A place of politics, culture (!!) & random subjects from Airstrip One. Noel hopes it will be of interest and/or use to all sorts of voyagers in cyberspace!

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The Voice Of 40-Something Cynical Optimism!

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Free Market Anti-Capitalism! (aka Mutualism)

Below is the blurb from the start of Kevin Carson's website.Fromwhat I've read of their work, Kevin C is more an economics bod, while Larry G is more political in his writings. This is material I wish I had come across many moons ago. I'm not an anarchist, but I could take the same road for a long way.


Mutualism, as a variety of anarchism, goes back to P.J. Proudhon in France and Josiah Warren in the U.S. It favors, to the extent possible, an evolutionary approach to creating a new society. It emphasizes the importance of peaceful activity in building alternative social institutions within the existing society, and strengthening those institutions until they finally replace the existing statist system. As Paul Goodman put it, "A free society cannot be the substitution of a 'new order' for the old order; it is the extension of spheres of free action until they make up most of the social life."

Other anarchist subgroups, and the libertarian left generally, share these ideas to some extent. Whether known as "dual power" or "social counterpower," or "counter-economics," alternative social institutions are part of our common vision. But they are especially central to mutualists' evolutionary understanding.

Mutualists belong to a non-collectivist segment of anarchists. Although we favor democratic control when collective action is required by the nature of production and other cooperative endeavors, we do not favor collectivism as an ideal in itself. We are not opposed to money or exchange. We believe in private property, so long as it is based on personal occupancy and use. We favor a society in which all relationships and transactions are non-coercive, and based on voluntary cooperation, free exchange, or mutual aid. The "market," in the sense of exchanges of labor between producers, is a profoundly humanizing and liberating concept. What we oppose is the conventional understanding of markets, as the idea has been coopted and corrupted by state capitalism.

Our ultimate vision is of a society in which the economy is organized around free market exchange between producers, and production is carried out mainly by self-employed artisans and farmers, small producers' cooperatives, worker-controlled large enterprises, and consumers' cooperatives. To the extent that wage labor still exists (which is likely, if we do not coercively suppress it), the removal of statist privileges will result in the worker's natural wage, as Benjamin Tucker put it, being his full product.

Because of our fondness for free markets, mutualists sometimes fall afoul of those who have an aesthetic affinity for collectivism, or those for whom "petty bourgeois" is a swear word. But it is our petty bourgeois tendencies that put us in the mainstream of the American populist/radical tradition, and make us relevant to the needs of average working Americans. Most people distrust the bureaucratic organizations that control their communities and working lives, and want more control over the decisions that affect them. They are open to the possibility of decentralist, bottom-up alternatives to the present system. But they do not want an America remade in the image of orthodox, CNT-style syndicalism.

Mutualism is not "reformist," as that term is used pejoratively by more militant anarchists. Nor is it necessarily pacifistic, although many mutualists are indeed pacifists. The proper definition of reformism should hinge, not on the means we use to build a new society or on the speed with which we move, but on the nature of our final goal. A person who is satisfied with a kinder, gentler version of capitalism or statism, that is still recognizable as state capitalism, is a reformist. A person who seeks to eliminate state capitalism and replace it with something entirely different, no matter how gradually, is not a reformist.

"Peaceful action" simply means not deliberately provoking the state to repression, but rather doing whatever is possible (in the words of the Wobbly slogan) to "build the structure of the new society within the shell of the old" before we try to break the shell. There is nothing wrong with resisting the state if it tries, through repression, to reverse our progress in building the institutions of the new society. But revolutionary action should meet two criteria: 1) it should have strong popular support; and 2) it should not take place until we have reached the point where peaceful construction of the new society has reached its limits within existing society.


Some other useful sites

Martin Cole, who runs the UKIP Uncovered website mentioned previously, left to join Veritas, Robert Kilroy-Silk's breakaway from UKIP earlier in the year. He appears just as ready to criticise Veritas as he does UKIP. Since neither party made a breakthrough at the recent General Election,it seems logical that the two parties should (re)merge.However, the clash of egoes involved means I can't see that happening. Obviously,like the far left, the leaderships of both parties seem prepared to hang seperately rather than together.

This is run by the Communist Party of Great Britain, an avowedly Leninist sect. Their paper The Weekly Worker is essential reading for anyone who wants to have more than a vague idea about what is happening with Britain's professed Marxist groups. Donations are gratefully recieved.

If it hadn't been for you meddlin' kids

From now on I can make my name with film & TV scripts without much effort.

Trite and tested

Just because something wouldn't happen in real life doesn't mean it can't happen every single night on TV. Johnny Dee records the series of little cliches that fill the small screen

Saturday May 21, 2005
The Guardian

Criminal prosecutors have dubbed it "the CSI effect". Juries in America, it seems, have been so taken in by the primetime forensics TV show that they believe every case is solvable by DNA testing (the results of which take 20 seconds on TV but weeks in reality). In several cases they have failed to convict killers - who then went out and killed again - where every other piece of evidence pointed to them because there was no DNA or discovery of "fibres" linking them to the crime.

Not only that, juries have also expressed disappointment when the evidence is not presented to them by handsome men and attractive women who work in laboratories awash with plasma screens and wonder-computers that contain databases of every person's fingerprints in the entire world. However, not all TV cliches lead to life-or-death mistakes. Here are our favourites.


·Robots always get along with kids.

· When parents have a sex-education talk with their teenagers, hilariously their children know more about it than they do.

· Babies are born with dry hair and none of that yucky blood stuff.

· When a child goes on holiday and gives his beloved pet to a friend to look after, the pet will die. In order to save his feelings, an identical pet will be purchased and nothing will be said. The replacement, however, cannot do Fluffy's special trick.

· Teens who dabble in soft drugs will be pus-ridden heroin addicts within days.

· Bad guys apprehended by young policemen/vampire-slayers must say the line: "But you're just a kid."

· The fat kid is the funny one. The clever one wears glasses. The girl is a kickboxing expert.

· Kids who have hit an adult and knocked them out will stare at their fist in utter disbelief.


· Men don't enjoy expressing emotions with one another but will attempt an awkward air-hug. Unless they are members of the mafia, in which case they will heartily pat each other on the back exactly three times.

· At the end of phone calls there is no need to say goodbye.

· Powerful people with their own offices enjoy talking to people with their back turned to them while staring out of their big window.

· Music in nightclubs is so quiet you can continue talking as normal.

· Mobile phones only ring if it's bad news or if they're at an opera or funeral.

· No one sets their keypad to silent.


· Car drivers can talk directly to their passengers without having to look at the road.

· If someone gets a new car it'll never make it to the end of an episode without being destroyed.

· Any car which falls off a cliff or hits a wall will explode.

· People trying to reach an airport or train station to make a last-minute declaration of love will get stuck in a traffic jam near their destination and have to run the final few yards.

· If a car or plane is running low on fuel the hero must tap the fuel gauge. It doesn't help.


· All flats and houses in Paris have a view of the Eiffel Tower.

· People in soap operas work within a 20-yard radius of where they live.

· Soap characters only go on holiday in groups of eight.

· It is impossible to visit France without hearing accordion music.


· Whenever someone steals the clothes from a policeman/security guard/Nazi soldier after knocking them unconscious, the uniforms always fit perfectly.

· Shortly before killing a detective he has tied up in his basement, a serial killer will explain at great length the motivation for his crimes and how he committed them.

· Contraband (money, cocaine, gold bullion) is always stacked very, very, very neatly.

· Pedestrians who get in the way of high-speed car chases safely manage to avoid being run over - including the lady with the pram who is halfway across the street. Market stall-holders, however, can kiss goodbye to their fancy displays.

· What is the point of road-blocks? Criminals in cars simply find the nearest available ramp and fly over the dumbfounded police officers in slow motion.

· The only thing that can stop criminals escaping a bank raid by car is an unfinished bridge.

· Briefcases contain money or guns. Cocaine comes in holdalls.

· Chases on foot will always involve the runner heaving over boxes to obstruct those pursuing him before ending at a chain-link fence (a location also used extensively in most 1980s pop videos). Always remember to run up stairs and down fire escapes.

· Dogs growl at the guilty. Cats hiss at evil. Parrots reveal the key to the plot.

· Identikit pictures are always stunningly accurate and never look like Bob Carolgees, as they do in reality.

· If police are tracking a phone call a small light will appear on a giant map behind them when they have traced their target.

· Any policeman who has to do one last job before retirement is dead meat.


· Hackers attempting to guess someone's computer password will fail at the first two tries - huge messages reading "ACCESS DENIED", "CLASSIFIED" or "CONFIDENTIAL" will flash on screen.

