Thursday, 9 November 2017

Priti Patel is Gone. Boris Johnson Should be Next!


Priti Patel has resigned from the front bench. This is largely because the Prime Minister appears to be in a too weak a position to sack anyone. The week before this, we saw a resignation from defence Minister Michael Fallon. Meanwhile several other ministers including Damian Green and Steven Crabb face investigations based on their sexual misconduct.
Yet if it were not for Patel Boris Johnson would be the one in the firing line this week. In his lack of diplomacy, the foreign secretary has foolishly testified that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British Iranian woman jailed in Iran, has been engaged in teaching people journalism there: A view that contrasts with that of that of her employer and actually lines up to the view of the Israeli government. Because of our Boris’ complete and utter disregard for Ratcliffe’s human rights, she now faces an extra five years in jail. In any other profession, such a catastrophic blunder would have you sacked in an instant, but because Theresa May is in too weak of a position to sack anyone, or even do a major reshuffle, we are stuck with this callous and inept joke of a foreign minister.
Let us go back to the case of Priti Patel for a second. In August, she had dozens of unauthorised meetings in Israel. We do not know entirely what was discussed but that one of these meetings included an encounter with Benjamin Netanyahu. Instead of being open and honest about her dealings, Patel chose to lie to Parliament and to the entire country by giving incomplete or else throughouly-misrepresented information.  Even when pushed to give a full account of her contacts, she failed to mention two other meetings held after her supposed holiday. If Patel were fired, instead of quietly resigning, these would be grounds for it in and of themselves. Her meetings in a sensitive region, her attempts to cover it up, her lies to parliament and the entire country. These would more than justify Patel being considered to untrustworthy to hold the position of International development secretary. Yet Mays failure to show strong leadership, has led to some additional questions being raised about the government’s role in the scandal.  
According to a report in the Jewish chronicle, May was not left completely in the dark about Patel’s questionable activities. The Prime Minister has a conversation in with her about the Netanyahu meetings this September. Not only this, but it was apparently Downing Street that urged the International development secretary not to come completely clean if questioned. Downing Street dismisses that claim, but if true, it would raise questions about their unwillingness to sack Patel.
Therefore, to recap, the International develop secretary stands accused of holding secret meetings with Israeli officials, and has been forced to resign as a result. The foreign secretary stands accused of putting out false information that is potentially damaging to the legal case of a British citizen. While they differ in the sense that one is a case of outright corruption and the other a case of absolute idiocy, they are both cases of misrepresenting very serious international affairs, to the UK parliament and the British people. Priti Patel is gone, Boris Johnson should be next!

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

The Queen has been using Tax Havens!


Let’s reflect on the role of the Monarchy. It would seem that the main purpose of the royal family these days is to represent the UK and to make up a mostly powerless though unelected part of our government. Which is why everyone should be completely disgusted that the royal family have been caught using secret offshore tax havens to shroud at least £10 million from public view, while they simultaneously expect the people they supposedly represent to fund their extortionate lifestyles, to refurbish their neglected palace in central London and to pay for a free luxury yacht for the Queen.
To rely on taxes from ordinary hardworking people to fund their lavishness is bad enough, but it is an outright insult that they do this while stashing the cash in Tax Havens. How can this possibly be justified, without making the pathetic excuse of ‘’they’re the royal family’’. Just think of how many people will try and defend this not along moral or economic lines, but with empty appeals to tradition and hierarchy. We are happy to criticise benefit scrounging the mainstream media will say, but not when it is done by our Lords and Masters.
Of course, this should not be a surprise. The whole concept of the Monarchy is an archaic one in and of itself. It is a sign that our country insists on having a completely unelected head of state. A position that just so happens to be passed down through birth right: not by merit or by popular vote. The fact that this old fashioned system of hereditary patronage still exists in Britain, means that those that benefit from it feel so comfortable in their positions that they can ignore the economic position of their people in order to secretly stash their unearned riches, while professing poverty.
How is it that some people are so blinded by their own ignorance that they cannot seem to draw a connection between the tax dodging of the very richest in society, and chronic underfunding and deterioration of our public services like the NHS, especially at a time where child and in work poverty is becoming harder and harder to deal with? In what way is it mentally feasible to think that the working poor should receive little to no assistance from their government to provide for their children, but rejoice every time a royal couple decide to put yet more of a burden on those people by having a new baby. Why is it that the thought of the poor claiming benefits provokes such anger, yet the thought of a family of scroungers living the high life off the back of the tax payer while holding the position of head of state provokes patriotism and delight? I guess it must just be a matter of how you look at the problem.
If the tax dodging scrounger happens to be a poor person who no one really knows that much about besides what they have read in the Daily Mail, then of course they deserve our ire, that person means nothing to us. On the other hand, if the tax dodging scrounger flaunts his wealth by riding round In Gold Carriages and receiving praise for it, then maybe they deserve to have us buy them yachts and pay for their lifestyles.  They are after all a national treasure and a symbol of Britain.
Who knows how these people think? How they maintain such confidence in a system of hereditary patronage and bloodsucking. Even when those elites spit in our faces by stashing their unscrupulous wealth in tax havens and claiming that they need the money. Maybe some people like to be oppressed and abused by people who they consider their superiors. A Little bit Like Stockholm syndrome, but with flags instead of captors.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

