The Schizophrenia of Mr Duncan-Smith

The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government has at long last unveiled their ‘welfare reform’ plans, which are already touted as being “the “most significant reform” of the coalition so far”.(1) As expected, the reforms are mainly centered around the Work and Pensions Secretary Duncan-Smith’s pet project, the implementation of a single benefits system. Under this system, all benefits would be put essentially into one ‘package’, the universal credit – with the notable exception of disability benefits – and be immediately linked to the payroll deductions tax database. The advantage would be that doing so would allow the government to no longer have to rely on the old ‘all or nothing’ approach to benefits, and thereby eliminate the possibility of part-time or short-term work causing an actual decrease in overall annual income compared to unemployment. Instead, people under such partial contracts would be allowed to keep part of their universal credit so they would not lose out on the move towards regular work. Continue reading “The Schizophrenia of Mr Duncan-Smith”

The Useless Manifesto: The Folly of the Fake Left

“Beware of conservatives bearing gifts.” This should be the lesson that every leftist and progressive of whatever stripe had learned over the many decades and even centuries of political struggle. When the right attempts to oppose the policies of the left, this is what one would expect, and obstructionist and backward as it may be at times, it at least expresses real interests in a straightforward manner. When on the other hand they start pretending to help the left, whether under the guise of ‘shared values’ or by attempting to draw them into a politics of liberal talking and reactionary doing, things get seriously dangerous. However, most of the 19th as well as the 20th century has had a left wing strong enough to constantly be on the offensive against such attempts, to learn to identify them and to combat them effectively by showing time and again how the liberalism of the right doesn’t really mean what it pretends to mean. Unfortunately, these days the serious left has been diminished so much that they are weak and easily caught unawares, and many of the supporters of the new generation are not rooted enough in history to recognize them. This gives ample opportunity for the worst kind of false flag operations undertaken under the banner of the ‘modern left’ and similar phrases.

No, this is not some conspiratorial rant. Continue reading “The Useless Manifesto: The Folly of the Fake Left”

The British Elections and Electoral Reform

In Dutch there is an expression which loosely translates as: “when two dogs fight for a bone, the third will run off with it”. When the Conservative Party under their ‘modernist’ leader David Cameron challenged their major opponents to the first ever televised leader’s debate in Britain, they would have done well to remember this. They counted on the slick appeal of Cameron easily putting the jaw-munching tactlessness of Prime Minister Brown in the shade. But they forgot that the Liberal Democrats, doomed to be the perpetual third party in the UK since the Armistice, had a charismatic figure and an excellent debater in their leader Nick Clegg. The effect has been remarkable: for the first time anyone living can remember, the Liberal Democrats are now leading the other parties in the popular vote in some polls, and are equal contenders in others. The Labour share has dropped to levels lower than those of Michael Foot in the disastrous election of 1979, but the Tories too have not managed to beat their equally bad poll results of the days of New Labour ascendancy in the 1990s. All the remainder of the vote seems increasingly to be moving collectively into the Liberal Democrats’ camp. Now one can debate to what extent this is entirely the result of the impact of modern mass media like television on political campaigns; there are good, if anecdotal, reasons to assume that much of it is also driven by an electorate tired of Labour but equally repulsed by the Tories, looking for a way out. Be that as it may, British elections have not been as exciting and not had as uncertain an outcome in many decades, with everyone now expecting a hung parliament to result for the first time since 1974. Continue reading “The British Elections and Electoral Reform”

Marx, Engels, and the American Civil War – I

Given the reputation of America today as a bulwark of reaction and imperialism, it may surprise many to know that Marx and Engels were great supporters of the United States in their own day. For them, the United States was not a great power opposed to the interests of the various peoples worldwide as today, but it represented capitalism in its most pure and its most historically progressive form. America did not have any feudal history or any aristocratic remnants, and as such was the clearest and most energetic example of capitalism’s powers. Moreover, the colonization of the Americas in the first place was the genesis of the capitalist mode of production, by launching Europe beyond its feudal confines. As Engels put it in a lecture for the London German Workers’ Educational Society as early as 1847 (that is, before they became ‘Marxists’ proper):

Citizens! When Christopher Columbus discovered America 350 years ago, he certainly did not think that not only would the then existing society in Europe together with its institutions be done away with through his discovery, but that the foundation would be laid for the complete liberation of all nations; and yet, it becomes more and more clear that this is indeed the case. Through the discovery of America a new route by sea to the East Indies was found, whereby the European business traffic of the time was completely transformed; the consequence was that Italian and German commerce were totally ruined and other countries came to the fore; commerce came into the hands of the western countries, and England thus came to the fore of the movement. Before the discovery of America the countries even in Europe were still very much separated from one another and trade was on the whole slight. Only after the new route to the East Indies had been found and an extensive field had been opened in America for exploitation by the Europeans engaged in commerce, did. England begin more and more to concentrate trade and to take possession of it, whereby the other European countries were more and more compelled to join together. From all this, big commerce originated, and the so-called world market was opened. The enormous treasures which the Europeans brought from America, and the gains which trade in general yielded, had as a consequence the ruin of the old aristocracy, and so the bourgeoisie came into being. The discovery of America was connected with the advent of machinery, and with that the struggle became necessary which we are conducting today, the struggle of the propertyless against the property owners. (…) Thus, through the discovery of America all society has been divided into two classes, and without the rise of the world market this would not have happened. The workers of the whole world have everywhere the same interests; everywhere the different classes disappear and the different interests coincide. When, therefore, a revolution breaks out in one country it must necessarily affect the other countries, and only now can real liberation take place.

(1) Continue reading “Marx, Engels, and the American Civil War – I”

BAE and the Arms Trade

The British arms manufacturing giant BAE (British Aerospace) has been fined some 286 million pounds sterling for bribing government officials in Third World countries to place orders with their company.(1) Among other activities, they bribed officials in Tanzania to order an advanced radar system for defense in that country, even though Tanzania is not likely to be at war with anyone and is one of the poorer nations in the world. What makes the case all the more remarkable is the fact that earlier on British prosecutors intended to prosecute over bribery of Saudi officials to the same purpose, but that a combined action from then Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, quashed the case, in order not to offend the Western ‘allies’ in Saudi Arabia. In this manner, they showed that neither rule of law nor combating theocracy mean anything to the gentlemen politicians who rule our countries, but that only strategic maneouvers do. Little seems to have changed since the days of the ‘Great Game’ and the Victorian approach to international relations. Continue reading “BAE and the Arms Trade”