· People using chatrooms use very large typefaces.

· Laptops are always made by Mac.

· News programmes (BBC News 24 if it's a BBC drama) are turned on just in time for characters to see the start of the report that personally concerns them then immediately switched off before the item has properly ended.

· If someone bumps into another character, it's because they're planting a secret recording device the size of a flea on them.

· Specially designed TV bullets kill bad guys with one shot. Good guys take 10.

· Whenever anyone looks through binoculars we always see two joined circles.

· When someone takes a photo we hear a clicking noise and see the photo full screen.

· People on TV only use kettles that whistle.

· Nuclear devices set by terrorists always come equipped with an oversized LED clock. Bombs are only ever made safe with one second left after the hero has had to choose between cutting a red or blue wire.

· When someone rewinds a video tape you hear the audio portion of the tape being rewound.


· All aliens speak English.

· Most foreign planets look strangely similar to gravel quarries in the south-east of England.

· The evil emperor's beautiful daughter will fall in love with the hero. She also feels sorry for the oppressed captives her father has locked up and sets them free.

· Spaceships are full of cameras. If anything happens anywhere it's always displayed on a small screen on the control panel.

· Never use your amazing Earth-destroying super-weapon straight away. Save it till later.

· Spaceships don't need keys.

· Dastardly master criminals have a thing for staff in matching uniforms.

· Alien armies really like wearing helmets with clear plastic visors.


· Men and women who hate each other will inevitably end up having sex in cupboards.

· Young footballers are magnetically attracted to Gillian Taylforth.

· Couples enjoying a great sex life will be signalled by the fact that they can't help but have a shag even though they've overslept and are running late for work. Body odour is never an issue.

· All women moan during sex but never sweat.

· Women who have to leave the bed after sex will wrap themselves in a magic sheet that reaches up to armpit level.


· Whenever you hear the phrase "I'd like you to meet an old friend of mine," the old friend will turn out to be a right lying bastard. Alternatively the "old friend" will be somebody you slept with years ago.

· All grocery bags must contain a stick of French bread.

· Men racked with guilt over their misdemeanours will frequent a sparsely populated bar and drink whisky. No other drink is acceptable. After taking a slug they will wipe their mouth with the back of their sleeve.

· Women in the same situation will take a bubble bath.

· Sports coaches are all alcoholics.

· TV families have breakfast together but never have time to finish it.

· Tramps who inadvertently witness a spectacular incident will rub their eyes before staring at their liquor, shaking their head and then throwing the bottle over their shoulder.

· People in soap operas don't watch soap operas.

· No one gets out of the house when there is obvious danger there (ghosts, murderers, Ross Kemp).


· A cough is a sure-fire sign of a terminal illness.

· Doctors' waiting rooms always contain someone with a neck brace.

· People always have something to say just before they die.

· Lethal injections are always squirted into the air first.

· Being beaten to a pulp doesn't hurt but when a woman cleans your wounds one must wince in agony.

· In lab scenes we always see pipettes but no one ever says the word pipette.

Something of my own

This (slightly edited) article I wrote back in 1999 for the newsletter of Walsall's Anti-EU Campaign "The Euro Realist." As being both pro-devolution and EU-critical, I have a big dilemma, one I usually overcome by keeping my gob shut! That is, many/most anti-EU people in the UK are anti-devolution, seeing it as a "Europlot" to break up Britain. On the other hand, some (but not all) regionalists in the UK support the EU and its claims to support a "Europe of the regions." Anyway, that was the background (still is) behind me writing the following, which appeared in October 99's "Euro Realist". I doubt whether I changed any minds!


EU-critical campaigners often express puzzlement about why there aren't more of us and why more people don't attend public meetings, go on marches, buy our literature, sign our petitions, etc, when opinion polls show so much support for us. I have come to the conclusion that this state of affairs arises because we put too much emphasis on the Westminster Parliament and the process of lobby and/or writing to MPs. Instead we should be putting the emphasis on direct democracy, such as referenda, as the means to prevent further involvement in EU integration and start the rolling back of the EU.

Those who say that this approach would undermine democracy should consider the following. Most anti-Brussels activity in the UK since the 1960s has been concerned with pressurising Parliament. However, despite the majority of people expressing their distrust of the EEC/EC/EU, most MPs keep voting for one pro-integration measure after another. What is the point, then, in campaigning to give power back to MPs from the EU when most need little persuasion in sooner or later handing those powers over to the EU? The time has come to trust the people, via direct democracy, rather than the politicians in Westminster, most of whom you only see in person when there's an election and/or photo-opportunity occurring in your local area.

To quote Paul Ruppen of the Swiss anti-EU organisation the Forum for Direct Democracy (These Tides, Issue 1, p24): "Direct democracy is not only a fundamental right but as well a safeguard against EU-type integration. In parliamentary democracies the EU-integration takes away power from parliament. Often people don't regret this too much as they don't like politicians anyway. In a system of direct democracy, it's the people itself which loses power."

Direct democracy can be seen as a type of constitutional reform, and that phrase seems to drive many EU-critical campaigners into apoplexy. I get extremely annoyed when it is assumed that if one of pro-constitutional reform of any sort, one is pro-EU, and so if one if anti-constitutional reform one is anti-EU. Perhaps I am missing some point here, but I thought that the important issue is whether or not one is anti-EU/anti-euro. Perhaps CRATE (Constitutional Reformers Against The EU) should be formed to jolt some people's preconceptions!

For the record I support England (not Britain) becoming a Federal Republic with elected provincial parliaments and an English Parliament elected via a proper form of PR with the people (5% plus of them anyway) having the constitutional right to initiate referenda. All of this I want to happen outside the EU.

Furthermore, it is not just yours' truly who demonstrates that life is more complex than those who see all constitutional reformers as part of an EU master plan to "break up" Britain would like it to be. For instance, leading anti-PR campaigners Stuart Bell MP and Sir Ken Jackson [erstwhile Blairite Engineers Union leader] are members of the European Movement and fervent supports of Britain joining the euro as soon as possible, as is that long-standing opponent of Scottish devolution, Tam Dalyell.

On the other hand, pro-PR, pro-devolution anti-EU/euro organisations and individuals include the Green and Liberal Parties (not the Lib Dems) and Austin Mitchell MP. I don't see Scotland Against Being Ruled by Europe having a problem with campaigning for Scottish independence outside the EU; nor do members of the SNP who are members of the Campaign Against Euro-Federalism.

Nearer to home, not all those campaign for an English Parliament or massive devolution of powers from Westminster to England's provinces are pro-EU. Many genuine English regionalists look to the pre-1066 Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy as the basis for "bottom-up" region building, rather than the arbitrary and functionalist "top-down" territories the government has imposed for the Regional Development Agencies and European Elections (and which are very similar to the areas in England Cromwell gave the Major-Generals to run in the 1650s. For example the Midlands regionalist group the Mercia Movement []is explicitly anti-EU; "The Mercia Movement intends to work for the extrication of the region from the European Union and will give conditional support to genuine movements seeking the same objective." (Mercia Manifesto, 1997, p.121). In short, not all regionalists have fallen for that "Europe of the Regions" guff.

I hate writing conclusions! Like most things in life, I find introductions and conclusions the most difficult part of an essay to write. All I would say is that I hope to have convinced you that anti-EU constitutional reformers are considerably more value to the EU-critical movement than politicians who make "Euro-sceptical" remarks about defending Britain's unity and constitution, while simultaneously overseeing British involvement in the next move towards a United States of Europe (ie every British government since the 1960s...).

The end is nigh?

Previously I have expressed my doubts about global warming. I find it strange that environmentalists and other eco-friendly campaigners have great doubts about science in general, but at the same time seem to fully back the "scientific consensus" that global warming is on its way to destroy the planet. However, I must be honest and say that if global warming is inevitable & irreversible, I think we have now gone past the point of no return. We will see in time. However, I have read stuff which says we need global warming to prevent a new ice age. To be frank I would rather fry than freeze to death. Hopefully, neither thing will happen for a long long time.

Enough of my Panglossian tendencies! The two things I worry about happening here in the next few years are the credit crunch and the oil peak. That is, lots of people will drown metaphorically in personal debt (so don't spend what you haven't got!) and oil demand will outstrip supply worldwide. We (or Scotland) have North Sea Oil, but most of that was wasted in the 1980s paying for 3m+ unemployed. We could reopen the coal mines and produce oil that way (it is what apartheid South Africa did to overcome sanctions- such as they were) but it seems that the nuclear lobby & the Government want us to build lots of lovely nuclear power stations, subsidised by the taxpayer, especially when they go bust- state sponsored capitalism par excellence! (As Gore Vidal & Noam Chomsky say: FREE MARKET FOR THE POOR, STATE SOCIALISM FOR THE RICH). Of course, British nuclear radiation is the safest in the world!!