A.3 What is the Essence of Libertarian Socialism


As we have seen, Libertarian Socialism implies a general scepticism of authority and a desire for self-organisation. Libertarian socialists are not against all authorities. Taking the example of a teacher for example, if you can use your authority on something to teach me something, then that is a perfectly legitimate exercise of authority. Though we are against the use of force, often from the earliest age children want to learn, they do not want to be subjected the needlessly bureaucratic education system which teaches conformity rather than creativity, and relies on a seemly pointless slew of tests and marks (I will elaborate on this later in the series). The same applies to control of the media, the organisation of the typical work environment and the relationship between the lower and middle classes to the state. Libertarian socialism is not anti-authority but it is anti-authoritarian. The essence of the ideology, is free cooperation between individuals to strengthen their liberty.
Cooperation between equals is key to all anti authoritianism. By cooperating we can develop and protect our own intrinsic value as individuals as well as enriching our lives and liberty.  As Bakunin says ‘’no individual can recognize his own humanity, and consequently realize it in his lifetime, if not by recognizing it in others and co-operating in its realization for others’’. While being anti-authoritarian, Libertarian socialists do recognize that humans have a social nature and influence each other. We cannot escape the authority of this influence. As Bakunin goes on:
‘’the abolition of this mutual influence would be death. And when we advocate the freedom of the masses, we are by no means suggesting the abolition of any of the natural influences that individuals or groups of individuals exert’’
In other words then, we are against those unjust influence by authority over people lives on which a range of social inequalities and conflicts are built.
Hierarchical systems like capitalism deny liberty and as a result, peoples “mental, moral, intellectual and physical qualities are dwarfed, stunted and crushed”. Thus one of the grand truths of Liberian Socialism is to ‘’allow each one to live their lives in their own way as long as each allows all to do the same”. This is why Libertarian Socialism fight for a better society, for a society which respects individuals and their freedom. Under capitalism, “everything is upon the market for sale: all is merchandise and commerce” but there are “certain things that are priceless. Among these are life, liberty and happiness, and these are things which the society of the future, the free society, will guarantee to all.”
So in a nutshell, Libertarian Socialists seek a society in which people interact in ways which enhance their liberty rather than in ways which minimise it. We are against coercion by authority under the threat of any sort of violence. Perhaps non Libertarian Socialists, rather than question why we have this attitude, would be better off asking what it says about themselves that they feel this attitude needs any sort of explanation.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Blairs Dark Post-Politics Career.

 
Blair is trying to break back into politics. Ever the centrist, Blair has recently embarked on a plan to educate the public about the merits of globalisation. He has teamed up with Open Britain in order to halt Brexit, and prior to the general election was working with the right of the Labour Party to break away from the party and form a new party following what many predicted would be blue murder. In fact, prior to Corbyn, Labour routinely trotted Tony out in election years for an official endorsement. Meanwhile, he has taken every opportunity to warn labour about adopting a leftist platform (a piece of advice he also disastrously gave to Hillary Clinton during her presidential run) and to flat out insult Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters: If your heart is with Corbyn, get a transplant’. Yet Blair is the last person anyone should want to listen to about politics in 2017.

Wealth

Blair’s hostility to any movement even moderately left of centre has to be understood in terms of the enormous amount of wealth the man has amassed since leaving office. The inscrutable nature of his business means that for a long time nobody knew quite what Tony Blair was worth. Accountants made guesses, most predicting his overall wealth to be around the £30 to £40 million mark. Yet these were often dismissed by spokespeople as ridiculous. In fact as it turns out, Blair’s spokespeople were in fact correct. That is because, as of 2015 Blair was actually worth £60 million.
Visitors report that the Blair family live like royalty with up to twenty staff members waiting on them hand and foot. Neighbours to his million-pound country house however are unimpressed: the constant presence of armed guards and construction vehicles led some to move away. Blair’s friendships seem to have followed suit. He has continued his close relationship with media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, becoming the godfather to one of his daughters. So friendly are the two, that the former PM tried to get Gordon Brown to stop the investigation into the phone hacking scandal that was consuming Murdoch’s company, and later unofficially advised Rebecca Brooks a week before her arrest.
In 2012, Blair insisted that he has no interest in being part of the super-rich. Yet as one of his guests told the Telegraph ‘’A lot of the people he socializes with are billionaires, and his lifestyle involves moving between five-star hotels and mansions around the world, always in private jets and helicopters. He was always intrigued and fascinated by rich people and he has always liked to be surrounded by nice things’’

Charity

Immediately after leaving office Blair took advantage of every kind of lucrative opportunity that he could, while setting up an intersecting network of private organisations that have helped to hide his earnings from scrutiny.
In 2007, he started the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, a multi-million dollar charity that along with its US branch aims to counter religious extremism. The same year he established the Tony Blair Sports Foundation, which looks to encourage deprived young people to play sports. The year after that he set up the Africa Governance Initiative, whose goal was to fight poverty in Africa. Then he set up Tony Blair Associates, an umbrella organisation that encompasses all these projects.
While all this was going on, Blair embarked on a series of ventures meant to supplement his prime ministerial pension of £64,000 a year. In January 2008, he became an advisor to Zurich Financial Services and JP Morgan. His work with the latter was particularly controversial as JP Morgan were at the time, set to profit from the war that Blair had started in Iraq. The father of an Iraq veteran called it ‘’almost akin to taking blood money’’.
Blair received a four million pound advance or his memoirs from publishing company Random House, a lavish sum that was also criticised by the family members of soldiers who died in the war. While Blair did eventually decide to donate the advance and all of the royalties to those families, he has always insisted that the war was the right course of action, saying on two separate occasions that he would still have launched it knowing what he knows now.

