreat, No Surrender, complete with Jean Claude Van Damme as the obligatory nasty Russian.

drago

In the 21st century, however, most anti-socialist propaganda is more likely to appear on social media delivered by faux prophets such as Ben Shapiro. The fast talking Shapiro is an expert at knocking down strawman arguments with aplomb, while making false assertions. As an example, one such fallacy he makes is that most wealth in the US is not inherited. However, research on the contrary states that 40% of people on the Forbes 400 list received some inheritance from family members, with 21% inheriting enough to be placed straight on to this list. This particular study also concluded that 60% of individuals who made the list grew up in substantially privileged backgrounds.

Sadly, many like Shapiro have no clue what socialism actually is, let alone what democratic socialism entails. Therefore, the “red scare” persists in many parts of the US, particularly among the ‘baby boomer’ generation. Outlets like Fox News perpetuate this narrative in order to extinguish any ideas that there may just be a better way to run society. In one such egregious attempt to smear socialism, a Fox News anchor compared Denmark to Venezuela. Incidentally, Denmark buries the US on the majority of metrics in relation to wellbeing including; community support, education, environment, civic engagement, life satisfaction and work life balance. To be fair Denmark is considered more as a social democracy.

All that Bernie Sanders is really suggesting is a fairer system, one that looks after and educates all people, not just the ones who can afford it. He rightly disagrees with the premise that the US is currently a meritocracy. The “American Dream” is for many the “American Nightmare”, a fairy tale perpetuated by the ruling elite in order to keep people striving for more and more stuff. The “American Dream” only works for the super rich, who hide behind huge walls, private islands and tax scams . The tail without doubt continues to wag the dog, as the bulk of the money and political grunt lies with a tiny group of oligarchs.

Throughout the early stages of the primaries we have witnessed the corporate machine flex it’s muscles under the guise of the ‘moderate’ wing of the Democratic Party, ably supported by the billionaire led media. Like Corbyn in the UK, Sanders is receiving a huge amount of criticism from within his own party. This is the first line of attack, designed to question Bernie’s credibility and his electability, placing doubt in the minds of the public. This is coupled with the media’s blatant assault, which often consists of black outs or outright criticism. Attacks have also rained down recently from influential ex-politician and the wicked witch of the corporate west Hillary Clinton.

It has been well documented regarding the mainstream media’s overt negative attitude towards Sanders. MSNBC’s Mimi Rocah in 2019 proclaimed that Bernie made her “skin crawl” without giving any reasoning behind this comment, just a juvenile emotionally charged statement. The same organisation have also been guilty of repeated mathematical errors in the form of bogus graphics displayed on screen. These are never amended, apologised for and are always to the detriment of Mr Sanders.

One of MSNBC’s supposedly ‘progressive’ anchor Rachel Maddow suggested Bernie had a “women problem”, claiming that Sanders had less donations from women than all the other candidates. Critically, Maddow only included donations above $200, whilst 99.3% of Bernie’s donations are less than $100. It turns out, that Sanders has raised a greater share of his donations from women than over half the field in the Democratic primary, but this of course has not been mentioned. To further confirm MSNBC’s subservience towards corporate America, host Joe Scarborough boldly claimed that only a capitalist candidate could challenge Donald Trump, despite 63/68 polls stating that Sanders would win in a head to head.

CNN is another influential corporate media outlet that can even outdo MSNBC for anti-Sanders rhetoric. Like most mainstream propaganda outlets CNN is wedded to Wall Street; owned by Turner Broadcast, which is controlled by WarnerMedia, which is a subsidiary of AT&T, the 9th largest corporation in the US. And who owns AT&T? Wall Street investors, the very people who Bernie has consistently waged war against. At this point it’s also worth recognising, that every major media group apart from CBS have board members who are on other boards of either a health insurance or pharmaceutical company. Seeing as Sanders is championing universal healthcare, it’s not entirely surprising why among other reasons the media mafia is decidedly lukewarm towards Bernie.

It wouldn’t be far fetched to suggest that CNN’s sharing of information has been questionable to say the least. This ranges from displaying polls with statically insignificant numbers, to concealing the identities of DNC operatives and lobbyist employees at town hall events. These individuals used fake identities and asked questions with the sole aim to trip Bernie up in public. More recently, prior to the recent Iowa caucus, CNN were back to their usual trick of keeping the debate within acceptable boundaries, for them. 

This media behemoth displays their political colours by repeatedly taking sides against Sanders, such as, seizing on an Elizabeth Warren allegation, suggesting Sanders stated “a woman cannot win the presidency”. This is impossible to verify, as only Warren and Sanders were present during this verbal exchange. Furthermore, during the debate right wing talking points were used in place of responsible and pertinent questions, asking Sanders, “how would you keep the plan from bankrupting the country”?

Unfortunately, if Sanders is to succeed, his campaign better get used to this resistance as the propaganda will only intensify. Stage two will consist of an onslaught from the right wing media, GOP fearmongering and frightened billionaires claiming he is evil personified. Plus of course, obligatory name calling from the “child in chief” Donald Trump and his band of MAGA hat wearing merry men.

Already, right-wing billionaires have a launched an ad campaign against Sanders for proposing universal healthcare and a major public works plan to clean up the planet. Suggesting he’s aiming to transform the country by meeting extreme environmental standards. Unsurprisingly, the majority of these backers are allies of the Koch’s.

The general theme from groups like this is that the Sanders camp are an affront to American values and freedoms. In reality, all this cabal are concerned about is how it affects them and the higher taxes they may well have to pay. However, the game of choice from the right and the media in general will likely be ‘red baiting’. In fact this is already underway, prior to the New Hampshire primary Chris Matthews one of MSNBC’s talking heads suggested that if Sanders won the election, he would establish a dictatorship and start having his opponents shot.

Of course in preparation, the Republican’s will be dusting off their ‘red scare’ playbook, as Sanders begins to be seen as a credible threat to the presidency. In 2018 Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers released a report equating the mild Democratic Socialism Sanders is espousing to the murderous acts of Stalin and Mao. This is clearly ridiculous, if we analyse what Bernie is actually suggesting, in the majority of Europe he would be seen as nothing more than a centrist. Another common narrative right wing reactionaries try to establish, is the link between the plight of Venezuela and a Sanders led government. What they fail to mention is much of Venezuela’s woes have been caused by US sanctions and game playing by the Venezuelan elite.

What we have learnt from the 2016 US election and the recent 2019 UK election is, none of this right wing propaganda requires any truth, all that is needed is the initiation of an emotional response. If this is strong enough, it will override any rational thought processes within the pre-frontal cortex. This very approach contributed to many working class people in the UK to vote for a 3 word slogan “get Brexit done” over better health, education and public services, which Labour proposed.

The politics of fear will be used extensively by Trump with the goal of delivering a message that will bypass any prospect of reason among the electorate. Bear in mind, I haven’t even mentioned baseless accusations of anti-Semitism, which have surfaced on both sides of the Atlantic and was a major contributing factor regarding Corbyn’s defeat. AIPAC is infinitely more powerful than anything the UK has to offer. But unlike Corbyn, the Sander’s camp have been quick to fire back at a bogus article in the Washington Examiner stating, “anyone accusing Bernie Sanders of anti-Semitism and anyone publishing this shit, is a total asshole”.

Lets be honest, Bernie Sanders pisses a lot of rich, connected people off. He’s unapologetically going after bankers, billionaires, big pharma, the med insurance industry, the fossil fuel industry among others. The military industrial complex will also feel threatened by his perceived ‘communist’ ideas. So, will the system allow Bernie to be the President of the United States? If he scrapes past the obvious bias of his own party, mass media attacks that will only escalate, the wrath of right wing vitriol and their blatant lies, do we really think the “deep state” will welcome him with open arms? I’m not convinced.

We clearly need to seriously think about this. A Sanders presidency doesn’t seem that outlandish judging by the polls. Joe Biden has tanked and Buttigieg is hugely unpopular with non-white voters. Billionaire Michael Bloomberg looks like he will buy his way into contention and appears to be possibly the establishment’s strongest contender. But currently, Sanders on average has a 4.4 point lead in the Democratic Party national polls. What’s more, Bernie is up by 8 points in the polls against Trump, taken on the 10th February.

I guess what I’m asking is, with so much at stake would Bernie ever be allowed to physically walk into the White House as President of the United States? A Sanders victory would result in a lot of anger for very rich, powerful, connected people, in a country that has a history of assassinations both inside and outside of the US. In the event of a successful election bid, I would be extremely concerned for wellbeing of Mr Sanders and his family, but would relish a change in political direction from one of the worlds most influential nations. The question is, has the US got the stomach for a political revolution?

 

 

Operation ‘Destroy Corbyn’: A political ‘hit’ on the Labour leader.

It’s simple, the ruling elite cannot allow Jeremy Corbyn into number 10, ever. The Labour leader plans to change life indefinitely for the rich and the powerful. Those sorts, who use their money to secure power, to alter the government machinery to obtain further riches and yet more power are exceptionally frightened. As a result, every mechanism at their disposal is being utilised to prevent any chance of discernible change. Jeremy Corbyn is not fighting the Conservative Party as such, he is taking on the entire neoliberal system and this battle extends way beyond the shores of the UK. Do you really think Donald Trump would be in the least bit enamoured with a Corbyn government?