Anyway, here's the thoughts of my close showbiz pal Larry Gambone on the oil peak...

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

It won't be the end of the world. On the other hand, it will be as severe an economic crisis as that of the Great Depression. The coming crisis won't be exactly the same as that of the 1930's. The price of oil will rise quickly once the oil peak is reached, but this will still take some years to accomplish. The economy will not collapse suddenly like the stock market crash of 1929. But it will mean the end of the ultra-consumer society and hopefully the end of trans-national corporate capitalism, both of which have been maintained by the artificially low price of energy. However, this won't mean a Third World existence, it will be more like living a contemporary version of the 1940's.

You wouldn’t want to have a large debt when Peak Oil arrives. The suburbs will be finished, so will energy-consuming monster houses and gas-guzzling SUV's. There could be as little as 5 years left. Sell your suburban house and gas-guzzler now. Eliminate any large debts. Get rid of any stocks and mutual funds. Rent an allotment or put a vegetable garden in your back yard. Install a wood stove. The people who will suffer the least will be those in the country who can cut wood and grow food, people in small towns who can walk everywhere, and people in the city centers with public transportation.

Mass unemployment will result as the multinationals go under. Air lines and trucking companies will collapse. There will have to be mandatory work-sharing, rather than having one group that works and a mass of unemployed who live on almost nothing. Work-sharing will create solidarity rather than division among the work force. We must start RIGHT NOW to promote the notion of work-sharing so it does not seem like a radical idea when the time comes.

At a certain point the price of gas will get so high that alternative fuels become competitive. Vegetable oil, alcohol and coal oil can all be used as fuels in automobiles.
Wood gas is a possible source in rural areas. Such vehicles will out of necessity be high-mileage and low power. Electric cars will be used in the city. This transition could occur quite rapidly as the technology already exists. But whatever the method of propulsion, there will be many fewer automobiles than now, due to high energy cost.

Flying will be out of the question for most people. Long distance travel will be done by rail and water. There is plenty of coal in the ground, so look toward new advanced forms of steam technology for trains and boats. Here the transition will be much more difficult as an entire new technology will have to be introduced and much infrastructure (new rail lines) built. Public transit will increase rapidly. Where will the capital come for this, given that the economy will be in depression? Perhaps those who destroyed public transit ought to pay.

The generation of electricity will be another problem. For countries like Canada that have huge hydro-electric resources, this will not be much of a problem. Even so, there will be a strain on the system as a switch is made from petroleum to electricity. Where will the extra electricity come from? Once again, as with gasoline, alternative sources of electricity will become viable once the price of regular electricity goes up. Home sized wind chargers, photovoltaics, coal-oil powered generators, for example.

Even a sharp reduction in the use of electricity is not the end of the world. Say you had to get by with a wind charger (1000 watts) You could still have a radio, TV, computer, sound system and a couple of light bulbs for areas where strong light is needed. Fridges can be run on propane, and though I don't know if they are manufactured or not, they can also be run on anything that will produce a steady flame, such as alcohol or coal oil. Back in the 1950's you could buy a washing machine that ran on a little gasoline motor, there is no reason these could not be made with alternate fuel powered engines.

Expensive energy means products will be made to last. Products will be repaired instead of being thrown out, and repair shops will open everywhere. Home deliveries will return and doctors will make house calls. Schools will be small and local so students can walk or cycle there. As in Europe where villages have daily bus service, in the rural areas people will start cooperative busses or jitneys to cut the cost of transportation. One positive off shoot will be that people will be in better physical shape. Obesity will be a thing of the past.

Farming and agricultural pursuits will revive. The end of cheap petroleum means the end of the over-mechanized and chemical based agro-business. Farms will be organic and labor intensive and will produce for local markets. Food will be more expensive, but of vastly better quality and the "multiplier effect" will revive the countryside. Energy farming will be of major importance, as farmers turn to hemp for the production of oil from the seeds and alcohol from the leaves and stems. (There is already an automobile powered by hemp.)

Far from disappearing, as some alarmists claim, communication technology will thrive. It takes little power to run a computer, radio or TV, and hardly anything at all for a telephone. The infrastructure is already there, and in a world where long-distance transportation is difficult, relative to today, the Internet will be a boon for the ordinary person.

No longer subsidized by the state and artificially-low fuel costs, much international trade will disappear. Local production for local markets will return. Economic decentralization will be the new reality. Much of the economy will be in the form of cooperatives and community-owned businesses. Not needing to pander to the needs of global financial markets with all their ups and downs, we will enter the era of the "steady state economy". We will look back upon the era of untrammeled corporate capitalism with almost as much disgust as we now look upon the slave and sugar economy of the 18th Century.

posted by Larry Gambone at 12:41 PM |

I need a laugh

I am English- I do have a sense a humour (it is the national characteristic I'm most proud of). This is from the time of Mission Accomplished 2 years or so. Pinko-commie limey Saddam loving nonsense I'm sure...

This is the new spoof bigot
Reviewed by Victor Lewis-Smith, Evening Standard (10 April 2003)

In this ever-changing world, let us pause to consider the tragic fates of humble artisans who suddenly find themselves unemployed, due to circumstances beyond their control. Think of the actor who used to dub Gerry Adams's voice on the news back in the days when Mrs Thatcher was denying the IRA "the oxygen of publicity", and who became redundant on the day that John Major wisely ended the ludicrous censorship. Or those parliamentary sketch artists who were similarly consigned to the dustbin of history when TV cameras moved into the House of Commons, thus depriving us of such hastily drawn pastel masterpieces as "Heseltine Swinging the Mace".

Nor should we forget the many Diana lookalikes who had to hang up their paste tiaras on that fateful September morning, when the Princess was (like Mon Cherie liqueur chocolates) brought from Paris to Britain in a box.

Were I one of Saddam Hussein's many doubles, I'd currently be exchanging my AK47 for a P45, then popping down to my local branch of Al-Boots and looting some blond hair dye and a Gillette. Future employment prospects for his lookalikes do not seem bright, although if any of them manage to avoid being lynched on the streets of Baghdad over the next few days, they could perhaps make a living in the US by imitating their former fuhrer on a hilarious spoof news programme called The O'Reilly Factor.

The US-based Fox News channel (shown here on satellite and cable) has developed a reputation for being uncompromisingly jingoistic in its coverage, but this brilliant late-night comedy (a parody of an extreme Right-wing discussion programme) proves that the station's management has a wickedly subversive sense of humour, and isn't afraid to lampoon itself on occasion. Because, in the best traditions of Panorama's spaghetti harvest, the programme pokes fun at current affairs programmes by ridiculing the excesses and pomposity of nonstop war coverage in a way that hasn't been equalled since The Day Today.

The central joke is that the presenter, Bill O'Reilly, sneers contemptuously at all things Un-American (even though he's of Irish immigrant stock himself), as he rants for a full hour about global politics.

Better still, he pretends to be in the early stages of Alzheimer's and constantly gets his facts muddled up, alleging last night (for example) that America won the Vietnam war and that Saddam is a terrorist, responsible for the 11 September attacks.

Some of his best material satirises the fashionable, redneck view of the French as "cheese-eating surrender monkeys", and last night's rabid references to "the loathsome French president" and "Jacques Chirac, that weasel" cleverly exposed the absurdity of America's current knee-jerk Francophobia.

To keep his viewers on their toes, he recently slipped in a subtle line about "those French, they can keep their francs", neatly mocking the ignorance of those Americans who don't even realise that the euro has been in circulation for years, and that the franc disappeared long ago.

Just as Randy Newman was misunderstood by those who thought his Short People song was serious, so there's a danger, I suppose, that dullards might not realise that O'Reilly is a clever joke, and that he's a spoof bigot, rather than a real one.

To make the joke absolutely clear, an array of semi-senile retired generals from central casting were wheeled into the studio to deliver ever more ridiculous lines, with one proudly announcing, "We've killed an estimated 95,000 Iraqi soldiers," (perhaps they have, but only in a wicked satire would they boast of such a terrible thing), while the presenter added, "We paid for this war, so we get to say who gets the contracts". My favourite cameo role was a Dr Peter Singer, a "liberal" philosopher from Princeton University, who nervously suggested that perhaps Iraqi civilian lives were just as valuable as American ones, and was promptly shouted down by O'Reilly. Another running joke on the show is that the presenter believes so fervently in America values of freedom of expression that he bawls out anyone who dares to disagree with him.