Following the example of Bill Clinton, Blair became a professional public speaker, at one point holding the title of world’s highest paid public speaker. Institutions lines up to book Blair who paid up to £180,000 per speech on average. The waiting list became two years long. Blair was payed £300,000 by Goldman Sachs to speak in 2008. Seven years later, plans for a speech at the world hunger forum fell through when organisers could not pay the £330,000 price tag Blair was asking for a twenty-minute speech, ironically on the subject of world poverty.
Nuggets of wisdom on offer on Blair’s speaking events include the following:
·         ‘’Politics really matters, but a lot of what goes on is not great’’
·         ‘’Religion can be a source for good, but it can also be a source for evil’’
And my favourite of these given the money and reputation Blair has been able to uphold from his ‘charitable’ ventures:
·         ‘’Helping people is a noble profession, but not noble to pursue’’
Despite making millions of pounds over the years, it took until 2012 for Blair’s charities to stop the technically illegal practice of hiring unpaid interns for months at a time, and that was only when the risk of investigation by the government became an issue.
Blair insists that his pursuit of money is not rooted in greed but in a desire to do well. So what about that Charity work which is supposedly overlooked? Well, Blair’s religious foundation appears to be rolling in money. In the first year the foundation received $9.8 million worth of donations. A 2009 Tax return showed that Blair had raised $1.1 billion for working the timespan of one week. The donor’s identities were kept secret. Meanwhile, in the first four months of the existence of the Sports Charity, compensation to high ranking officials exceeded that the total spend on actual Charitable activities. Both of its two highest paid staff earned more than the chief of Oxfam.
Martin Bright, a former employee of Blair’s religious foundation has stated that the man pretty much uses his charities as Think Tanks for his private office, hiring loyalists from his time in government.  He once hired a team of five communications officers to work for the foundation: The job of them was simply to defend the bosses’ reputation. Indeed, Bright spent a vast amount of time in his role in meetings to ensure the sites website did not embarrass Blair. 
Given Tony’s fast ascent to becoming part of the super-rich, and his propensity for hiring bankers and mining executives, it’s not surprising that he thought a 50 percent tax bracket for those earning £150,000 or more was a ‘‘terrible mistake’’. Cautioned labour not to go too far on regulation following the financial crisis and warned, “Don’t take thirty years of liberalization, beginning under Mrs Thatcher, and say this is what caused the financial crisis.”
Blair has received numerous awards for his ‘charitable’ ventures, but not everyone has always been happy about it. In 2014, two hundred Save the Children staff signed a letter calling for an award given to Blair by the charity to be withdrawn on the basis that him having it was ‘morally reprehensible’. The CEO of the UK branch was forced to apologize.