Labour’s 2019 manifesto has made it abundantly clear that they aim to shift power away from the rich, ensuring more people benefit from government policy. This manifesto has been described as ‘radical’, but to me it just makes total sense. It’s blatantly obvious that these proposals would work well for the vast majority of people, not everyone obviously, but most. Here is a summary of the themes within this document.

  • Renationalising public services.
  • An end to zero hour contracts, universal credit and an increase to 10 quid an hour living wage.
  • Integrating a ‘Green Revolution’ with the economy.
  • Increased workers rights.
  • Control of the education system, with a new National Education Service.
  • The end of NHS privatisation and substantial funding .
  • A clamp down on bankers, tax dodging billionaires, unscrupulous landlords, media tycoons and corporations who pay next to nothing in tax.
  • Only people earning above 80,000 will pay more tax to fund this.

This is just big picture stuff, of course there is much more detail underpinning these proposals. Labour’s main ideas are simple; to improve public services, increase NHS funding, make education work for all, an end to penalising the poor, a commitment to workers rights and effective taxation of the rich. Despite this attempt to roll back unbridled capitalism, some citizens, and not just the wealthy, will vote conservative on December the 12th. If we are looking purely at which party is offering the most beneficial policies for the good of the country, then the choice is relatively simple. However, if we consider this through the lens of our political and social times, such as the easy dissemination of fake news via the internet, things begin to appear murkier and this is completely by design.

Most recently the UK’s political landscape has been shaped dramatically by Brexit. It has dominated political discourse over the past few years and has served to fragment society. Further to this, the UK has suffered 40 years of neoliberalism, a destruction of society replaced by individualism, a value system based almost entirely on money, a mainstream media totally devoted to the ruling elite, capitalism or both, plus a establishment along with a government who gain enormously from the status quo. Within this context, we shouldn’t be remotely surprised that the establishment are using everything within their power to destroy Corbyn. Jeremy threatens all of this, as he plans to bring democracy back to the people and this scares the crap out of the powers that be. Never has a man been more persecuted for trying to make the UK a better place for the majority of people.

Corbyn has been subjected to baseless anti-Semitic slurs, not just from his political enemies, but from his own party. In the press, he’s been accused of being an IRA supporter, claimed to be a Russian stooge, a terrorist sympathiser, as well as labelled a traitor. Any dispassionate research leads to the same conclusion, there is no evidence to support any of these assertions. In July this year, the BBC even went so far as to broadcast a ‘documentary’ entitled, Is Labour Anti-Semitic. Anyone who saw this would have quickly recognised that the makers of Panorama started with the premise that Labour is anti-Semitic and worked back to justify their position. This provided no other purpose than to damage Jeremy Corbyn’s reputation.

Bogus anti Semitic slurs are levelled at Corbyn daily. They are grounded in zero evidence, devoid of fact, but are nethertheless deeply damaging. This campaign against him and the Labour Party doesn’t have to produce people who will vote for Boris Johnson, all that is required is to plant enough doubt in the minds of people to provoke apathy. This collective siege has been unleashed from all corners; party members and former party members such as Margaret Hodge and Luciana Berger. While other offensives have been conducted from so called celebrities such as Rachel Riley and certain figures among the Jewish community, with particular political interests, who proclaim to speak for the entire Jewish community (recently Rabbi Ephrain Mervis).

Rachel the liar Riley

Lets not forget of course that Israel in the form of ‘hasbara’ has been waging political war against Jeremy Corbyn for several years. This has been punctuated by false allegations, by among others an active anti-Palestinian Jewish Labour Movement. Led by characters such as Ella Rose and Adam Langelben, this campaign has been designed unquestionably to force Corbyn and his supporters out of prominent positions within the party. Unfortunately, Corbyn on occasions has made tactical errors, by conceding at times to the demands of these groups. Although, it’s hardly surprising considering the pressure he must be under. This assault has frequently been supported by a media outlet once considered a left leaning source, that of the Guardian, with journalists such as Jonathan Freedland sticking his boot in at varying opportunistic moments.

Contrary to these empty lies, recently departed Speaker of the House, Conservative MP and Jewish man John Bercow, clearly stated that Jeremy Corbyn is not Anti-Semitic, having known him for over 20 years. The political right unsurprisingly have taken a different method in which to sully Jeremy Corbyn. Jeremy Hunt, accused the Labour leader of being the new Hitler. In contrast, the Times suggested Corbyn was too frail, both physically and mentally to lead the nation. The same publication also printed an article from a British Army General who ensured that ‘direct action‘ would be taken if Corbyn was ever elected, declaring he was a threat to national security.

What we need to be aware of regarding the war against Corbyn is, the truth is inconsequential for his opponents and it is all just seen as another strategy to be utilised. What is vital, is the defence of the ruling elite and their way of life, at all costs. Truth, logic and the Enlightenment is slowly but surely ebbing away.  Replacing this is a newly manufactured era of subjectivity, emotion, distraction, lies and hyperbole. This onslaught against objectivity has the effect of keeping the populace confused, apathetic, off-balance, mistrustful and with no comprehension regarding what is a fact or indeed fiction.

Without any doubt this is intentional and a pre-requisite in order for power to remain in the hands of a relatively small, psychopathic, narcissistic, privileged group of people. I suggest that everyone who cares about the UK gets off their collective arses and vote Labour on December the 12th. The Conservatives are offering nothing that may improve the lives of people in any way, shape or form. In fact, their entire plan is solely centred around keeping their grubby hands on the reins of power. Voters just so happen to be the tools with which to achieve this, however, nothing of any good will be returned to them for their misguided loyalty.

 

 

Brexit: The saviour of capitalism.

An election is looming in the UK, on the 12th of December the nation will vote for a new leader of this beleaguered country. If you follow the polls, you may be thinking things are looking bleak for Labour, as many polls have the Conservatives in a sizeable lead. Of course, they could be way off, as they were in 2017, when Labour made significant headway. What amazes me is not that the Conservatives are reportedly doing better than Labour, but the question must be; how are they even close? Massive inequality, an NHS that’s steadily being sold off, poor public services, inconsistent education, increase usage of food banks, a growing homeless population and inertia when it comes to climate change, just to name a few issues. This should be a perfect time for a change Prime Minister of which Corbyn is well suited. So what’s happened? The answer is Brexit.

I’m not sure at the time if David Cameron, the Conservative Party or the right wing in general realised how much political capital would be gained by the charade that has become of leaving the EU. Before we go any further, I will just reaffirm my position on Brexit and it’s a simple one. It will be neoliberalism if the UK stay in Europe and it will be neoliberalism if you’re eating Corn Flakes having voted for the Conservative Party on the morning of the 13th of December. Nothing will change, well not for the better anyway. Everything will continue to get worse, only at a quicker pace because a majority of people will have voted for entitled, public school educated, upper class psychopaths, with a mandate to do as they wish.

This election has rather predictably been labelled a Brexit election, but this is merely a sideshow. There is much more going on in the UK that requires urgent action. Sadly Brexit has divided people like no other issue, blinding many to much more pressing matters that Brexit simply cannot and will not resolve. The UK is split on geographical lines, education, class, race, political party, climate change and of course the ‘B’ word. The political right know that when people are divided, apathetic, politically demoralised and voter turnout is low, they win and usually handsomely.

When people are united by the need for change, with a trust that this can be achieved through the democratic process and a general agreement of what it should look like, the population tends to move to the left. Much of the populist left does not possess much money or power, but when it works it is driven by the people, in vast numbers. Hence the beauty of Brexit. It adds yet another fissure to society, keeping people divided, bitter, angry, emotional and desperate. These factors lead to some working class people who have gained nothing from the system to vote for the very party who will maintain the status quo.

161223_homeless_uk

The ruling elite are feeding off the anxiety and desolation of the working class, who have seen whole areas decimated and relieved of any trace of industry or prosperity. Huge swathes of this group show all the signs of ‘Stockholm Syndrome‘. This is a condition that is often displayed by abused people, prisoners of war and cult members. This occurs when people feel intense fear of physical harm and believe their captor is in total control. It is chiefly thought to be a survival response, which includes sympathy and support for their captor’s plight and can even display manifestations of negative feelings towards people who are trying to help (in this case Labour and Jeremy Corbyn).

A large proportion of this magic trick is performed by the ruling elite, providing disgruntled citizens a common enemy, while proposing a solution to end their pain. Primarily, but not exclusively regarding Brexit this particular ‘patsy’ is immigration. The powers that be, along with a complicit mainstream media have created immigration as a major issue. It has been suggested that immigrants are stealing jobs or reducing wages within the UK.

All this despite academic research suggesting that this is a false narrative, but the myth persists, as any dissenting voice is simply discarded as propaganda, both from the left and the right dependent on which side of the Brexit fence you sit on. Many people will vehemently declare they are not racist and I’m sure they are generally sincere with these admissions. However, the process of immigration involves of course people from varying countries and cultures and without any compelling evidence to support the immigration theory, lets just say, it doesn’t look good.