"Viewers know who provided the accurate coverage of the war and who was flat-out wrong," he thundered (a sly dig at his own employers, who slapped "Fox News Exclusive" on stories about chemical weapons finds that soon turned out to be non-existent), and that's the one flaw in this otherwise brilliant comedy format.

Ultimately, the joke will start to wear thin, so do try to tune in and catch O'Reilly before he tires of playing this cross between a sadistic headmaster and an ill-informed redneck with self-esteem problems decides to put the character into cold storage.

I've enjoyed watching his transformation over the past three weeks, from his initial maniacal jingoism (when he half-feared defeat) to his current rampant triumphalism, and in truth he's only a slight exaggeration of some of the more absurd commentators one sees on genuine news programmes, who have heralded shots of celebrating Baghdadis as proof positive that all will be well from here on in.

Have they never seen newsreels of French peasant women welcoming Nazi troops during the Second World War, then a few years later welcoming the Allied forces? They're simple people, after all, and therefore far too intelligent to do anything else.

More Victor Lewis-Smith TV reviews for the Evening Standard can be found at (you have to register I'm afraid and you will get sent stuff about London until kingdom come, but as Doctor Johnson said "He who tires of London tires of life").

Why I was REALLY depressed about the election

I got this from Harry's Place weblog at It is a social democratic (in the Blair/Brown sense- oh dear), pro-"exporting democracy" website, so it talks a lot of stuff I disagree with aboout George W and freedom. It also goes on far too much about George Galloway, the newly elected MP for Bethnal Green. However, there is a lot of truth in its analysis of Respect's performance in the recent General Election, particularly in the east end of London. We seem to have the potential for a mini-Northern Ireland in parts of London, which as a secular type I find extremely worrying.

Against communalism and demonisation.
The Bethnal Green win for Galloway and the other strong showings from Respect elsewhere show that the crude communalist politics adopted by the SWP-MAB-Galloway alliance can get results. The notion put forward by the SWP and their allies that this was some sort of victory for an imagined 'left alternative' is a fantasy - Galloway organised ethnic voting to defeat a Labour candidate who sought to represent the entire community of one of London's poorest areas.

It was not just the crude politics and the playing on reactionary stereotypes that exposed Respect's strategy but also their method of organisation. I stood outside one polling station in a Bangladeshi populated area and saw the Respect activists on the street politely hand leaflets and have a quiet word with almost all of the Bangladeshis who arrived at the polling station. They ignored the non-Bangladeshi voters who turned up, not even bothering to hand them a leaflet.

I doubt that was a conscious policy instruction from the top: Respect's leaders aren't so stupid as to not even try to get an anti-war vote from non-Muslims - after all they faced a lot of competition for the anti-war vote from the Tory, Liberal Democrat and Green Party candidates. Rather it was just one example of the many unpleasant results of a communalist approach from a party that asked for support on the basis that Labour had "made war on Muslims".

Communalism is a poison. Without wishing to over-dramatise, take a look around the world at places where politics are organised along communal lines – in fact you could start by just glancing over the water to Northern Ireland which would be a very different place if its politics were not still defined by religious identity.

The power of ethnic identity is tempting for demagogues seeking a support base - Slobodan Milosevic is an obvious, albeit extreme, example - a dictator who abandoned Titoist slogans about ‘brotherhood and unity’ and built up his support on the basis of Serbian ethnic communalism. The supreme irony in the light of all the rhetoric about ‘anti-imperialism’ from Respect supporters is that the old imperialisms famously used communalism as part of their divide and rule strategy.

The poison of communalism spreads quickly - I am sure the Labour activist in Bethnal Green who talked of 'getting out the white vote' would never have dreamt of using such terminology in previous elections. I wonder if those who talked of 'leaving the constituency' if Respect won, were really worried about Galloway himself.

The same polarisation occurs in areas which are targeted by the BNP.
The BNP are of course, very different from Respect in many ways and Galloway's group do not publicly use open racism. But they do share a communalist approach to politics. The particular focus of British fascism has altered over the years. In Mosley’s days they emphasised their anti-semitism as a way of trying to gain favour. In the fifties and sixties, Afro-Caribbean’s were the targets of the far-right and now the BNP put their attention on the Asian community and try to whip up fears of Muslims. In each case the aim of the fascists was to boost their status as ‘defenders of whites’.

The strongest area of support for the far right in Burnley's council elections came not from the few ethnically mixed areas (where one might have imagined there is some tension) but from the almost exclusively white suburbs. Immediately after the BNP's strong results in Lancashire, politicians and journalists started to talk about 'the white working class' - music to the ears of the cleverer racists at the top of the BNP who know that once people start identifying themselves by race then they are on to a winner with slogans such as 'rights for whites'. Whenever I have spoken to lads thinking of voting for the BNP they have shown that the message has got through, expressing the view that the BNP will "stick up for us".

With communalist politics it is not the specific political programme -troops out of Iraq in the case of Respect or immigration and asylum in the case of the BNP - that is the defining characteristic, it is the creation of a communal identity and the exploitation of it.

For both Respect and the BNP are exploitative - seeking to use ethnic identity blocks to divide, polarise and radicalise.

The key to defeating both Respect and the BNP is to tackle their communalism head on with the politics of unity and not to fall into the trap of demonising their voters. There is nothing Respect's leadership would relish more, at this moment, than criticism of those who voted for them just as the BNP lap it up when the media spout stereotypes of their support base as ‘white trash’.

The Bangladeshi youth who made up the active base of support for Galloway in Bethnal Green need to be engaged with seriously – not demonised. Their opposition to the war in Iraq may have been the primary reason they found themselves lining up with a Scottish carpet-bagger but they are not going to spend their entire lives raging about the war. There are plenty of issues where the left could offer support to the best elements in that community and start to build an alternative. No-one should let their disgust at Galloway’s behaviour lead them into wild generalisations about Muslim communities. The Respect voters need to be won away from the bile of the SWP and Galloway and the dead-end religious politics of MAB. That task can never be done by Islamophobes and the best way is surely to offer a workable left-wing solution to the problems facing that community.

In fact the entire constituency along with other ghettoised communities in Britain need to be the focus of a concentrated effort by the left to take on communalism and offer a progressive, unifying alternative.

Its hard for people who spend their working and home lives in successfully multicultural areas of big cities to understand how ghettoisation damages communities. The most difficult areas are those which are largely bi-cultural. I grew up in one such community where there has never been a serious attempt to deal with the divisions. Friends in London, who enjoy the great diversity of life in that city, shook their heads in disbelief at the riots in Burnley and the rise of the BNP in the area. The last thing similar towns in Lancashire and Yorkshire need is Respect turning up.

It may sound old-fashioned but the best way to tackle communalism is surely bringing people together to stand up for their common interests. Campaigns for better housing in all areas, campaigns for better jobs for all communities, campaigns for better schools and public services for all. All things worth doing in themselves, especially with a Labour government in power, but with the added bonus of crossing the communal divide.

If Labour is looking for some ‘big ideas’ for its third term then it could do much worse than announce a major effort to deal with the ‘forgotten communities’ across Britain. These are the areas that were decimated by Thatcherism and have yet to recover. They are to be found mainly in the North and the Midlands but they include the ‘pockets of poverty’ inside London such as Bethnal Green. In many cases these ‘left behind’ areas are divided along bi-cultural lines.

The communalist parties recognise there is potential for them in those areas – the BNP need whites to be angry and afraid and Respect need Muslims to feel they are ‘under attack’ - the propaganda of both parties reveals their strategy is one of creating that fear and anger. Poverty and alienation provide fertile ground for them.

The left needs to respond to this poison with the politics of hope – showing in practice that our old slogans still have some life in them yet. That unity is strength, that a democratic society offers a way of dealing with problems, that a social-democratic economy can provide a decent life for all and the opportunities that offer a way out of poverty and marginalisation.

Not long after, this was added, quoting the wonderful BNP's views on the election results:

May 11, 2005

"A Welcome Victory"

There were howls of derision from Respect supporters when yesterday I warned of the dangers of communalism and pointed out that there were two parties putting forward such politics in last week's elections - Respect and the BNP.

The objectors missed the point entirely - I was not trying to smear Galloway or suggest that Respect's politics were racist in the way the BNP's are but simply point out that they have adopted the same communalist approach of appealing to voters on the basis of their ethnic identity and warn of the common dangers both communalist parties present.

The BNP know all about communalist politics; their entire strategy has always been based on an appeal to whites as whites - and not surprisingly they have welcomed Respect's arrival on the scene.