Peace Envoy

While Blair was enriching himself and defending his reputation, he was holding a role as the envoy to the mediation of the Israel Palestinian conflict; a title he held until 2015. Even though many suggested, given Iraq, that Peace envoy to the Middle East might not be the most appropriate role for Blair, the Bush administration apparently insisted on choosing him.
Aside from a few minor successes such as getting Israel to remove a few checkpoints on the west bank, which a former Palestinian cabinet minister believes they were going to remove anyway, Blair’s tenure was largely accomplishment free. In fact, according to one UN official ‘’there is a general sense that he is not around’’. Unsurprisingly then, when Blair did do something it appeared to favour the Israeli position over the Palestinian one.
Blair’s role was mainly to help mediate peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, yet it took him a whole year to schedule his first trip to Gaza and almost a year after to actually visit. When Israel launched its brutal war in Gaza in 2009, ‘peace negotiator’ Blair said nothing. Gordon Brown, who was left to deal with reporters on the subject, fed the media the lie that Blair was on holiday at the time.  He was actually meeting with Israel’s defence minister. With Gaza still in a smouldering rubble, Blair received a million dollar prize from Tel Aviv University for his ‘exceptional leadership’.
In February 2008, when Israel managed to cut off Gaza’s Electricity supply, even the British and US governments criticised the move. Blair however was more apathetic, defending Israel by saying that ‘’the truth of the matter is that it is difficult for them to be able to attack the extremists in isolation from the people” as if that somehow justifies it.
When Palestinian authorities made a bid for UN statehood, Blair warned that it would be confrontational and worked with Obama to prevent it from happening. It was this that finally ended Blair’s credibility in the eyes of Palestinians. As one official said to the Telegraph “There is no one within the Palestinian leadership that supports or likes or trusts Tony Blair, particularly because of the very damaging role he played during our UN bid”. Instead he is viewed there as more of an employee to the Israeli government.
2014 saw individuals ranging from Noam Chomsky to John McDonnell, sign an open letter calling for Blair to be fired over his negligible achievements as Peace envoy. By 2015, senior diplomats were calling him ineffective. The letter elicited an utterly dismissive response stating that ‘’these are all people viscerally opposed to Tony Blair with absolutely no credibility in relation to him whatsoever. Their attack is neither surprising nor newsworthy. They include the alliance of hard right and hard left views which he has fought against all his political life’’. In spite of this, in May 2015 Blair resigned.
All Blair’s mediator role seemed to achieve was to act as a useful fulcrum for his business endeavors. In 2011, Blair persuaded Israel to allow Wataniya mobile to operate in the West Bank and promoted the development of a gas field off the coast of Gaza operated by the British Gas group. Both companies happened to be clients of JP Morgan, which Blair was being paid millions to advise.  
It turns out that while serving as envoy, Blair made two undisclosed trips to Libya on Colonel Gadhafi’s Private Jet. One of these visits happened just as JP Morgan was trying to negotiate a multi-million pound loan from Libya. Blair claimed that it wasn’t a Business trip, but emails obtained show that the vice chairman of JP Morgan was urging the deal to be finalized ‘’before Mr. Blair’s visit to Tripoli’’
In response to all this meddling numerous conflicts of interest came up. Blair advised the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey Company at the same time as they were profiting from resources drawn from illegal Israeli settlements. He continued to advise Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund, even as observers point out it could undermine his work with the Palestinians. In a deal that could have given Blair £1 million, Blair was in talks with supermarket giant Tesco to bring its stores to the Middle East. He used his envoy position to try and benefit several of his other projects, including contacting the British advisor to Lebanon about starting an education programme in the country – before being advised that his unpopularly guaranteed its failure.

The Director of the Council for Arab British understanding once told the Guardian that there is ‘’no clear division between Blair’s diplomatic dealings and business dealings in the Middle East’’

Authoritarian Friends

Blair once strangely sighted Henry Kissinger as his role model, supposedly due to fact that he kept working ‘’even until his nineties’’. You could be forgiven for thinking that Blair admired Kissinger’s authoritarian tendencies. As part of his work with Tony Blair Associates, he often dispensed advice for money to unsavoury regimes around the world. The firms’ first client was the Kuwaiti government, which paid seven figures for Blair’s advice on ‘good governance’. To the outrage of Amnesty Campaigners, he also flew to Azerbaijan to give a paid speech and meet with the country’s repressive president.
He signed a deal worth £8 million to advise the corrupt government of Kazakhstan, encouraging Russian Journalist, Pavel Sheremet, to write that ‘’Western politics can do any work for money’’ and that ‘’Blair has informally agreed to bring Kazakhstan’s viewpoint to the western politicians and investors’’. The country paid for Blair’s travel and first class hotel stays. In return, Blair did things like tell its president how to paper over his governments murder of protesters.
Blair did something similar for President Alpha Conde of Guinea in 2013 after their government forces fired on protesters, leading Conde to seek Blair’s advice. The former Prime Ministers ‘Politically neutral charity’ sent over a document advising him how to win the ‘communications Battle’
Blair has long insisted that the Iraq war was not a mistake, arguing that it was justified in order to end Saddams repression. Yet he has shown no problem with autocratic rule in other Middle Eastern countries. He became an adviser to murderous Egyptian dictator Abdel Fattah el Sisi as part of a project financed by three Gulf States to bring foreign investment to Egypt’s economy.  In the midst of the Arab spring, Blair called Egypt’s previous dictator, Hosni Mubarak, ‘’immensely courageous and a force for good’’.  He did call for western countries to do more to help the liberal and democratic elements in Arab countries, but then praised the Egyptian army’s overthrow of its countries democracy, viewing the formation of a democratic government by the Muslim Brotherhood as a greater threat.
Blair’s affection for autocrats isn’t limited to the Middle East and Central Asia. He became an unofficial adviser to Rwandan President Paul Kagame, whose government worked with Blair’s Africa Governance Initiative. The two are reportedly good friends. Kagame most recently won an election with 99 percent of the vote, has been accused of war crimes by the UN, and regularly silences his political opposition. Blair insisted he was a ‘’visionary leader’’ and has constantly defended Kagame from criticism while keeping quiet about human rights abuses.

What Next for Blair?