NHS workers.jpg

Many people who move to the UK are there because the nation requires their skills, particularly in the NHS. Regarding EU immigrants, a paper by the London School of Economics suggests that they are generally more educated, younger and less likely to claim benefits than people born in the UK. Approximately 44% of this population have some form of higher education as opposed to 23% of those born in the UK. With regards to taking jobs, immigrants also consume goods and services, therefore, potentially creating more employment opportunities. Evidence has shown that in areas with the most amount EU immigration the situation has not resulted in major job losses or a reduction in pay for UK born workers. Most major economic repercussions resulted from the rich playing roulette with other peoples’ money, pre and post 2008.

So on the face of it, the immigration scapegoat holds little water, but we shouldn’t let a good yarn obscure the facts, because after all the ruling elite have a solution for all this. This of course is Brexit, on waking up post election, plus Brexit shortly after, the UK will be free to make their own decisions and to screw up the country as they see fit. They will be free to continue with the privatisation of the NHS, free to penalise the poor and free to allow corporate CEO’s, ex Prime Minsters, celebrities and other undesirables to hide their money in British Overseas Territories via trusts. All this freedom must be intoxicating for some people, but not necessarily for anyone you or I know. The idea that Brexit will cure all our ills is a fantasy, but it continues to fragment the people and for that the Conservatives must be eternally grateful.

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.

black friday

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.

iuZAN1UHMD
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.

 

 

Wealth over wellbeing: How neoliberalism stole our freedom.

Freedom, it’s a funny word and from a practical sense oddly illusive. I’m going to make the case that the meaning has been hijacked both figuratively and literally. In the early 2000’s George W Bush irritated me on a daily basis, when he justified the destruction of Iraq, as “defending our freedoms”. Not only was he was happy to go to war on a whim with his best mate Tony Blair without any supporting evidence, he also had the audacity to pluralise “freedom”. Surely, we do not have a multitude of “freedoms”, we either have “freedom”, contributions to freedom, degrees of freedom or even none at all, but I digress. So what is it, and does it actually exist in the western world?

Firstly, we need to define it. Mirriam Webster’s Dictionary states:

Freedom

1. The quality or state of being free: such as:

a) The absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action.

b) Liberation from slavery or restraint or power of another: Independence.

c) The quality or state of being exempt or released from something onerous.

d) Unrestricted use.

e) Ease, facility.

f) The quality of being frank, open or outspoken.

g) Improper familiarity.

h) Boldness of conception or execution.

2.

a) A political right.

b) Franchise, privilege.

Evidently freedom can be described in a multitude of ways, however, throughout the Neoliberal world the notion of freedom is much more specific. In 1962 Milton Friedman, US economist and one of the primary proponents of neoliberalism (which was largely referred to as free market economics) published a book called “Capitalism and Freedom“. In this, one of his main ideas opined that, economic freedom must be a prerequisite for political freedom. This was a view supported by right wing/ libertarian thinkers and luminaries such as, Ludwig van Mises, Ayn Rand and Friedrich Hayek. Friedman argues that freedom should include economic freedom. This idea goes beyond simply proclaiming that individuals have a right to act freely in the market, but that the market itself should be free from government regulation.

Neoliberalism in theory, through economic freedom was alleged to allow autonomy and creativity to develop. What has occurred over time is practically all meaningful decisions boil down to money. Whether this involves shipping jobs off-shore to increase corporate profits, offering zero hour contracts or smashing the union’s ability to negotiate decent pay and workers rights, all resolutions are shaped by the bottom line. Government’s from the late 70’s in the UK, or early 80’s in the US and New Zealand started to operate in the same finance driven way. In New Zealand ‘reforms’ (code for cuts) were severe and brisk. Historically in NZ this period is referred to as Rogernomics, after the then Finance Minister Roger Douglas.

In typical neoliberal fashion, most state owned assets in New Zealand were sold off either partially or fully. Tax rates for high earners were massively reduced (66-33%), replaced by a regressive goods and services tax. Unemployment rose dramatically from 3.9% in 1985 to 10.7% by 1992. For Roger Douglas this was considered a triumph, as inflation dropped from 15.4% in 1985 to 6.4% by 1988. Douglas’s obsession with inflation was injected with steroids following the arrival of a National government in 1990, as levels of people out of work climbed to unprecedented levels. Compounding this misery, unemployment benefits were often reduced. The consensus of the time erroneously suggested that high payments reduced any incentive to work.

Using narrow metrics such as, inflation and national debt reduction, one could argue that this ideology, referred to by Naomi Klein as “shock doctrine” was a success. On the contrary, if we acknowledge that neoliberalism was purported to positively affect employment, income levels and economic growth, it’s clear that this was and is still an abject failure. In New Zealand the economy shrank by 1% between 1985 and 1992, contrasting with the average OECD country who saw growth of 20% over the same period. Poverty increased dramatically, with 1 in 6 people living below the poverty line in 1992. Even when employment eventually did improve it was primarily due to a huge rise in part-time work. During this time, unsurprisingly income inequality rose sharply as the nation’s richest citizens enjoyed the bulk of the gains.

inequality

New Zealand is just one example of the overall neoliberal social experiment. Of course, there have been similar stories all over the western world as people and their jobs were sacrificed in the name of profit. So the question must be asked, who’s freedom does this doctrine protect? It certainly wasn’t the miners in the UK during the 80’s or the forestry workers in New Zealand and it definitely isn’t the many homeless who live on the streets. While the wealthy continue to acquire greater freedom to become ever richer, many of the working class have lost or are losing their freedom in the form of dignity and autonomy due to a lack of employment or bullshit jobs. All this suggests that according to the neoliberal doctrine, unlimited freedom for the ruling elite, economic or otherwise clearly outstrips any humble needs required by the vast majority of its citizens.

The middle classes are another group tied to this perpetual neoliberal nightmare. Firstly, most of these people have sustainable enough work to allow them a veneer of freedom, obtaining suitable housing, food, education and other services. However, this group is only given the illusion of choice in the form of unlimited obtainable goods for which to purchase. This commodification of freedom is a powerful opiate in which to keep the middle classes occupied as they purchase more crap than they need, in order to fill a gaping hole in their meaningless empty lives. Another way to anaesthetise the middle classes is by proposing a differing form of equality, in the shape of identity politics. This divides people into ever increasing competing tribes, often based on gender, race and sexuality.

This type of political participation is well suited to the professional and middle classes. It offers a way of feeling virtuous, all the while providing a faint whiff of moral superiority. One now has a way of feeling righteous without pandering to those uncultured grubby working class types, who are often labelled racist, uneducated and sexist. In the 1990’s identity politics burst onto the scene, largely endorsed by the likes of Tony Blair and Bill Clinton. Now it provides a standard blueprint for mainstream politics, allowing governments to adhere to unbridled capitalism while appeasing the masses. This political “sleight of hand” cunningly shifts any blame or guilt away from the rich and the middle classes back to the most powerless in society, namely the working class.

Identity politics also has the added bonus of providing the middle classes, who have less to worry about, a way feeling smugly principled in the comfort of their own suburban four bedroom detached house. This pious morality and elevated sense of superiority manifests in just about every Brexit debate ever witnessed online involving a Remainer. This politically insulated group have an incredible ability of failing to understand why anybody in their right mind would vote against the EU. Despite the fact that many working class families in locations such as; South Wales, the North and the Midlands have witnessed a catastrophic collapse of industry and by association the disappearance of skilled jobs from these areas.

The funny thing is, the real or old left have always cared about minorities, as it was felt these groups often made up the most precarious and vulnerable people in society. In this current political climate, however, the idea of considering yourself for example as colour-blind is in itself now considered racist. The game has dramatically changed, now groups compete for the title of most oppressed, seeking to eradicate racism and sexual discrimination, with further racism and sexual discrimination. Apparently, this time around it’s all OK, as we are told this is the good type of bigotry. With the ‘woke’ certain to be on “the right side of history” and thus delivered from evil.

In truth, the middle classes are only offered a limited bandwidth of freedom, that of the right to choose which new car to buy or maybe the colour of kitchen to install. In addition, they get to experience feelings of intellectual and moral dominance other those who have been systematically crapped on for roughly 40 years. As long they don’t look up and ask the big questions, such as, is there a better system than this, all will be hunky-dory on planet bourgeois. Freedom is an illusive beast, while the middle class have a slither of freedom, the working class generally have none.

So where is freedom’s natural habitat? Is it to be found in our democracy? Do we even have a democracy? If so, is it functioning? Furthermore, are democracy and freedom even compatible? I would like to suggest freedom is a not zero sum game, but quite often one person’s exercising of their rights can generally have an impact on other people, rather like “cause and affect”. Can we maximise the amount of people having access to freedom? What would be the human cost? To satisfy this, would our idea of freedom be compelled to change? So many questions, all lacking satisfactory answers.

As a thought experiment; consider a family who may exercise their freedom to buy a SUV to pick up their kids from school, plus embark on a couple of long haul holidays each year, purely because they feel they work hard and therefore deserve it. This in isolation could appear totally innocuous and reasonable. Over time, however, it may well be argued this would contribute to rising CO2 in our atmosphere (note the word contribute not cause), leading to sea level rises. Climate Change according to the data available will have a profound effect on atolls such as the Cook Islands, ironically a holiday destination. The rise of oceans will have a deeply detrimental affect on people such as the Cook Islanders, impacting their homes, food sources and their livelihood. So who’s freedom is more important?