I don't normally link to the BNP's website but on this occassion there is no way around it. The following passages are taken from the fascist's own post-election analysis:

The future for British politics is the growth in support and power of the ethno-specific political parties like the BNP, the Peoples’ Justice Party and Respect. As parties like Respect grow in power and influence and further radicalise the ethnic communities they represent, then the indigenous British White community of Britain will come to understand that they can no longer avoid the politics of Identity Politics for themselves.

.... The success of Respect is the end of the White Liberal Consensus on Multi-Culturalism. It is an irony of history that the first ethnic community to throw off the yoke of Multi-Culturalism and openly embrace Identity Politics by getting an elected representative in Parliament are the Asian Muslim immigrants themselves and their white, self hating, communist collaborators.

The victory of George Galloway and his Soviet/ Islamic Front Group ' Respect ' which is run by an Islamic/Socialist Workers Party alliance is a welcome victory. It reveals the lie that the media and the Liberal Fascist Elite have hidden from the eyes of the British people for decades. It shows that Multi-Culturalism is a lie. This victory demonstrates very clearly to the British voters that the Muslim community, when it forms an ethnic bloc in an area, chooses to vote only for those political parties that explicitly promote the interests of the Muslim Community itself.

.....The growth of Identity Politics amongst the Asian Muslim community is a welcome sign of the disintegration of the Liberal Consensus on Multi-Culturalism. When the Asian Muslims themselves reject the multi-cultural social model and embrace political parties that link politics with ethnicity then it becomes increasingly ridiculous and hypocritical for the media to attack the BNP for defending the interests of our community; the White indigenous British National Community.

.....Why should the indigenous white people of Britain be the only ethnic group denied a political party to represent their specific ethnic interests as a community? To do so is racist. This election is a triumph for the BNP.

When the fascists of the BNP welcome your political strategy and even your success, it is time to do some serious thinking.

Posted by Harry at May 11, 2005 09:07 PM |

Friday, May 20, 2005

More Larry Gambone

Why don't they have more stuff like this on Fox News?

Saturday, May 07, 2005
I have been following discussions for about a year now in the various news-discussion groups like Vive Le Canada, The Tyee
and Rabble. While the vast majority of the people involved in these discussions do so in a manner respectful of each other, there is one group that does not. The neocon apologists spew hate and venom across the screen. Anti-war sentiment is viciously slandered as pro-Saddam or pro-terrorist, Canadians are attacked as cowards, weaklings, back-stabbers and virtual communists, war resistors are traitors who ought to be shot, any criticism of Israeli policies is deemed anti-Semitic, and so forth.

Liberals, radicals and genuine conservatives counter this hate stream with logic and evidence - sometimes pages of evidence. All of this effort is for naught as the neocon True Believers simply ignore it.

None of these people ever admit to learning anything from these discussions. They come to these groups with one purpose in mind, to insult and disrupt. Such people are generally known as "trolls", a bit of an insult to those ogres who live under bridges. Some trolls may be more than just angry fanatics. Given such outrages as COINTELPRO, I wouldn't put it past the state to hire a few people to disrupt left-wing or anti-war discussion groups. But most of them are probably free-lance haters.

What kind of person would want to do this? I cannot imagine any leftist or pacifist spending their time doing the same to neocon sites. You have to be overflowing with hate to spend your time hanging around where you aren't wanted, insulting and vilifying people.

This level of hate must be so strong that it counters any evidence or logic, a hate so overwhelming that the victims of corporate state cruelty are dismissed out of hand or even thought to deserve their suffering. A hate so strong that it suffocates the natural feelings of empathy and compassion.

Of course, we all hate. It arises naturally when we are threatened. In this ultimate sense, we are no better than neocons, but there is hate and there is hate. It is natural, indeed healthy, to hate the oppressor. It is natural to hate war-mongering politicians, greedy capitalists and sadistic bureaucrats, for we are the victims of these creatures. The sort of people who boss and exploit us would be ostracized or even killed in a tribal society. (1) It is not natural, on the other hand, to hate the victims and glorify the aggressors, but this is precisely what the neocon supporters do.

How are neocon supporters threatened by the oppressed? The oppressed represent the reality which the True Believers don't want to accept. The reality they are slaves like the rest of us.

Part of the problem can be put down to ignorance. Neocon hate mongers are poorly educated, even if a few of them have graduated from college. This is evident not only by their inability to construct a logical argument, but their lack of knowledge of the basic facts of social science and history. They are so ignorant of political science that they cannot tell the difference between a moderate social democrat and a Stalinist and are completely unaware of the US state's long history of intervention in Latin America. All their "knowledge" seems to come from those worthy descendants of Julius Streicher and Joseph Goebbels, like Bill O'Reily and Ann Coulter.

A more encompassing explanation would have to include mis-placed hostility filtered thru a narcissistic mentality. Everyone suffers. It might be parental repression, bullying at school, or the endless humiliations of the work place. Everyone has a reservoir of repressed anger. Some people drink to deal with that anger, others kick the dog, some direct it to the true cause of their suffering - an unjust and authoritarian social structure. Then there are the people, like the neocon True Believers, who direct their hostility toward their fellow victims. This is a familiar type - unionized workers, Quebec nationalists, welfare recipients and feminists are the root of all our problems. The rich and powerful are innocent and have our best interests at heart.

Of course the media whores spend day and night convincing people that the problems are "greedy workers" and not greedy bosses.

I suspect that neocons had authoritarian parenting, most likely a mix of repression and material indulgence. There must be a vast amount of repressed rage combined with megalomania inside these people. Bush is the archetypal neocon, a materially spoiled child raised in a culturally and intellectually shallow, emotionally repressed, family, the perfect narcissist.

Narcissists think of themselves as unique and the center of the world. For the "rank and file" neocons to see themselves as part of the great mass of the exploited would run counter to their megalomania. They would like to be part of the world of the rich and powerful, but can't. But one way they can share this world is to identify with them and adopt their worldview. These slaves not only worship their masters, but they repeat all their justifications.

Narcissism is a strong tendency in post-modern society. When traditional morality breaks down two things occur. A new ethics arises to replace the old worn out system and part of society tumbles into amorality, or more correctly, into nihilism and narcissism. (2) The latter seems to be most prevalent in the United States. At the same time, in Western Europe and Canada a new post-modern ethic has developed, exemplified by opposition to war, concern for the poor and the environment. This helps explain the rather wide acceptance of neocon ideology in the USA and its relative weakness elsewhere. It is worth noting that many people rooted in traditional morality, as well as post-modern ethicals, condemn nihilism and narcissism. Thus one shouldn't be surprised if the new social movements and the Pope are sometimes on the same side.

1. A collective consciousness reaching back 100,000 years or more. The social aspect, which gives rise to, and reinforces our humanity, is based upon the unspoken, tacit assumption that each person is worthy of respect. Exploiters and bullies do not respect other people and thus threaten the mutual aid and reciprocity necessary for survival. As such they must be driven out of the group or killed.
2. To the extent that the old morality is itself rooted in nihilism, nihilism will result when it breaks down. To the extent that the old morality is based on a genuine ethic (one rooted in life), this aspect will become the core around which the new ethics grow. Christianity as an example - to the extent that Christianity is world-hating, it will give rise to nihilism in its decline, to the extent that it is ethical - promoting peace, opposing greed, supporting the oppressed - it will give rise to a new ethics in its decline. Thus, the prevalence of nihilism in the USA is a reflection of the strength of Bible-literalist hate cults, which are stronger there than any other country.

posted by Larry Gambone at 11:12 AM

Something for my Canadian friends

This is from BC-born and bred Larry Gambone's blog .I just hope it is of interest...

Wednesday, May 18, 2005
The BC Election
The Right-wing “Liberals” got 46% of the vote, the center-left NDP, 41% and the Greens 9%. In a democratic system the government would be an NDP-Green coalition, however since the province is run by the undemocratic first-past-the post system, the “Liberals” won 45 seats, the NDP 33 and the Greens zero.

One obvious outcome is that the majority of the population does not support the right, but it is still shocking that 46% of people could have such little regard for their fellows that they would vote for a group that is responsible for ruining the lives of ordinary working people and destroying communities. So BC gets stuck with the brownshirts once more. Hope there is something left of the place when I finally move there.

The referendum on STV – a complex, but far more democratic voting process that few people understood - did not pass. Since it needed 60% approval (unlike say firing 10,000 health care workers or mass privatizations) it was unlikely that it would pass and the vote was probably rigged that way for that reason. So BCers are still stuck with the undemocratic old system for the next election.