Blair’s whole career has been one big advertisement for what is wrong with his particular brand of politics. He tries to fight all of his battles from the radical centre belittling and shutting those who disagree. He preaches charity while manipulating others to make himself extremely wealthy. He preaches tolerance and democracy while handing out advice to authoritarians for cash. Everything the man does is to defend his reputation or to enrich himself. Now, as he tries to break back into politics, he is making the same old promises again.
As a good friend of his might say: fool me once, shame on you

Friday, 6 October 2017

Catalonia: Referendums and Republicanism


On 1st October, police shipped in from all over Spain by the countries ruling ‘Popular Party’ led by Mariano Rajoy, violently repressed the Catalonian referendum on Independence from Spain. The country has been gripped by a constitutional crisis leading up to Sundays events. When the independence referendum was announced in early September the conservative Spanish government were determined that it would not proceed.
Since then we have seen the arrests of fourteen high level Catalan officials including the regional economy minister Josep Maria Jove who is now being investigated for sedition. In addition to this, there have been a series of police raids on newspapers, printers, delivery services and government offices, with authorities confiscating 1.5 million leaflets and 10 million ballot papers. Meanwhile public prosecutors issued arrest warrants to more than 700 mayors, cooperating with the preparations for the referendum.
This is scary to see in Spain.  Especially as the black cloud of the formerly Nazi backed Franco regime, which was only fully dissolved in 1975, still hangs over the country. Indeed, the Guardia Civil referred to ironically in English as the ‘civil police’ acted as Franco’s paramilitary force during the 39-75 fascist dictatorship. Those along with the federal police force have been filmed attacking voters with tear gas, batons and rubber bullets. On Sunday, peaceful citizens were dragged by their hair from ballot stations and had their fingers broken by the bully like police. Far from the spirit of the public services working together to protect citizens, the police even went as far to attack the firefighters who were trying to shield the protesters from this kind of state sanctioned barbarity.
In this blog post I would like to examine what has caused this violence to take place, look at the various biases surrounding the referendum from a UK perspective and look to the future of Spain and Catalonia to see where they are headed next in their political struggles.

Corruption and Austerity

Rajoy is not a stupid man. In opposing the Catalan independence referendum so violently he has been able to use what is seen as the image of the Spanish state in securing and upholding support for the his government and the Popular Party.
Since Spain’s transition to democracy in the 1970s, it has been embroiled in corruption scandals, which have caused many to lose faith in the Spanish government. Almost 1,500 people faced trial for corruption in Spain between 2015 and the end of 2016. About 70 percent of them were found guilty. Rajoy was recently forced to deny any knowledge of illegal financing of the Popular Party in a high profile court case involving party members allegedly granting public contracts in exchange for cash or other gifts. While Rajoy himself was not implicated, he is the first sitting Prime Minister to have to appear as a witness in a Spanish court.
Another problem facing Spain is the social crisis which can be seen with increasing unemployment and inequality, which primarily effects the younger generations. A good way I like to describe the Popular Party is Spain’s version of the UK Conservative Party. Throughout their time in power, the PP have made massive cuts in education while handing out bailouts to a Spanish bank called Bankia. Youth unemployment in Spain is over 50% with general unemployment above 25%. It is this that led to the Indignados protests, these were peaceful sit-ins organised by the youth of Spain. Yet they were met with the same police response to the Catalonia referendum: violence and intimidation.
Faced with these problems and their repercussions the Spanish government must use an inherently nationalist based response. A cry to make Catalonia independent or to get rid of the Popular Party is a cry against Spain. It is this mind-set which leads to violence such as that we saw on Sunday being seen as justified.

Nationalism

In 2010, the Spanish Constitutional Court ruled against the new Statute of Autonomy for Catalonia. The Catalan Statute had been the result of negotiations between Zapertos centre left government in Madrid and the regional government in Barcelona. Prior to this ruling support for independence in Catalonia had been historically divided, but after many of those in favour of greater autonomy were immediately converted to independence supporters. This opened up a new dynamic in Spanish politics.
As a result, Rajoy has tried to combine the interests of the Spanish state with the political strategy of the Popular Party. He has been able to use the crisis to try and win back legitimacy for the PP after its corruption scandals. It has taken on the role of defender of Spain and the constitution. It is a strategy which has gained support. While voters were being dragged from polling booths and beat up by police, supporters of the government gathered in Madrid to support the state violence, sing Falangist songs from the Franco dictatorship era and strut around making Nazi Salutes. They have constructed a theory of constitutional nationalism which serves them, and the centre right party Ciudadnos, but which made confrontation between the forces of public order and the public order inevitable. 
The pinnacle moment of this Nationalism came with the decision of the unelected King Felipe of Spain to make a speech. In an atmosphere of rising criticism of his silence, Felipe finally decided not to condemn the violence and fascism but to accuse the democratically elected government of Catalonia of being ‘undemocratic’ for giving the Catalonian people a democratic vote on independence. The hypocrisy of the man is stunning, he knows well that he is only there because his father was appointed by Franco in 1975. He did not address the violence at all and instead reiterated the same nationalist talking points that could have been written  by the right wing government in Madrid.
After the events of October 1st 2017, it is not just people old enough to remember the Franco era recognise extreme right Spanish Nationalism for what it is, the whole world has seen the democracy hating brutality of Spanish nationalism.

What Next for Spain?