In business Jeff Bezos has a right to make a bucket full of money to fulfil his idea of freedom, which incidentally amounted to over $150 billion until his recent divorce. Mr Bezos who presides over the Amazon retail empire, while accommodating his substantial financial appetite also has a reputation for treating his workers, who’s labour create his wealth, particularly badly. I’m sure some people reading this may declare that people don’t have to work for him and this is of course true. Sadly many communities have seen whole industries vanish due to neoliberalism and with little transferable skills many often have to grab whatever is available to feed their family.

US-ENTERTAINMENT-FILM-POST

What’s more, in a quest to rake in even more obscene amounts of cash, Jeff Bezos isn’t too fond of paying taxes and like many of the rich, he has the means to navigate around the tax laws. In addition, during Amazon’s early days there was a concerted effort to undercut any opposition with the express intention of eliminating all competition. In a neoliberal and indeed a libertarian universe this is considered fine and dandy. Through his pursuit of freedom (aka capital) Bezos has consequently left a trail of people who had their freedom trampled upon. This includes his workers dignity, who are expected to process 300 packages in an hour, at times urinating in bottles to reduce ‘idle time’. Or indeed, the freedom of small businesses to provide customers with choice and indeed a decent income for themselves.

If the system most of us reside in is chiefly concerned with money, implying that this leads to freedom, by that logic those with the biggest pile of dosh must obviously have the most freedom. I’m sure some people sympathetic to Mr Bezos will offer that his lack of tax payments fall well within current laws. But this legal leniency conveniently omits the glaring truth that the rich can lobby (bribe) political representatives to adjust or remove troublesome legislative roadblocks accordingly. On top of this, taxes enables society to function for the many who are reliant on the state for a wide range of services, such as; education, health and the implementation of the law.

Sickeningly, an overt use of money and power is routinely exercised during the US election cycle, undeniably with significant outcomes. For example, in the 2014 US midterm elections the biggest spenders generally won, this occurred 94% of the time in the House of Representatives and 82% in the senate. As Neil Diamond once sang in the song Forever in Blue Jeans, “money talks”. In stark contrast to the wealthy movers and shakers, the rest of the populous get to vote every 3 to 4 years or so nationally. This charade offers a modicum of democracy, despite that the overwhelming majority of real power lies in the hands of a few.

Each time these democratic extravaganzas (elections) arise it is made ever more difficult to take part. This is particularly true in the US and to some extent the UK. For many it is difficult to build up the enthusiasm in order to exercise our fleeting democratic rights. Realistically, we get to vote for someone who has nothing in common with most normal folk, often with no interest in them (apart from their vote) and who generally doesn’t represent the ideas or principles of the people. Furthermore, voting restrictions in the US, such as ID legislation has created more barriers to this alleged democracy. This travesty is currently taking place in a country which reported a 55% voter turnout in 2016.

Specific ID requirements are also being pushed by the Conservative government in UK. It’s worth noting that the parties supporting these types of policies are right wing entities, in the form of the Tories and the Republican’s. It is strongly suggested that these restrictions disproportionately affect some of the most marginalised people in society. Groups such as the homeless, older voters and others from minority backgrounds are less likely to possess the forms of ID accepted though these changes.

Freedom appears to be very much a one way street. What we have is, neoliberal parties intent on erecting obstacles preventing certain sections of the community, who are often sympathetic to left wing ideas a chance to vote. Predictably, both right wing tribes in the UK and the US have stated that these proposed measures are intended to prevent voter fraud, which incidentally is negligible on either side of the pond. This a typical tactic, whereby a solution is created for a problem that doesn’t exist, which usually possesses another often darker purpose

So, answering the questions above; do we have freedom in the western world? Clearly this depends on your interpretation of freedom. Using a neoliberal definition, most of us only have a limited amount of freedom, with many of our fellow citizens being excluded from participating in society at a very basic level. The bourgeois middle class and even most individuals in the upper echelon, only have freedom primarily with regards to consumer choice, with some possible minor political clout.

However, this group is still wedded to a system that prevents many from dispensing with their meaningless jobs to pursue more worthwhile and satisfying endeavours. Undoubtedly this bunch are in a bind. By renouncing their comfortable and for some, well paying dreary existences, this could result in decreased consumer freedom and economic status. Conversely, this type of rejection of the status quo may well lead to a new psychological flexibility, devoid of this maniacal pursuit of status.

Referring to an earlier thought; do we live in a democracy? It’s worth pointing out that neither of the last two UK Prime Ministers, Theresa May and the newly crowned Boris Johnson were voted in by the nation’s populous. In contrast both were selected via a tiny section of Conservative party supporters with a distinctly myopic perception of the world. This route is also popular in Australia, where inner party coups, resignations and early retirements have recently been the norm when choosing a new Prime Minister. Judging by this current trend of handing over the baton of power at the very top level thereby bypassing the general population, I would offer that the future of democracy is shaky at best.

The merging of the state and powerful corporations renders the voice of the many effectively irrelevant. Claims of a democracy are devoid of any substance, while freedom is only permitted within the narrow parameters of a neoliberal framework. This unholy alliance between business and government is where the true power lies. Meanwhile,  each citizen has the privilege of choosing between different flavours of the same product every few years. Is democracy synonymous with freedom? If what we have is a democracy, then the answer surely must be no. Although, if we can cultivate a society where direct democracy is available on every conceivable level of society, then maybe freedom still has a chance.

koch bastardsUnder this more numerically inclusive vision of freedom, Billionaires such as the Koch brothers could conceivably argue that their freedom to wreck the planet while making a truck load of cash would be inhibited. Here lies the problem, if someone pursues self-determination to the nth degree, another’s freedom possibly set at a more modest or basic level will unquestionably be in jeopardy. Maybe as an alternative we should take a utilitarian approach, in other words, endeavouring to secure freedom at a humanitarian level for the most amount of people first.

In this spirit, the optimal outcome would be to ensure; food, shelter, warmth, education, healthcare, security, an equal say in societal decisions and other many tools enabling people to flourish in life. Not everyone can obtain the highest level of freedom that they desire at the same time. Therefore, an individual’s quest for unlimited levels of autonomy must be tempered and prioritised to ensure all members of society have a base level of freedom providing all an opportunity to engage in society.

 

 

 

 

The failure of dialogue and the rise of political polarisation.

Question, how long does it take for a discussion on Facebook to turn into a childish name calling competition? Minutes, seconds, instantaneously? If you are on the left of Genghis Khan you are labelled a far left, snowflake, commie bastard and if you are considered to be on the right of Leon Trotsky you are considered an alt right, fascist, Nazi pig. There are absolutely no shades of grey in this equation. The overriding mentality suggests you are either with us or against us and if you are the latter, you don’t deserve an opinion because you are a worthless piece shit. At which point ends any faint hope of an adult conversation.

This is played out everyday on social media, in parliament, college campuses and the workplace. You have to devour the entire menu from either the rabid fascists or the commie bastards, otherwise you must be a troll and therefore, should be hung in the main square at noon. Only the team you favour is entitled to free speech and not everyone is allowed a platform or even a viewpoint. Looking at the state of political discourse, this polarisation is intensifying and doing democracy (what’s left of it) no good whatsoever. Below is a protest against Warren Farrell’s appearance at the University of Toronto in 2012, the event was discussing men’s issues, such as suicide. Apparently this wasn’t acceptable to the intersectional puritans.

Most people don’t agree with everything a political party serves up, but often we choose one which aligns with our beliefs, ideals and morals the best we can. This is quickly becoming “out of fashion” as a puritanical political ideology is starting to take over throughout the west. If for example, you show reservations regarding the effectiveness of modern day capitalism in certain quarters, you are suddenly lectured about how the Soviet Union and China was a failed experiment, killing millions of people, while probably being accused of supporting gulags and mass murder. In contrast, if one displays any mild dissent for example, on college campuses towards identity politics, you are immediately branded a misogynistic, racist, knuckle-dragging Neanderthal, who probably voted Brexit and is Nigel Farage’s favourite real ale drinking buddy.

My examples hopefully sound absurd, but this absurdity is only matched by the lack of sane dialogue and nuance as witnessed in most political arenas. This ideological segregation leaps out at me, primarily because I don’t tick all the boxes of the self-ascribed modern day lefty. I am unashamedly an economic lefty, I believe economic inequality and poverty caused by runaway capitalism is primarily our biggest issue. It affects crime, social cohesion, health provision, education, the environment and foreign policy (aka constant war). Conversely, I view the identarian ‘left’ with it’s rigid all or nothing doctrine and it’s attempt to regulate societal acceptability as deeply disturbing.

Both sides of the political aisle, predictably, doggedly stick to their assigned media echo chambers. In the US, Fox News is the word of God (or indeed Rupert Murdoch), while on the left MSNBC is often the liberals choice of propaganda, ceaselessly proclaiming yet another rehashed Russian/Trump accusation. In the UK political allegiance is chiefly grounded in Newspaper outlets; the Daily Mail, the Telegraph and the Sun tend to cover the varying classes of Brexit voting, apartheid supporting, right wing, sabre rattlers. While the Independent and the Guardian cater for the permanently outraged, woke middle class, remain voting, snowflakes, who are convinced they are the most enlightened human beings ever to have walked the earth. Negligent posting of any form of media outside of your scope of bigotry is punishable by death, or at the very least an accusation of being a despicable troll, rather than an independent thinker.