The orthodox left (NDP and labour) must share most of the blame for the tragic reelection of a gang of ruthless right-wingers. There have been, what, four different NDP governments. Any of these could have introduced a proportional ballot system and the right wing would be trapped in a corner like the rat that it is. But no, they did nothing about it, leaving these changes up to the right, who then, as we have seen, rigged it so the status quo would remain. (Where exactly is the "new democracy" in the New Democratic Party?)

The media pimped the “Liberals” day and night. This was to be expected. Let’s not cry about this. It is the result of having a class system. The boss class media is going to spout boss class propaganda, as sure as asses bray. This is why you need a left wing newspaper to at least attempt to counter them. Even a well put together weekly would do. But the NDP and labour have done very little to promote left wing media.

Admittedly things have changed a bit - there is labour support for The Tyee and Rabble, but historically, a newspaper was never seen as a priority. Stan Persky put together the weekly Solidarity with BC Fed help back in the heady days of the Almost General Strike of 1982. But the Fed killed it just as the paper was getting a readership.

In spite of everything, the BC election indicates something that is happening world-wide. A rejection of the neocon reaction that has dominated us for the past 25 years. Things are going to get quite hot in the coming years and I am not just talking about global warming.

posted by Larry Gambone at 6:35 AM | 0 comments

Reclaim our Englishness

More interesting stuff. I'd hate to be a bore...

Reclaim our Englishness and throw out the burgers: Paul Kingsnorth argues that we cannot welcome all comers unless we know what we are welcoming them to. We need a new patriotism, based on defending pubs, corner shops and apples
New Statesman, Nov 15, 2004 by Paul Kingsnorth

It was Gap that made me snap. I was passing my local outlet, when my eye was caught by a poster in the window. It said, in giant script: "FALL SALE. 50% OFF!"

It took a while to sink in. Fall sale. What? This isn't America, it's England! We don't have "a fall", we have an autumn!

I found myself frothing in despair at this corporate colonisation of my language, my culture, my public space. I looked around. Nobody else seemed to mind--except for Lynne Truss and now John Humphrys, both of whom have turned their despair over the misuse of English into highly readable books.

Perhaps I was the only one who cared that the English today have no idea who they are. Their culture in retreat, much of their history forgotten, great swathes of their landscape being transformed into soulless non-places at breathtaking speed, they--we--are a lost people. We dress like Americans, sing like Americans, shop like Americans. We turn our pubs into chain bars, grub up our orchards and shutter our farms, transform our villages into commuter suburbs, crucify our towns with ring-road Wal-Marts.

If England ever was, in George Orwell's words, "a family with the wrong members in control", it now seems more like a broken home. The English are becoming a deculturised people. Sneered at by the left, hitched to dubious causes by the right, English culture has been treated for years as an embarrassment; some monster locked in the attic, which escapes occasionally in big boots and with shaven head to terrify the neighbours.

Who cares about England? Politically, it is the love that dare not speak its name among the liberal classes. On the right, that love, if love it is, is as strong as ever. For decades now, virtually the only people who have been prepared to stand up for England are those whom most New Statesman readers would cross the street to avoid: flag-waving Tories; reactionary old buffers writing to the Daily Telegraph letters page; and, lurking on the dark margins, the racist right, their skins throbbing lobster pink with fear and fury.

But what about the rest, the great mass of people who are neither politicised nor particularly given to cultural analysis? These are the people who fly the George Cross from vans and cars; those for whom England is a reality, but who have been instructed not to mention it, in case they fan flames that nobody wants to see. For them--for us--England is now a forbidden word.

The left has played an enormous part in the deculturisation of the English people. The postmodern, liberal 21 st-century line on Englishness is that it is meaningless--and a good thing, too. The English, after all, have a dark history: colonialism abroad and the oppression of the Scots, Irish and Welsh at home. Any resurgence of discussions about their identity can only serve to raise ghosts. Today, we are simply a collection of people living on a "multicultural" island in the North Sea.

Fear of being hijacked by the racist right has led the English--or at least, the English intelligentsia--to deny the existence of their own culture. This has had two dangerous consequences.

One is that the far right has been able to colonise Englishness for itself, conflate it with whiteness and make us all even more nervous about discussing it. The far right has exploited this lack of discussion to play on fears of a "liberal elite" or "Brussels bureaucracy" conspiring to do down the English. The fear and anger that this spawns among a people anxious about their identity is then turned on the wrong targets--the current favourites being immigrants and asylum-seekers.

The other consequence is that the full-on assault on what remains of a distinctive English culture, primarily by the forces of American capitalism, has gone virtually unchallenged by a left that should have been shouting the loudest against it.

But what is England? The English folk legend Martin Carthy puts it well. "The English don't know who they are," he says. "They have given up their identity and sold an idea of 'Britain'--the Tower of London is England; Buckingham Palace is England; the Yeomen of the Guard is England. Ain't no culture there ... I think what identifies English people is their music, their dance, their literature and their painting."

Carthy is on to something. Music and the arts help to define a people. So, too, do modes of dress, crafts, culinary tradition, language and connection to a landscape. Together, these things go to make up the core of a culture.

It is perhaps in the English landscape that "culture" can be most easily glimpsed. The pubs, the shops, the clubs, the places of worship, the farms, the high streets, the villages: the places that the English built, that only the English could have built. The places that could not be any where else.

These are increasingly in short supply. Take the local pub--a cultural cornerstone if ever there were one. "When you have lost your inns," declared the French-turned-English poet Hilaire Belloc in the 1930s, "drown your empty selves, for you will have lost the last of England." It may be time to start running the bath, for the traditional pub is disappearing fast. Twenty of these go out of business every month. Half of those that remain are owned by giant pub chains, many financed by multinational banks. The number of true "family brewers" in Britain stands at just 38.

The same is true of our towns and cities. Virtually gone are the independent shops, the markets, the expressions of local identity. High streets become multinational malls, helping to turn urban areas into what the New Economics Foundation calls "clone towns". Its reports on this phenomenon merely put figures on what we can all see happening around us: between 1995 and 2000, the UK lost 20 per cent of its corner shops, grocers, high-street banks, post offices and pubs, amounting to a cumulative loss of more than 30,000 local economic outlets. Chain stores take their place.

The countryside fares no better. More than 100,000 farm jobs have been lost in the past decade alone. Family farms are disappearing. Our fisheries and their attendant fleets have been sucked dry. The once-famous orchards of England are being grubbed up in pursuit of EU subsidies; of the 6,000 varieties of our most famous native fruit, the apple, nine are readily sold in supermarkets. Faster and faster, England is becoming a one-stop shop on the road to a global market peopled by citizens of nowhere.

So what to do?

All of us need to look long and hard at the place in which we live, try to know and understand it, and ask ourselves why it matters. We need a new declaration of Englishness: one that takes our country back from the sneerers on the left and the bigots on the right. We should be able to talk about culture and place--two things which, by their presence or absence, define the lives of everyone on earth--without talking about skin colour.

This, then, is a call for a new, positive English nationalism--an anti-racist, forward-looking but rooted nationalism that all of us who think that place matters should be able to embrace.

Let us begin to define a new English culture based on place, not race--an Englishness based instead on a recognition that we all belong here, and that we must all make a shared contribution to what the English are becoming.

As part of this, let us embrace both controversy and necessity by confining the troublesome concept of multiculturalism to the historical dustbin. When even Trevor Phillips, the head of the Commission for Racial Equality, takes up the call, we can be sure of a debate without being tarred by the racist brush.

Let us instead forge an Englishness based not on cultural, religious or racial ghettoisation--often the unwitting result of the "multicultural" ideal--but on a multiracial society living under an umbrella created by us all, from Anglo-Saxons to Afro-Saxons, in which the folk songs of Eliza Carthy and the rap of The Streets, the feet of Wayne Rooney and the fists of Amir Khan are all representations of what we are.

Is this a racist notion? Is it "exclusive" or "divisive"? No: it is the opposite. It is a deliberately inclusive vision of a country at ease with itself, welcoming all comers, but knowing to what it is welcoming them; knowing both what it stands for and what it won't. A culture at ease with itself is far more immune to internal racism, fear of "outsiders" and anxieties about its own extinction. A content culture drains the swamp of xenophobia more effectively than legislation ever could.

This is interesting

People power is a phrase Orwell would have loved...

Ukraine: It's Now or Never for Washington By Mark Almond
The New Statesman, Friday 03 December 2004

America's real aim in Ukraine and other former Soviet republics is to seize control of vital resources before China and India can challenge US dominance.