In a matter of days we can expect the Catlan government to declare independence from Spain.  What the pro-independence forces in Spain and Catalonia have achieved is to lessen the impact of the state and the intensity of nationalism. The problem is that independence cannot take place if the rest of Spain refuses to accept it as official or legal. Only by realising how the social and ecomic problems are linked to the nationalism can independence begin to progress.
We can rely on some resistance from socialist party: Podemos in the Spanish parliament, but even if they manage to convince the centre left PSOE to support their cause they are still far from holding any considerable sway in the Spanish government. If you want to change the Spanish constitution, you need more than 66 percent of the deputies in the parliament. Podemos are a very long way from that.
We began to see some hope with the general strike currently enveloping Catalonia. It was supported by the trade unions, all the pro-independence parties, and other left wing groups such as Podemos’ regional affiliate and Barcelona en Comu’. There was a very widespread stoppage as a result: almost everything closed from small shops to public institutions and transport. In Barcelona and beyond. On the one hand the strike opposed this weekend’s repression, but it also had many republican themes, with people hoping that a Catalan republic will be declared soon.
What the declaration will achieve is to put it on the table, helping to open up negotiations with Catalan, Spanish and International representatives. At the same time, the Catalan government will try to act as independent encouraging the Catalonians to pay taxes to it. The Spanish state are likely to respond in a hostile manner however. They may even try to use article 155 of the Spanish constitution to definitively end Catalonian Autonomy and arrest the Catalan President. If that happens the streets will rise up, and the government will have a major confrontation on their hands. The Independence movement has many people ready to be active in this campaign over a long period – it will be difficult for the Spanish state to resist a movement of that size.
If the scenario develops in this way, the political parties will have to adopt positions to meet it.  The Spanish state does not want to negotiate – so centrism does not have a place. You cannot meet repression the like of which we have seen with moderation, the people will not support it. In the last five years, the PP government has not come forward with any offer to resolve the situation and I do not think that will change. The movement has already moved to the left – the protest and striking is a great example of that. The streets have an idea of something new in Catalonia, something bottom up.

Friday, 29 September 2017

A.2 Where Does Libertarian Socialism Come From?


Libertarian socialism originates from groups during the Russian revolution who resisted the forces of authority both from the Red and white factions in the Ukraine form 1917 to 1921. In this sense, they saw the need for revolution but were in favour of the creation of a new society along democratic and non-hierarchical lines. To quote the Organisational Platform of Libertarian Communists, produced by participants in the Makhnovist movement.
‘Libertarian Communism does not derive abstract reflections of an intellectual or a philosopher, but from the direct struggle of workers against capitalism, from the needs and necessities of the workers, from their aspirations to liberty and equality, aspirations which become particularly alive in the best heroic period of the life and struggle of the working masses’
So unlike Marxist-Leninism, Conservativism and nationalism that were created in the struggle of individuals for power, Libertarian Socialism was created in the struggle of the oppressed for freedom. For a particularly renowned Libertarian Socialist thinker: Proudhon, the proof of his ideals lay in the creation of Labour unions in Paris and Lyon throughout the mid-18th century. Indeed, as historian Steven Vincent has argued there was a close similarity between the ideas of Proudhon and the beliefs and practices of those same Lyon silk workers. 
Thus, though it produced a number of philosophers who discussed its ideology, it was not created from philosophers in ivory towers looking down on society and judging what they saw to be write or wrong. It was created in the ideas and actions of oppressed peoples. Therefore, it was given birth to the same critical and revolutionary protest that gave birth to socialism in the broader sense. 
While the term Libertarian Socialism itself was born with the rise of capitalism and communism as the major players in global politics, you only have to look throughout history to see the origins of those ideas before they were given a name. In Mutual aid, Kropotkin analyzed the Libertarian Socialist tendencies of different societies
“From the remotest, stone-age antiquity, men [and women] have realized the evils that resulted from letting some of them acquire personal authority... Consequently they developed in the primitive clan, the village community, the medieval guild ... and finally in the free medieval city, such institutions as enabled them to resist the encroachments upon their life and fortunes both of those strangers who conquered them, and those clansmen of their own who endeavored to establish their personal authority.”
Thus, the struggles of working class people from which modern Libertarian Socialism gave birth, is comparable to those older forms of popular organization. While as a political theory, it is an expression of working class people against Oppression, violence and injustice the ideas have continually expressed themselves throughout human existence. Many indigonous people practiced non-hierarchical societies for thousands of years. Similarly, Libertarian Socialist tendencies have existed throughout human history. The New England Town meetings during the American Revolution, the Parisian ‘Sections’ during the French revolution, the workers councils and factory committees during the Russian Revolution to name but a few. 
In other words, Libertarian Socialism is an expression of the struggle against oppression and exploitation, an analysis of what is wrong with the current system and proposal for a better way of doing things. The ideas existed a long time before the term Libertarian Socialism was invented, showing that our beliefs and practices persist throughout history.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

How Houston was left to drown

The flooding that has occurred as a result of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas has left lots dead and thousands in need of rescue or shelter. Portrayals of the catastrophe by the National Weather Service and the media as ‘historic’ and ‘natural’ should not be confused as meaning ‘entirely unexpected’ or worse ‘unpreventable’. The outcry buy activists and residents against the unplanned, all for profit development of cities like Houston has been constantly ignored by officials, leaving millions of already downtrodden people in a death trap. 
 
The image circulating online of elderly people sat in a nursing home waist deep in water is a shocking illustration of how some of the most vulnerable sections of the population are struggling to deal with the effects of Hurricane Harvey. While the people in that photograph have been rescued, the poorest residents of Houston who are surrounded by Houston’s vast petrochemical industry, are being gassed by and seeped in the toxic materials unleashed due to damage of oil refineries.
Residents are now facing a gut wrenching choice of staying in Houston or getting out in the desperate hope of finding somewhere else to go.