Newsflash, just because you may read articles outside of your political realm at times, does not mean you are going to wake up one day the very antithesis of the person who went to bed that night. It is perfectly OK to challenge yourself with speakers and commentators you may not ordinarily agree with (in my case someone like Jordan Peterson). It is good to test what we believe, weighing up the information at hand, refining our ideas and sometimes, lo and behold changing them. This is indeed how we grow, develop or even strengthen our long held ideals. Picking a side and blindly sticking with it regardless of any changes that may have radically taken place within that group, such as Blair’s Labour years, is ludicrous.

As a society we seem to know less and less about our political opposites, yet we have ever stronger opinions about them. We often call for resignations, impeachments and no platforming, not necessarily in relation to what they stand for, but a caricature of what they represent. In the US the Democrats have spent over two years trying to build a case against Donald Trump regarding Russian interference in the 2016 elections. The allegations are baseless, but it appears easier than trying to work out why millions of working class white folk voted for him, without referring to them as racist and xenophobic.

MSNBC - Election Coverage - Season 2016
Rachel Maddow, MSNBC host and fulltime Russiagate conspiracy theorist.

The same can be said for Brexit, rather than acknowledging that millions of people particularly outside of the South East, have not benefitted from a system that has been at one with Europe for decades. It’s clearly more satisfying and simplistic to vomit ad hominem’s from a great moral height on the minions down below. Otherwise Remainer’s will have to recognise that neoliberalism either in or out of Europe will not help the working class and no amount of name calling or shaming is going to change that. Unfortunately this working class disenfranchisement has resulted in support for Semi-Gods (yes that’s what I said) such as Donald Trump and Nigel Farage. When society refuses to listen to its largely ignored, powerless members of the community, they may not protest like bourgeois, middle class know it all’s complete with face paint, but they will try to force change through the ballot box.

I would like to leave this piece with a message of hope, but I desperately fail to see one. Social media will make it increasingly easier for people to display more antagonism towards each other, typing the next line frantically before they have even read the previous reply. Papers sell more and people will watch more if we are perpetually at odds with each other. There will certainly be no solace found within these purveyors of propaganda, who stoke the daily fires of hate, purposefully spewing vitriolic hyperbole and division.

Finally political parties will do whatever is necessary to win and if it benefits society, it will be more luck than judgement. Billionaires will continue to influence big business, economic decisions, as well as national and international policy. In the other class hemisphere, the identarian left will endeavour to redefine societal norms, deciding what we can say, write and think. So as along as the two factions never meet in the middle, government will be delighted and the populous ever more divided.

Are the Koch’s and Bill Gates really that different? Oligopoly, the ultimate game of power and control.

I’m sure many people would contest that comparing the Koch brothers who deal in fossils fuels with Bill Gates who provides vaccines in Africa a bit of a stretch. However, I’m going to suggest that they have much more in common than we’d like to admit. If we observe their methods and ultimately what is achieved, there are some striking similarities. Sure, conservatives like the DeVos’s and the Koch’s morally conduct their affairs differently to Zuckerberg or Gates, but are they really so distinct? You could sensibly propose that Bill Gates’s life is more virtuous than the Koch’s. This indeed is a compelling argument. But is it true? When we consider the two groups; right wing neoliberal oligarchs and philanthrocapitalists (also oligarchs), apart from obscene amounts of money, both sects share their unquestionable desire for power and control.

I will offer that power and control are intrinsically linked. Some semblance of control over your own group, rival factions or even the general populace is required to gain power. That said, to control certainly on an external level, requires some exertion of power, either through elections, coercion or even physical force. The extent and methods required depends on your resources and who you intend to control to obtain power or conversely who you will overpower to wrestle control. At this stage it would be sensible to lay out what these seemingly opposing tribes, both morally and politically have in common and of course how they differ. To finish I will argue that the overall goals of oligarchs regardless of their flavour are strikingly similar.

By the very existence of their extreme wealth, I think it’s safe to assume that all oligarch’s share a strong, deep conviction towards the ‘free market’. Each side fully subscribes to the idea of utilising their wealth to shape the world, often at the expense of democratic processes. Unsurprisingly, many would argue that the Koch’s and Bill Gates share nothing in common, concluding that one wants to continue extracting fossil fuels at the expense of the planet, while the other tries to save lives.

But, if the outcome is all that matters rather than the process, surely we must ask ourselves hard questions regarding the importance of democracy. This dilemma arises due to billionaires not being democratically elected and yet able to use considerable influence to effect major changes, good, bad or indifferent. It has been offered by philosophers and social psychologists alike that huge wealth generates social distance or “ethical independence”. Put simply the rich have no need to cooperate or partake in democracy to get what they require.

Neoliberal leaders often fit into the more recognisable guise of bombastic, power hungry CEO’s, trampling on all that resembles competition. There’s no doubt that these individuals exist, see Jeff Bezos for details. Worse still, the system justifies their behaviour by spinning yarns of ‘homo economicus’, ‘trickle down’ economics and picturing them as ‘job creators’. However, in our midst are those who present as an arguably more agreeable face of power and control. They appear on Ted Talks, are promoted by the mainstream media and portrayed as modern day saviours. These are the neoliberal ‘left’ or philanthrocapitalists and their influence on society is as pervasive as the Koch brothers. Carefully crafted characters such as Gates and Zuckerberg are considered to be oracles of the 21st century. They mould our world from a position of exclusivity that is only experienced by a handful of people and yet we so easily defer to their perceived wisdom.

FAvH
Friedrich Hayek

Historically speaking, the stage that allowed these actors on both sides to perform so freely is neoliberalism. This was first conceived by among others, Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises in the late 1930’s, but failed to gain much traction in the west. This all changed when Keynesian economics started to falter in the mid 1970’s. When the time arose, the objective for Thatcher (UK), Reagan (US) and Roger Douglas in New Zealand was to change the moral and political record. A collective society based on human capital, full employment and relative equality was abruptly abandoned, for competition, individualism and the idea that wealth is virtuous. Out of the rubble of a dismantled social democratic society, rose a small number of individuals who were uniquely positioned to capitalise on increased privatisation, laxed trade regulations and an ever financialised world.

This accumulation of capital is rarely reinvested in society and the people within it, but used to create a system that accrues ever more wealth, power and influence. The elite are in a position to apply pressure at the governmental level for maximum effect, with some tactics being cruder than others. Neoliberalism provides the means that ensures money is sucked out from underneath the mattresses of the poor to the heavily guarded vaults of the rich. These mechanisms are the ‘nucleotides’ of the neoliberal DNA; international trade agreements, decreased market regulations, low taxation, privatisation and reduced government spending are just a few examples.

For decades this ideology of neoliberalism has been supported by the likes of International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. These institutions have been instrumental in forcing desperate sovereign nations to adopt strict austerity measures to reduce debt, by offering an all strings attached bailout package, as witnessed in Greece. In effect these loans had nothing to do with Greece’s economic problem. These were purely constructed to pay off their debts to French and German banks. It has since been recorded less than 10% of the cash borrowed was actually used to reform the economy and to help the Greek people.

As if the world’s oligarchs don’t have enough systemic advantages, many invest heavily in ‘think tanks’ and varying institutions solely to persuade government’s to tip the scales further in their favour. One such right wing funding source are the previously mentioned Koch brothers. Charles and David Koch are co-owners of Koch Industries the largest privately owned energy company in the US. The Koch’s favourite past-time is trying to discredit climate change science and policy solutions. In this arena they have spent a massive $127 million funding 92 organisations between 1997 and 2017. The Koch’s claim to be Libertarians, supporting; drastically lower corporate and personal taxes, minimal public services and a massive reduction in regulations.

Koch brothers

Their undeniable self interest doesn’t stop at muddying the waters regarding climate change. The Koch’s fund a group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), aimed at making it more difficult to prosecute corporations for violations of environmental and financial law. It’s important to realise that the Koch’s do not do all this in isolation, rallying 100’s of wealthy conservative families in an effort to preserve and promote their privileged way of life. Groups such as Americans for Prosperity are a huge and rich organisation, designed to battle against the Democrats, supporting ultra conservative Republicans, espousing ideological policies, while blocking anything in Congress that may oppose the Koch’s best interests.

They are the masters of organising ‘astroturf’ groups. These are alleged grassroot citizen organisations or coalitions. Groups such as ‘Americans for Prosperity’, the ‘Heartland Institute’ and the ’60 plus association’ support entities such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute and their fight for free speech. Which of course is nothing of the sort, it is a mere cover up for anti-science rhetoric, supported by 47 groups all affiliated to the Koch’s. Further to this, the Koch’s spend millions each election cycle and helped fund the Tea Party, spending upwards of $45 million. The Koch’s also donate millions each year to candidates that suit their ideology, this includes past presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Interestingly, despite spending roughly $900 million during the 2016 election cycle, the Koch’s have already declared that they will not be funding Trump next time around.