Are we on the brink of a new cold war? On both sides of the Atlantic, media commentators see the crisis in Ukraine as comparable to the Berlin crises, involving the US and the Soviet Union, which kept the world on tenterhooks for decades. In this supposed drama, a resurgent Kremlin under an ex-KGB colonel is suppressing freedom at home and encroaching on ex-Soviet republics around his country's vast rim.

This terror of shadows has a track record of success. In the 1970s and early 1980s, the ailing world of Leonid Brezhnev was portrayed as a sinister superpower with its tentacles almost around Uncle Sam's throat. The US and the majority of western European nations combined behind a program of arms build-up and covert sponsorship of anti-communist dissidents.

The coincidence of dates is not often noted, but the Pentagon was inaugurated on 11 September 1941, exactly 60 years before it took its first direct hit. In my view, its role was positive for many years: few would regret the fall of Hitler or the deterrence of Stalin. But America's bloodless victory in the cold war did not lead her to rest on her laurels. As early as 1992, Pentagon insiders led by Paul Wolfowitz and sponsored by the then defense secretary, Dick Cheney (under President Bush I), had drawn up a doctrine designed to prevent any power getting the "capacity" to challenge the US in the future. Not only potential foes but friends were to be kept subordinate.

There was no peace dividend. Instead, US defense spending rose. Now the Pentagon spends more than the European Union, Russia, China and India combined. As one Pentagon friend said to me recently: "The new arms race is between the US army today and the US army which might fight it tomorrow!"

Yet, according to Washington's friends, Russia is on the prowl, even though its military technology is ageing and Nato expansion (and with it, US bases) reaches deep inside the old Soviet Union. In reality, the Kremlin's writ is fraying at the edges of the smaller, post-1991 Russia. Already Chechnya is in chaos and much of the north Caucasus is simmering. If Russia poses no military threat even to its neighbors, the divide of the first cold war era is dead.

And yet the culture of the new cold war is very different from that of the old. For 40 years, the west's intellectuals and media were bitterly divided over policy towards Moscow. Each side - particularly the west - had its allies on the other side. The west's victory in 1989 was good for the market economy but bad for intellectual pluralism. Sky News came online in 1989 but the explosion of 24-hour news has been matched by an implosion of alternative views.

With the collapse of one-party states, any justification for western covert intervention in elections died. Yet the methods of the old cold war have continued and even grown in scale. Washington's power elite see the whole world as former president Reagan saw Latin America - indeed, many Reagan administration figures are involved in current events. Cold war methods are still in use - even more so - but now against opponents who do not merit the description "totalitarian", whatever their faults.

In the run-up to the velvet revolutions of 1989, I was a bagman carrying tens of thousands of dollars to eastern European dissidents. I have a good idea of how much money and foreign input are required to get a spontaneous "people power" revolution going. Then, however, it was the Communist Party that blocked dissent.

Today, western intelligence agencies, the media and "the people" crush any dissent from the Washington consensus.

At the time of the Falklands war, Henry Kissinger said: "No great power retreats for ever." Maybe Russia is about to disprove his thesis, because so far Russia has retreated steadily under Vladimir Putin's rule. If Ukraine falls into the Nato orbit, Russia will lose her access to Black Sea naval bases and Russian oil and gas export routes will have to pass an American stranglehold.

Yet Russia is a bit player in this new global competition. The Pentagon is really aiming at Beijing in its grab for the old Soviet strategic space around Russia. China is booming, but energy is her Achilles heel. Economically and technologically, China's 1.3 billion people seem poised to assume superpower status, but China cannot risk falling out with America. Only access to Russian and central Asian oil can liberate China from dependence on vulnerable sea-borne oil supplies, so the real "Great Game" is between Beijing and Washington. America's real strategic fear is the rise of China and India. Unlike Russia, they are not beset by demographic decline.

Worse still for US planners, the Chinese and Indians may want the benefits of western consumerism but they do not share the cultural cringe of peoples of the former Soviet bloc: like Gandhi, they believe that western civilization would be a very good idea.

In Latin America, too, Washington does not have everything its own way. It is not just that Venezuela's Hugo Chavez saw off a Ukrainian- style "people power" push, having already trounced an old-style putsch in 2002; Brazil and Argentina are also failing to toe the Washington line. The region's big players show signs of looking to China and south Asia for markets and investment.

If South America, south Asia and China begin to coalesce, then Washington could find itself confronted by an alternative axis not seen since before the Sino-Soviet split in the early 1960s. But, whereas Mao and Brezhnev represented economic dead ends, the new China and her potential partners have dynamism on their side. Maybe India and China are business rivals, but their old frontier disputes in the Himalayas are frozen. Latin America has nothing to fear from either superpower of the future, nor do Latin Americans nurse visceral resentments of Beijing or Delhi that are in any way comparable to their deep-dyed anti-Yankee feelings.

America's drive to dominate the old Soviet Union represents a gamble by today's only superpower to seize the highest-value chips on the table before China and India join the game. If China can add access to post-Soviet energy to the Chinese hand, it will be game on for a real new cold war. Many of the predictions among Washington neoconservatives about China's growing power recall the fear among German militarists that the window of opportunity for a global role was closing by 1914. Washington's drive to seize maximum advantage before the inevitable waning of US power recalls the Kaiser's cry 80 years ago: "Now or never!"

Mark Almond is a lecturer in modern history at Oriel College, Oxford.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Neither Brussels nor Washington but...?

The article below was published in the Viewsletter of Devolve!, the radical pro-English regionalist group, in early 2001. The Devolve! website is at (I think!- type in England Devolve in a search engine if you have problems). One or two details I could change, but I can't really be asked ("FORWARD WITH APATHY"). Anything changed will [look like this].

Neither Brussels nor Washington but...? Thoughts on a post-UK foreign policy
for England.