The Storm was anticipated

 The choices facing Houston’s undocumented immigrants are equally terrifying. Just hours before Harvey struck, Customs announced that they would maintain their checkpoints to verify immigration status as people fled from the coming destruction. Although, due to public outcry, Texas Governor Greg Abbot announced that those fleeing would have access to public shelters regardless of their immigration status, the overall message to the undocumented population was clear: Drown or be deported.
The Private prison corporations running Abbots detention centres, their cells filled with victims of raids carried out by the states deportation machine, were equally vague about their plans to deal with prisoners under their control. Confusion continued with contradictory orders from both the state and local authorities about whether residents should flee or stay put. Many stayed behind, lacking the money to do otherwise. The homeless were naturally distrustful of the authorities who denied them access to food and hounded them from the streets.
The common excuse from local officials in Houston and elsewhere was that telling people to leave would simply trap them on the road as the storm arrived, so the best solution would be for people to take shelter and hope for the best. However, this makes it seem as though the situation facing officials in Houston was somehow unexpected, and that the heads of industry and elected officials there didn’t have a hand in creating the conditions which led to the city becoming such a death tap in the first place.
Houston’s lack of infustructure to manage potential flood events is in many ways an environmental expression of the crisis of neoliberalism. As a crucial port city that thrives off oil revenues, Houston is a large profit making area in the US. The flood of private money into the petrochemical industry has also contributed toward the risk of literal flooding. Heavy investment in impermeable concrete has turned wetlands into high rises, shopping centres, marking lots and manufacturing platforms.
The problem with this is that wetlands act as natural shock absorbers for heavy rainfall. Concrete however, acts like a channel to transit and concentrate water. The activities of developers in Houston then have helped transform neighbourhoods once relatively safe from flooding into basis for collecting floodwater. Regulation on these developers is rare because elected officials are their lapdogs  who regard better drainage systems as a cost that others should pay for. In particular, through regressive taxation on working people.

Unnatural Disasters

The last significant flood prevention that Houston had was a set of dams introduced in the 1940s to prevent the cities system of bayous from overflowing into the central business district. However, as Hurricane Harvey arrived on Friday and the flooding started, the dams were being upgraded. This marks a frightening similarity to how the Levies around New Orleans were being upgraded, just as Katrina struck in 2005.
The dams in Houston are in fact a clear example of the crisis of public infustructure there. This is not the first time Houston has been subject to devastating floods. Not by a long stretch. The most memorable of these is tropical storm Allison in 2001, but they also suffered severe storms in 2008 and 2015. What is similar about them is that in each of these cases the storms were likewise described as ‘unprecedented’. Having ignored the warnings of scientists and the protests of trapped residents, officials are now feigning ignorance and surprise despite the fact that they facilitated the transformation of Houston into a capitalist basin which does not absorb water, but collects it.
Of Couse, if ‘unprecedented’ and ‘unexpected’ storms are happening with greater frequency, and if we accept the fact that the number of natural disasters has quadrupled since 1970, then it should appear obvious that they are no longer ‘unprecedented’ events are they? They are the new normal, bought about by fossil fuelled climate change. In that sense then, they can even be justifiably labelled as ‘unnatural disasters’.
Rising air and ocean temperature alongside increased levels of water vapour in the atmosphere as consequences of extracting and burning fossil fuels, have created the conditions for powerful storms like Harvey to emerge in the Gulf. When Harvey Struck, worsening atmospheric conditions also meant that there was little wind to keep the storm moving once on land. As a result, Harvey came ashore and hovered dumping 11 trillion Gallons of water and transforming poor and working class neighbourhoods into water tanks.

Conclusion

Houston’s fate provides a chilling revelation of what’s to come for other coastal cities as sea levels continue to rise. Nuclear power plants and chemical processing sites along the coast in places such as Bay City, are unnatural disasters just waiting for an unnatural storm to set them loose. Reports that we have seen so far have put the disaster damages cost in the tens of billions, and claimed that the storm has set the city even further back than they were in terms of development. What they haven’t mentioned is that capitalism has rigged the entire Gulf Coast for disaster.
As with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the destruction reached by Harvey will leave Houston’s economy laid bare to be feasted on by the vultures of ‘disaster capitalism’. Publicly owned infustructure, already destroyed by the storm, will be replaced with private development and yet more impermeable concrete.
Trump meanwhile has been busy flattering hurricane Harvey on Twitter, almost as if he thinks the residents of the affected areas did something to provoke Harvey, leading him to make the case for violence happening ‘on many sides’. Aside from this Trump made his priorities abundantly clear as he doubled down on his racism by pardoning the grotesque Sherriff Joe as news coverage of Hurricane Harvey – a storm which made clear the fault lines of race and class division – was growing ever more serious.
Houston’s ruling class has no ability or interest to deal with the cities flood problems, and Trump is not likely to help as he pays attention to racial divisions and diverts necessary funds for much needed public services to a barbaric budget for military spending.
This is why, a recovery from social tragedies like Harvey which benefits ordinary people, will come from struggles that seek to reconfigure urban space in their interests. By overturning the system that currently designs it to maximise the extraction of profit – no matter the human or environmental cost.