In contrast to the Brothers Grim, power and control can also be acquired through more insidious mechanisms such as philanthrocapitalism. Many of these characters involved in this practice are labelled by the right wing media as lefties. This theory seriously suggests that these rich, well connected, privileged people who attended top universities, while using capitalism to rake in huge profits support politics of the left. Just to clarify the Democrats and the left are not synonymous with each other. Politics in the US like much of the west provides nothing more than varying shades of neoliberalism. For the CEO class such as Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Richard Branson, the question is, how can philanthropy be used to reinforce a flawed political and economic system such as capitalism.

Supposedly charitable acts, as seen by Bill Gates are conceptualised using market based solutions, looking at costs and benefits. It’s fair to say that philanthrocapitalism is no more than the social justice arm of a destructive global free market. Gates has certainly taken advantage of his huge giving-power to influence global health policies, including the World Health Organisation, where he is their top donor. The Gates Foundation has spent over $1 billion on policy and advocacy, even investing in training programs for journalists at major media organisations. Further to this, the foundation has heavily funded research which has later gone on to be published in scientific journals. These types of activities must be seen as a threat to global democratic decision making. The Gates Foundation also sits on the board of H8, a self appointed group of 8 health related organisations, who have been instrumental in setting up the health agenda for the G8, a group of self important, self selected nations.

Bill Gates
Bill Gates

Both the pretend left and right wing oligarchs, share another mission, that is to pay as little tax as humanly possible. The Koch’s do this rather bluntly by using ‘astroturf’ groups and lobbyists to coerce the government into lowering tax levels and provide tax breaks. The ‘smarmy’ army to ‘their’ left in contrast use charm offensives. In 2015 Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, to much fanfare, proclaimed that they would donate 99% of their shares in Facebook (valued at the time at $45 billion) to the “mission” of “advancing human potential and promoting equality”. Which all sounds very nice, I’m sure you’ll agree. Here’s the catch, Zuckerberg did not set up a charitable foundation which would have automatically held a non-profit status. Instead of this Zuckerberg established limited liability company (LLC). The mainstream media unsurprisingly failed to mention this, instead they continued to gush over this blockbusting moment of perceived altruism.

Unlike a charitable foundation a LLC  allows someone to make investments in a for-profit company, while also permitting the owner to make political donations. Within this framework Zuckerberg is free to lobby for changes within the law and can do whatever he desires with his money. You may ask, “what’s the problem, it’s his money’? Indeed, but is this really the actions of a charity? Zuckerberg can also cunningly use this method to avoid tax. This can be achieved by donating the appreciated shares to charity, which would generate a deduction at fair market value of the stock without triggering any tax. Clever huh?

In a nutshell this means Zuckerberg has made a ridiculous amount of money, for which he is unlikely ever to pay tax on. As a society, do we really want people like Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates deciding the direction of our societal needs? All governments have flaws, but at least there are checks and balances deciding where the money is required, with more than one person making the call. These oligarchs could have quite easily aided society by paying tax just like everybody else, but of course this does not afford them the power or control that they feel they deserve.

So, what have we learnt apart from, don’t trust rich people? Well, we know billionaires span the entire (neoliberal) political spectrum from; George Soros to Sheldon Adelson, from the Koch’s to Michael Bloomberg and from Tom Steyer to Robert Mercer. Many of whom remain hidden like puppeteers, but some use public recognition to their advantage, such as Gates and Zuckerberg. We really shouldn’t be remotely surprised that billionaires manipulate governments and society to benefit themselves in some way. I am aware that much of this article is US centric, however, this is not something that is unique to the States. Similar patterns of oligarchic control can be witnessed all over the world, but particularly within the ‘anglosphere’.

All acceptable politics and political parties within the west are shoehorned into a narrow corridor of neoliberalism, with only minor differences separating them. Parties and the politicians from which they belong are criticised and held to intense scrutiny, but rarely is this kind of ferocious attention applied to the primary problem. This being a political/economic system that is thoroughly in chaos, held together by outdated concepts, some questionable politicians and billionaires who desperately fight to maintain the status quo. It’s the same system that assures the elite of ever increasing bank balances, thus securing more power and control over our ailing planet

Lets be honest, this is not a system for you, me or billions of others like us. In many ways capitalism is no different to feudalism, both possess hierarchies, each system serves the chosen few and neither has any interest in the rest of society. I suspect it’s about time we constructed something anew, outside of this tired and repetitive dynamic. How about we construct a society that works for everybody, oh and we need to do this quickly because the world’s a bit screwed up. No pressure!                                                                                                                                                                                                    

The information war: Venezuelan edition.

I’ve pondered a great deal about the current flow of information, either fact or fiction for quite some time. Recently, this stream of consciousness was reawakened whilst replying to comments from an old friend. The subject matter was Venezuela and the continued trouble that is occurring over there. This recent issue is principally between the current leader President Maduro and the US who are desperate to supplant their own presidential pick. My friend lives in Venezuela and has clearly different opinions to me, which in a nutshell suggests; “Maduro is a butcher and should be removed”.

Am I supposed to except this opinion on face value, because, after all he is living in the country we are discussing? My sentiments on Venezuela, for clarity are this; the oligarchs in Venezuela with the help of the US have made life difficult for the government and ordinary people. The goal is to manufacture consent for an eventual leadership change. To help with this, there has been an extensive use of sanctions and an intricate promotion of propaganda from the mainly opposition owned media to encourage support. In Venezuela 70% of the TV and radio stations are privately owned, 5% are state owned and the rest are community owned and often pro-government. It’s also important to recognise that the main newspapers although currently with small readerships are private companies and are often critical of the government.

Is it right that because as I don’t live in Venezuela and my friend does, I should forgo all my previous research in favour of someone’s opinion who happens to be geographically closer? I guess the question is; does a person’s position have more validity and objectivity, purely because they have some direct involvement in a particular event? My short answer is no. I would argue that on the contrary, an individual is increasingly likely to be more partisan than someone looking in from the outside, with barely any other motivation other than to unearth the truth.

In contrast, my friend’s opinions will be based, on his social status, his family’s social standing, political allegiances and any historical factors. Furthermore, they will be shaped by the environment he lives in, his work, any direct impact from the current government, what media he consumes and importantly how any potential changes may benefit him in the future, to name just a few factors. Incidentally, would I pick a friend in the UK and decide their views are representative of Brexit solely because they lived there? Probably not.

This highlights a huge problem in the age of constant but inconsistent information. How do you uncover the truth? How do we know that what we hear from allegedly morally upstanding sources is the truth? Finally, what is the truth? We are bombarded with information, much of it purporting to be truth, when in essence, a lot of it consists of masses of opinion wrapped around a slither of fact based evidence. This deluge of ‘alternative facts’ isn’t just confined to the internet either; mainstream or so called ‘old media’ is just as guilty.

Take the US for example; if you regularly watched the conservative Fox News channel, you would in all likelihood possess a completely different outlook than if you tuned in to the MSNBC with Rachel Maddow. The same could be said if we compare a Telegraph (right wing) reader with a Guardian (left wing) reader in the UK. You could argue that these people have probably already chosen their political allegiances and this would be largely true. But these media choices reinforce our partisan behaviour and this does not end with TV and newspapers.

MSNBC - Election Coverage - Season 2016
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow

The internet is a minefield if you are trying to obtain facts and it’s all too easy to fall in to the trap of reinforcing what we already believe. This is made considerably worse by algorithms used on many sites. All these mechanisms manage to achieve, is to strengthen any preconceived ideas, which is terrible if you are searching for objectivity. Many of us spend the majority of our time reading what we want to see, watching what we expect and only going on websites that align with our views. I regularly witness individuals dismissing a news piece regardless of the quality of the journalism and the content, purely because it is not a media outlet that they use or indeed trust. By doing this, all we are achieving is further entrenching ourselves within our moral tribes.

So what do we do now? Firstly, it’s OK to acknowledge our biases, we all have them. I am happy to admit I am unashamedly on the left, however, there are some issues that are considered on the left that I don’t subscribe to. Next, read and watch stuff from a range of different perspectives, even if all this does is help you understand your enemy better, it still temporarily transports you out of your echo chamber, while offering an alternative viewpoint. When searching for the truth, it’s helpful to look at an article or website as if you were doing a scientific literature review, check; who wrote it, what’s the motivation, when was it written, is it still relevant, is it an opinion, news or research piece and is there any useful references going back to the original source.

Admittedly, this can be time consuming and a part of me feels we shouldn’t have to do this, but in the age of fake news everything requires scrutiny on both sides of the political aisle. From Breitbart and the National Review to Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post, plus anything in between, all of it requires careful consideration. Mainstream news tends to be slightly more subtle with their biases, such as the BBC in UK. Even so, at this point, many I’m sure will be screaming that the BBC is aligned to the right, while conservatives will contest there is a definite left tilt to the national broadcaster.

Meanwhile, in New Zealand particularly with the national newspaper the Herald, the bias is primarily down to the individual journalist. One area that most mainstream media providers are relatively agreed upon is the support of a capitalist, or more accurately neoliberal political system. You would have to travel to the margins of journalism to find a media outlet outside of the capitalist scope, such as the Morning Star in the UK.