Are you for the "Euroarmy" or NATO? Should we join the euro or the North
American Free Trade Association? Do you think our future is with "Europe" or
"America" or both? Is it possible to go shopping every other weekend to New
York AND own a holiday home in Provence? Are you sick and tired of hearing
such stuff ad nauseam in the media at the moment? I know I am.
Britain's metropolitan elite (which, however much they all deny it, includes
William Hague, the editor of the Sun and all those permanently outraged
columnists writing in the Mail and the Telegraph), whatever their ostensible
political colours (varying shades of blue from where I'm standing), are
obsessed with Britain's world role and how its relationships with the USA
and EU help or hinder this role. Hardly anyone in these rarefied circles
asks "why" Britain should have a world role. When they debate whether or not
Britain's armed forces are over stretched, no-one asks why Britain should
intervene militarily in Kosovo, Sierra Leone or Iraq (or Ulster for that
matter, despite most opinion polls conducted in the last 30 years suggest
most people on the "mainland" think the troops should pull out).
As Devolve!, by its very existence, questions the continuation of Britain as
a political entity, perhaps we should consider the geopolitics of a post-UK
England. For it is clear that a post-UK England could not simply pretend to
be a Britain "writ small" in the international order. So what should England
I don't think anyone in Devolve! wants a future England to be part of the
American Empire, whether as the Puerto Rico of the North Sea or as the 51st
state. The crass Americanisation of England (and much of the rest of the
world for that matter) frightens me: the day Devolve! brings out its own
baseball cap is the day I resign! Seriously, I see signs of hope that the
American Empire will collapse sooner rather than later, and mostly due to
internal pressures rather than external ones. The farce in Florida over the
past few weeks (I write this on December 4th [2000]) is just the most visible sign
that the current political order in the USA is suffering a deep crisis of
legitimacy which will continue into the Twenty First Century. I think
Devolve! should have a lot of sympathy with the growing number of democratic
localist/devolutionist, militarily isolationist and
anti-globalisation/pro-economic protectionist organisations, publications
and individuals within the USA, for their victories are also ours!
As for the EU, I know we have a spectrum of opinions wihin Devolve! Since I
wrote "Neither EU nor UK" for Issue 5 of VOME [when Devolve! was the Movement for Middle England] back in 1996 my basic anti-EU
stance has not changed. However, at the time I said that I would write about
an alternative vision of Europe in a future article. Over the last few years
I've thought hard and long about possible alternatives to the EU and/or US
hegemony over England, and I've come up with a not very systematic first
stab at solving my conundrum.
To begin with, to talk about one Europe in a political sense is nonsense; it
is a geographical expression, in the same way that Asia and Africa are. The
war over Kosovo in 1999 brought it home to me that Europe can never be
united politically, except by force. Consequently, instead of looking at
Europe as a whole for allies, England should place the emphasis in its
external relations upon closer links with its North West European
neighbours. That is, our fellow inhabitants of the British Isles; the
Bretons; the Normans; the Flemish (both in France and Belgium); the Dutch;
the Friesians; the Plattdeutsche (Low Germans); the Danes; the Scanians; the
Swedes; the Norwegians; the Jamtlanders; the Faroese; the Icelanders; and
the Greenlanders.
Apart from the geographical proximity, there are a number of reasons why I
am attracted to the idea of a post-UK England developing an alliance with
its fellow North West European neighbours. From a purely English
perspective, such an alliance would lead to a massive positive pyschological
shift in the way that England and the English look at the world. For over a
thousand years we have been forced to identify with a Norman-British
Imperial world-view & fight wars to either expand or defend this Empire. If
England turns to its immediate neighbours we can say that we have truly come
home and intend to build a society for ourselves; not an Empire for our
Establishment. We would return to the historic opportunity spurned in 1069,
when a Danish invasion of England, leading to "All the people of the land...
greatly rejoicing", was bought off with plundered English treasure by the
Furthermore, I would point to the antipathy which many of our North West
European neighbours share towards the EU. For example, Denmark and Sweden
are outside euroland; and Norway, the Faroes, Iceland and Greenland (which
withdrew in 1985) are outside the EU altogether. Perhaps the English share
with their neighbours an "isolationist patriotism" (2), which, in my
opinion, is a lot healthier world view than the "interventionist patriotism"
the UK currently indulges in! Moreover, in opposing the EU, North West
European EU-sceptics are unconsciously drawing upon the thinking of N.F.S.
Grundvig, a Nineteenth Century Danish poet and educationalist, who argued
that there were two main ideas in European history; the "Nordic freedom
tradition" and the "Roman Imperial tradition".(3)
Another reason why I advocate a North West European alliance is that I
admire greatly he socio-economic systems that were created in Scandinavia,
Holland and (after 1945) Germany during the Twentieth Century. They possess
a strong sense of social liberalism and a general culture of equality (long
standing equal rights legislation in Norway and Sweden owes nothing to a
European Commissioner for womens' rights). Our North West European
neighbours also have had an admirable record in keeping corporate capitalism
(the long standing opponent of genuine democrats, conservatives, ecologists,
environmentalists, free marketeers and socialists)(4) under control, through
a combination of state intervention in the economy, genuine competition and
anti-trust legislation.(5) Consequently, genuine competition in North West
European economies led to a more equal wealth distribution within those
societies, leading to more egalitarian, genuine well-off and healthier
Not surprisingly, such socio-economic achievements have come under
increasing attack from the forces of corporate globalisation during the last
thirty years or so. The introduction of the euro, and the policies of
austerity, privatisation and flexibility associated with it, is the most
visible manifestation of corporate capital's assaults upon the German social
market and Nordic welfare models (that's the main reason why 80% want to
keep the Deutsche mark, and the Danes rejected the euro in September).(7)
Put simply, the preservation of the socio-economic systems of North West
Europe which, overall, served them well during the Twentieth Century, can
only survive in any worthwhile form if both globalisation and the EU are
rejected by North West Europe.
Although we have our differences over the EU, it would be churlish of me not
to acknowledge the influence upon my thinking over the last few years of
Woody's paper for the first "Whose Regions?" conference "Regions, Peoples
and Sustainability in North Europe."(8) I admire particularly Woody's
attempt to apply bioregional theory to North West Europe": "One of the
features of to take as a central element a great
waterway system...We don't have anything like that- or do we? If we change
to a water based focus in North West Europe and take the Irish Sea/Western
approaches and the North Sea as rough points of reference, new possibilities
emerge..." Indeed, if we add the English Channel and the North East
Atlantic, there is a bioregional basis for a North West European alliance
upon the lines I advocate. Furthermore, England and its neighbours share
environmental problems i.e. pollution/overfishing in the North Sea, acid
rain from British Isles power stations falling over Scandinavia's forests,
which could be tackled at a North West European level. If we could get the
Norwegians and others to stop whale hunting- even better! (perhaps until we
English ban fox hunting, we cannot really claim any sort of moral high
ground on this issue...).
I hope that this article demonstrates that it is possible to begin thinking
of an England free not only from the UK, but from the USA and EU as well.
Admittedly, this is just a beginning. Furthermore, I do not think that our
North West European neighbours are prefect by any stretch of the
imagination. For example, Scania should get autonomy from Sweden. Moreover,
there is a lot of anti-immigrant feeling in Denmark and Sweden, but how much
of that (and elsewhere) is the result of increasing socio-economic
insecurity and cultural alienation encouraged in the wake of growing
corporate globalisation during recent decades? However, I think that is to
be truly free in the next century it must turn towards its North West
European neighbours- or die.
1. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, as quoted in 'The Mercia Manifesto' (The
Mercia Movement, 1997), p.115.
2. I heard the phrase on a Radio 4 programme early in 2000 which suggested
that the EU would sooner or later split up due to its different geopolitical
outlooks i.e. Spain, France and Italy looking towards North Africa and the
Middle East.
3. A snippet of information I wrote down a few years ago. Anyone who knows
anything else about Grundvig- I'd much appreciate further enlightenment.
4. Reading Noam Chomsky over the last couple of years, I have become
increasingly aware of the concept of corporate capital, and why it should be
opposed by all the political tendencies I listed (as well as anarchists
etc.) as a major threat to everything they stand for. See, for instance,
Chapters 13 & 14 of Chomsky's 'Rogue States' (Pluto Press, 2000).
5. Chomsky ('Keeping the Rabble in Line', AK Press, 1994, pp.248-9) points
out that Adam Smith argued that "a properly functioning market will tends
towards equality and that a perfect system will be one of very extensive and
pervasive equality. The closer you reach equality the closer you reached a
perfect society...only under those conditions would a market economy
function properly...He was very critical of what he called 'joint stock
companies', what we would call corporations...He had a good deal of
scepticism about them because of the separation of managerial control from
direct participation and also because they might...turn into...immortal
persons, which indeed happened in the nineteenth century, not longer after
his death." It appears that justifying modern corporate capitalism by
appealing to Adam Smith is as grotesque as claiming that Karl Marx would
approve of contemporary North Korea.
6. I can only cover the very barest outlines of this argument, put forward
by David Simmons, author of 'Reinventing the Economy' (John Harvester,
1998?) in "Turn Left for the Third Way" 'Politics Today' Issue 2 (a sadly
defunct magazine- back copies still available from David Simmons, 5 Russell
Road, Northolt, Middlesex UB5 4QR), pp.32-40.
7. 'The Guardian' (December 16 1999, p.16) reported a survey of German
public opinion under the headline "Germany likes things as they are, polls
find", which suggested the Germans were generally happy with the social
market system they were living under and wary of globalisation and the
so-called "new economy". Sounds like a basically sensible country to me...
8. Woody might have some spare copies if you do not have a copy of his
magnum opus...

Over my election blues

Sorry I gave up on my blog as the campaign reached its climax (and to use a phrase used after so many climaxes "is that it?"). However, most people who agree that the General Election campaign was the most awful event. I basically avoided the whole thing as much as possible, so I pity those who have only a passing interest (or none at all) in party politics. I voted Green as opponents of the Iraq war and the EU Constitution. Tony got back in, but a lot of traditional Labour voters went on strike. At least the Tories didn't get in. Perhaps droning on 24-7 about immigration isn't a guaranteed vote winner. Considering Michael Howard the Cons leader is the son of an illegal immigrant, the hypocrisy of the man is breathtaking. The most outrageous story I heard was down in Richmond in South west London where the Tories had so few people prepared to canvass for them that they got Eastern European immigrants at £4 an hour to leaflet for them.

What really got me down was the performance of the race obsessed British National Party. They were getting 1,000+ votes and saved deposits all over the place, and beating the Greens, UKIP and Veritas too many times for comfort. The far left (unless you count Respect, who between themselves and the BNP have made people divide along communalist lines throughout East London) did extremely badly even by their low standards. Time to hang together or hang separately folks!

Anyway, I've sort of got over my depression about the results. I have left this blog in a bad condition, but much more will appear in the coming weeks (before my hols in late July/early Aug). Below are some websites/blogs you may find of interest:

These above are associated with Kevin Carson & Larry Gambone, an American and a Canadian who can be best described as evolutionary anarchists. As I believe in the vote as the only way to really change society, I'm not an anarchist. However, there is so much both say, particularly their concept of mutualism, which I agree with. I want an English Mutualist Party to vote for in 2009/2010!!

Martin Cole's impressive blog is my best source of up to date info about the UK Independence Party. If only my blog was in the same league (as opposed to a Sunday pub soccer team league!).