So this brings me full circle, back to my discussion regarding Venezuela. Am I misguided about Maduro? Well, I propose it would be much easier for me to be indoctrinated by the ‘opposition’ than Maduro, purely by listening to the constant mainstream media. After all, most western media outlets promote a poor picture of Maduro and this includes New Zealand. Furthermore, the UK, Canada, Australia and Israel are all backing the US in their attempt to oust the democratically elected President.

In contrast, it is a reasonably arduous task to find a media outlet who is willing to even be neutral on this matter, let alone have any sympathies towards Maduro. Pleasingly the previously mentioned Morning Star appears prepared to report the news as they see it. Plus there are specialist sites such as venezuelanalysis.com which states that they are a left leaning and independent site. It’s worth noting that this is a counter narrative site, openly endorsed by academics such as Noam Chomsky and journalists including BAFTA award winning John Pilger.

A combination of reading non mainstream sites, as well as knowing a reasonable amount about the US in a historical sense and their quest for world dominance, provides me with something to offset the endless anti-Maduro rhetoric. A quick glance at the history between the two countries will tell you that this isn’t something that has occurred overnight. Interference in Venezuelan affairs began in the 19th century, however, in the 20th century most of the meddling was unsurprisingly due to oil. In 1958 while other nations in the region were succumbing to US backed dictatorships, Venezuela escaped.

These military and security personal of the US backed regimes, were often trained by the US Army School of the Americas. This department specialised in training kidnapping, torture, assassination and democracy suppression. US backed death squads authored torture manuals, while they murdered, tortured and terrorised innocent people from Central America to Argentina. In contrast Venezuela were left relatively in peace for decades. Throughout these times, however, the US never gave up on the idea of Venezuelan interference, which would increase in intensity following the election of Hugo Chavez in 1998.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez salutes

During the Chavez period, the Bolivarian revolution reduced poverty and illiteracy, while increasing the health of millions of Venezuelan’s. Despite this, George W Bush backed a failed coup against Chavez in 2002, famously calling him “the devil”. In 2015 Obama declared Venezuela as an “extraordinary threat to national security”. Although, considering the nation had never started a war in it’s history, this assertion was nothing short of ludicrous. It’s worth pointing out that the US has; intervened, attacked, invaded or occupied Latin American or Caribbean countries more than 50 times. To add to the absurdity, while Obama spoke, the US military were regularly bombing seven countries.

In 2017, Donald Trump announced sanctions against Nicolás Maduro, while labelling him a dictator. Despite this, Trump continued to support the brutal Saudi Arabian regime, plus backing dictators in Bahrain, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, South Sudan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to name a few. Now, President Trump is under the guidance of neoconservative John Bolton (who has never seen a war he didn’t like), he has thus declared his support for the puppet president Juan Guaido. This is just one of the most recent examples of the US crushing any nation that has the audacity to steer away from the corporate/Washington power base. Nobody is suggesting Maduro’s leadership is perfect. But to call him a dictator, therefore, worthy of regime change, while openly supporting US friendly tyrants, is the type of hypocrisy and baseless rhetoric we have all become accustomed to.

It may well be difficult to obtain good information in the ironically named ‘age of information’. But one thing we can draw upon as guidance is history. When we trace the history US foreign policy it shows us that since WWII the US has intervened in the leaderships of more countries than any other nation by far. It generally has two reasons to enact change; one is ideological, what Noam Chomsky in his book “What Uncle Sam Really Wants”, calls “the threat of a good example“. The second motivation is for resources (in this case oil), sadly for Venezuela, they tick both boxes.

I have no reason to believe that this modus operandi of the US government has suddenly deviated from the last 70 years of foreign policy. So although it is reasonable to be questioning of Maduro and his leadership, I cannot see how a coup will benefit the vast majority of Venezuelan’s. Maduro’s led PSUV party, supports much of the poorer people in the country and not the oligarch led opposition. That is primarily why he is in this current dilemma. I’ll let John Pilger explain my grounds for scepticism towards the sincerity of the US and hope for the sake of the people a coup is avoided.

 

Brexit and Remain; two sides of the same old grimy coin.

In 2016, Brexit fractured the nation, even more so than the Beatles/Rolling Stones debate in the 60’s. If you voted leave you are often considered a racist, while voting remain could result in an accusation of being a pawn of the elite. Although the powers of neoliberalism may not have cooked this up purposefully, I suspect they will not be too perturbed with the outcome. I’m not referring to the result, I’m eluding to the deep ruptures within UK society. There are sizeable divisions already carved across political party lines, economic disparities, geographical variations, racial differences, gender issues, religious affiliations and now Brexit. Each side of the Brexit fiasco attempts to grasp the moral high ground, while pretending they are the enlightened ones. I propose that neither side have got it right for this simple reason; neoliberals control the EU, whilst a neoliberal regime runs the UK under the Tories. Until the leading political orthodoxy is usurped nothing dramatic will ever occur.,

One of the first criticisms levelled at the EU is, it is undemocratic. It is indeed true that the Commission President and the individual commissioners are not directly elected by the people of Europe. It is equally accurate that under the provisions of the EU treaty, the commission can only propose laws in areas where the UK government has allowed it to do so. So maybe it is not as undemocratic as it first appears. What is worrying, however, is that the EU has a strong commitment to neoliberalism, on a systemic level. Meaning laws are designed to encourage private enterprise.

As a result of this, there has been a huge transfer of ownership of industry from governments to corporations and ultimately out of the UK. Neoliberal policies dominate the; European Commission, European Parliament, European Central Bank and the European Court of Justice. The EU constitution actually enshrines neoliberal economics into it, making it impossible to be socialist or democratic. The EU has always promoted ‘free trade’, ‘free’ movement of capital, business austerity, flexible labour markets, low pay, privatisation of public services and the eradication of welfare states.

One of the most glaring examples of the EU’s economic control is Greece. Greece’s issues were triggered by the global financial crisis of 2008. However, in 2009 the government confessed that they had been telling ‘porkies’ regarding their financial situation, this raised some ‘red flags’ in relation to Greece’s economic situation. By 2010 Greece was shut out of borrowing in the financial markets and was hurtling towards bankruptcy. To prevent this potential calamity the; International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission (later known as the Troika) issued two bailouts amounting to €240 billion.

This rescue package unsurprisingly came with strict conditions. Firstly the lenders enforced harsh austerity terms, comprising of deep budget cuts and large tax increases. These tax increases weren’t aimed at the rich particularly, in fact they primarily affected those in need. This type of ‘economic package’ from the likes of the IMF and the World Bank, was a classic ‘disaster capitalism’ tactic, as highlighted in Naomi Klein’s book ‘The Shock Doctrine’. Rather than the bailout money being utilised to stabilise the nations finances, it was actually used to pay off its international loans.

Naomi Klein
Naomi Klein

In a paper written in 2016, by the European School of Management and Technology in Berlin, it was revealed that only 5% went to the Greek fiscal budget, while the other 95% was directed towards saving European banks and its creditors. Similar versions of this neoliberal charade have played out all other the world, from Chile to Russia. This one just so happened to use mechanisms of the EU as well as the IMF. In Greece’s case, there was an inept government, slow to respond to the crisis; private initiatives rushing in to fill the gaps; local officials seizing the chance to push forward pet schemes and a population too bewildered to do anything about it.

But austerity is not unique to the EU. As we know, this already exists and has been enforced in the UK by the Tory party for 8 years. It is probable that the Tories will use Brexit as another opportunity to push further legislative changes, particularly in the area of human rights. Although the UK are tied to the European Convention Human Rights until 2022. Obviously, Brexit will end free movement of labour and a seat at the EU negotiating table will also be conceded. I suggest the Tories, however, will see this as a way to construct a brave new world in their image. In particular, removing regulations that may be a burden on business, such as those relating to climate change directives.

So can I make a case for Europe as a Socialist? Lets give it a try, these suggestions to remain came from an Independent article.

  1. It gives citizens of the EU the freedom to live, work and retire anywhere in Europe. Which is great if you have the social and economic freedom to do this, which many ordinary folk do not.
  2. It sustains millions of jobs. In 2001 it was reported that 3.1 million jobs were linked to the UK’s exports to the EU. This is brilliant, but in my old stomping ground, in the north of England where 10 of the 12 most declining cities are, it’s unlikely to be much comfort for people in industrial areas such as the North East, Yorkshire, North West and the Midlands. The working class have witnessed industries such as; car manufacturing, coal mining, ship building and the steel industry disappear with nothing substantial to replace them. These skills are lost forever, often to cheaper oversees contractors.
  3. Your holiday is much easier and safer. Awesome, if indeed you have the cash to travel abroad on your zero hour contract ‘bullshit’ job.
  4. Your less likely to get ripped off. Being a member of the EU affords equal consumer rights while shopping abroad. Again I feel this only appeals to a certain section of the population who actually have the funds to travel abroad.
  5. It offers greater protection from terrorists, paedophiles, people traffickers and cyber crime. This is through the sharing of information. To be fair it’s difficult to find a fault with this one.
  6. Our businesses rely on the EU. The Confederation of British Influence estimates that the EU membership adds 4-5% of GDP to the UK. This is all fine and dandy, but there are some issues; this supposedly good news hasn’t really been witnessed in pay packets across the country, real wages are still less than they were 10 years ago.
  7. We have a greater influence. It’s considered that being apart of the EU would be the only way to be relevant on the international stage. But, for someone is who is flipping burgers in Wigan, with no further job prospects, I’m not sure the UK being important economically, militarily or diplomatically on the world stage would feel of much use to them.

So did I state a solid case for EU, probably not. It was admittedly hard to find much to be positive about. Now, I’ll try the same sort of thing with a few articles that are pro Brexit.

  1. Top of the list is immigration. We could decide who comes into the country. In a study by the London School of Economics, it is surmised that immigration could rise in the short-term. This is thought to be due to migrants visiting before the rules change. The second reason is family reunification. Article 8 of ECHR provides the right of individual persons to have a family life. Remember the UK have committed to the ECHR until 2022. Another point of contention is, the porous Irish border may well be used as a back door. Finally a points based system doesn’t necessarily restrict entry, rather that it is a means of selection.
  2. We could make our own laws again. A Telegraph article proposed that 65% of laws are from the EU. There is no definitive consensus for this, but it is thought that 13% to 65% of laws are made by the EU, suggesting that somewhere in middle is more likely. So technically yes you could make your own laws, but it doesn’t stop them being crap laws.
  3. We could set our own tax rates. This is primarily referring to VAT and to lowering it. The EU does not permit lowering VAT on goods and services below 15%. Although, as VAT is currently 20%, the government could essentially lower VAT by 5% now. As a Tory government tends to push regressive taxes like VAT more than constructing and enforcing a progressive tax such as a well thought out income tax, this point is pretty much irrelevant.
  4. Next on the list, are what can only be described as, 1970’s inspired regressive actions as suggested by the authors of the article. Firstly you could dispose of your fridge, by throwing it in landfill. Awesome! The article suggests the UK could get rid of windfarms. Pump up the CO2! Also it’s proposes no more pesky recycling bins. I guess you could just throw all your rubbish into next doors garden, like the good old days. We could also return to blackout inducing, non energy conserving light bulbs. While we’re at it, how about if we went back in time, good old ‘jumpers for goalpost’, while sending your kids to work down the pit at the age of 7.
  5. Finally, it wouldn’t be Brexit without the mention of blue passports. I always thought they were black anyway. You could soon have your own UK passport lane. Queuing up with other pissed up Brits singing “here we go” on their way back from places like Megaruff (Magaluf). Oh the joy!
street-footy-1950s
Ahh, those were the days, running around to loosen up the coal dust in your lungs.

So there was a very brief summary of both sides. I hasten to add equally shit (in differing ways of course) and each one as capitalistic as the other. The conclusion is there is no real chance of any discernible changes, unless of course Jeremy Corbyn bulldozes his way through the doors of number 10 some time soon. Sadly, I suspect the ruling elite and the media will already be plotting to defend against this eventuality. So who are the folks who voted to leave and who makes up the group who are insisting (in vain) for a second referendum? Firstly geography, every area (or country) apart from Northern Ireland, Scotland and London voted to leave. One of the most dramatic splits, however, according to YouGov was seen along educational lines, 70% of voters who’s highest academic attainment was a GCSE (or equivalent) voted to leave. While 68% of voters with university degrees voted to remain in the EU.

This as far as I’m concerned, is the closest we get to a class split, purely because you have less chance of going to university, if you are from an economically depressed area and if you attended a crap school. Plus if your siblings, friends or parents didn’t attend university, again you are less likely to go. This group are also more than likely to be from areas that have seen higher than average unemployment and a mass depletion of once prominent industries. It isn’t surprising that many were inclined to vote leave, change can be exciting and offers hope when you have little to lose.

Does this lack of education give the Remain crew some sort of moral high-ground, because they are presumably more educated? Absolutely not, people have different needs, life experiences and priorities. Also education and intelligence manifests in a plethora of ways. It doesn’t miraculously materialise in the lecture halls of universities. People learn from countless different sources. For many decades only a lucky few ever attended university, but the voices of non-attendees were still considered valuable.

For the many Remainers with a university education, their degree will see on average a greater earnings potential than someone without, especially when this is projected out over a lifetime. Many will be more economically secure, therefore, voting for the EU status quo which supports social justice, while providing the freedom and ease at which to roam Europe would make total sense. The small matter of a neoliberal juggernaut in Brussels is unlikely to bother them, as this largely middle class section of society have generally done reasonably well from the EU. So long as they can get their cheap skiing holidays to Courchevel, I suspect everything will be rosy.

Another split during the 2016 vote was age, 71% of under 25’s voted remain, while 64% of over 65’s voted leave. The accusations from under 25’s has been that the ‘baby boomer’ generation stole their future. Sadly for them it’s called democracy and if only 36% of their age group could be bothered to turn up, they as a whole have only themselves to blame. To resolve this issue the Independent suggested that maybe 16-17 year olds should vote, curiously it was estimated that 82% would have voted remain. While a piece in Time magazine, postulated that older people should not vote, as they make poor choices. Fair enough, how about we keep changing the rules until your team wins, because that doesn’t sound at all entitled does it? This seems to be a common theme regarding ‘Remain Voters’, there is a distinct air of “I know best”, snobbery and entitlement.

Did all racists vote leave? I would imagine so. Are all leave voters racist? Absolutely not. An interesting point states, only 34% of leave voters, cited immigration as their main reason for voting leave. However, if you listen to remainers you would swear that there is a Tommy Robinson in every leave voter just waiting to burst out. But understandably, after 10 years of austerity and nearly 40 years of de-industrialisation people were losing hope that things would change for the better. These areas are now homes to warehouse and distribution work, payday loan companies and slum land-lording. They are ripe for exploitation, land is cheap and so is the labour.

The working class have had to worry about universal credit, a chaotic NHS, social cleansing and scarce housing. On the other hand the middle class have emerged from 2008/9 relatively unscathed and simply cannot grasp why people would want to leave the EU. Remainers have not relented; often suggesting that those who voted Brexit were too stupid, poorly informed or just plain gullible, thus falling for the leave narrative. While in contrast Remaniacs are the enlightened ones.

It needs to be made crystal clear that the Remain clan isn’t just made up of the middle classes. It also consists of large chunks of the establishment; many politicians, corporate CEO’s, economists, scientists and the media largely led by outlets such as the Guardian. Tony Blair has obviously poked his nose in, to be fair many of the people who are staunch Remain supporters are former Blairites. Blair is unsurprisingly calling for a second referendum, he’s also stated that people who voted leave are living in denial and don’t recognise what will happen.

In effect, what the liberal elite are saying is their political views are worth much more and therefore, should carry a greater weight than others. What Blair doesn’t understand and never has, is the working class people. For them, things haven’t gone so well for quite some time, partly due to his policies. So I get a sense that they really feel they have nothing to lose. It’s less of a case of not understanding the importance of the decision to leave and more, not giving a shit about what a load of rich Oxbridge graduates think anymore.

iuR70HOHQR

On the 20th of October, the self proclaimed ‘peoples march’ took to the streets of London, which is about as Eurocentric a place as there is. To be fair 670,000 people turned up, but what astonishing arrogance to call a movement ‘peoples’ when the majority of the people didn’t vote for their side. Remainers when campaigning like this, often remind me of Richard Burton’s character in 1984, asking Winston how fingers is he holding up. This clan dressed in blue and yellow, taking part in placard competitions, displaying an array of witticisms couldn’t have been any more middle class if they tried. But I’m sure this approach won over the hearts and minds of working class people all over the UK.

You could read this drivel and decide due to my derision of Remainers that I’m pro-leave and you’d be wrong. Like I intimated at the start I think the whole sorry saga is a lose-lose. But, I do have much more empathy towards the majority of leave voters and no, not the leave voters who were voting for Brexit to apparently keep out ‘Muslims’. I’m referring to the people who were crapped on by Thatcher, gained little from Blair’s middle class crusade and then were further dumped on by 10 years of austerity.

This group, if they have jobs, often make up the working poor, slaving away for people like Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame. These workers have been penalised for massive crimes such as going to the loo, while the GMB Union confirms this, claiming staff are treated like robots. It’s also suggested that 600 ambulance’s have been called to Amazon warehouses in 3 years. But hey ho, who cares as long as a middle class Remainers gets their copy of ‘Jamie cooks Italy’ by Christmas.

Will Brexit help the people who voted for it? Probably not and certainly not while the Tories are in power. I expect more of the same pain. I’m afraid, post Brexit could be accompanied by an erosion of human rights over a period of time. I suspect trade will take a hit too, as most experts seem to predict. It’s clear to me that things will not change for the better until we move away from neoliberalism and hopefully Uncle Jeremy can be elected as Prime Minister. One word of warning though, unless we win back the working class and fight under one unified idea, which should be the reduction of obscene economic inequality, Corbyn and the left will not stand a chance. Until the middle classes the likes of whom we see in blue and yellow, start communicating properly with people outside of London, rather than condescendingly lecturing them with tweets and posted Guardian articles, discernible change will never materialise.