Friday, 1 September 2017

On Charlottsville

The Neo Nazi display of hatred in Chartlosville, in which activist Heather Heyer was killed, served as a painful reminder of what the Republican Parties racist agenda and Donald Trump’s pandering to the far right, has done to embolden both the views and actions of white supremacists. Of course, we are not just suddenly seeing the appearance of fascist and racist groups, but they have been encouraged by the Trump administration’s refusal to say a bad word about them as they carry out more and more violent attacks.

Heather Heyer is not the only person to have been killed by White Supremacists since Trumps election and I doubt she will be the last. Earlier this year, two ordinary citizens called Ricky John Best and Taliesen Myrddin Namkai Meche were stabbed to death after interfering to stop the harassment of a Muslim girl on a train. Only a few months ago, a group of Nazi thugs from the self-described ‘alt Reich’ movement, killed African American student Richard W. Collin III.   
Again in these cases, Collins murder received no comment from Trump while the brutal murder of Meche and Best elicited a half-hearted comment. Many people may make apologies or excuses for this, yet Trumps muted or outright lack of condemnation in the face of racist violence stands in such stark contrast to the tidal of wave of vitriol he uses when whipping up his followers into a racist frenzy. Even when Trump finally made a public statement on the horrific events in Charlottesville, it was just vague enough so that it could serve as a statement on the issue but just bigoted enough so that it would please the far right: he said he opposed violence ‘on all sides’.
This behaviour should serve as no surprise to most people. He has dallied and emboldened racists and fascists since the very start of his campaign, courting endorsements from the likes of notorious KKK grand leader David Duke and the American Nazi Party. His chief strategist until only a few days ago was Steve Bannon, the editor of ‘alt right’ propaganda outlet, Breitbart. Sebastian Gorka, an assistant to Trump who has ties to fascist organisations in Hungary, said last week that ‘white supremacists’ are not a problem in the US.
As yet another Racist act of violence that has been so weakly criticised by Trump, it also represents an alarming escalation of organised far right violence in the US. Awful as they were, the other white supremacist murders that have occurred since Trump took office can be seen as unplanned and random acts, the events in Charlottesville on the other hand were planned well in advance. It was well known for several months before, that the racists were going to descend on Charlottesville to protest the removal of a Robert E Lee statue from a local park. This is because far right organisations had been staging numerous protest in the liberal college town for years, including an earlier version of the lighted torches march, which resurfaced on the Friday before Saturdays ‘Unite the right’ rally.
Charlottesville must also be understand as a clear act of racist intimidation. Whatever cause the right were marching for was obscured by the fact that they were fascist agitators and the violence that occurred at their hands. Neo Nazi organisations spoke proudly about how heavily armed they were and how many guns and knives they brought with them. While some of this may have been exaggerated, the racists undeniably showed up with helmets, clubs, pepper spray, wooden shields and assault rifles. The night before the supposed demonstration, hundreds of mostly young white men marched through the University of Virginia Campus brandishing lighted torches and chanting ‘Jews will not replace us’. They also report ably marched on a black church service being held as a symbolic act against the fascists. Despite the claims from various groups inside and outside of the ‘Unite the Right’ movement, that the white supremacists were just exercising their right to free speech, it is absolutely clear that they instead arrived in Charlotsville with the intension to riot and to kill anyone that got in their way.
The mob violence revealed multiple harsh truths: the white supremacists are relatively small only spilling over into just over five hundred. In spite of this they are disproportionately violent, mot afraid to cause serious damage. Finally, they are absolutely coddled by Law enforcement. On Friday evening, the police allowed these torch bearing racists to descend on a black church chanting ‘White Lives matter’ and the Nazi slogan of ‘Blood and soil’, despite the fact that they had no permit to protest. On the day of the main protest police stood by and watched as white supremacists charged at counter protesters and beat people.
 Contrast this with the police responses to Black Lives Matter protests. They let a racist mob intent on hurting and killing people simply run rampant through Charlotsville. Not once did the white supremacists have to deal with Tear Gas, tanks or water cannons. While antiracists chant of ‘the cops and the Klan go hand in hand’ may seem inflammatory to outsiders, it is this cosy relationship that we see at events like Charlotsville, to which the chant refers.
Trumps abject refusal to call the Neo Nazi demonstrators out for what they are, has even embarrassed the harshly anti-immigrant Republican Party into rebuking its association with the far right. Florida senator Marco Rubio, implored Trump to denounce white supremacy. Utah Senator Orrin hatch, said that we should ‘call evil by its name’. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, described the events in Charlotsville as being motivated by ‘pure bigotry’. It seems at this point that the only Republican not doing this is the president of the United States.
This is all crocodile tears as far as me or most of the left are concerned. Let’s not forget, it is the Republican Party that gave Donald Trump the platform he stood on for months, even as he called Mexicans ‘rapists’ and called for a ban on Muslims entering the US. Since ascending to the role of President, they have constantly denied any mismanagement from the Trump administration and have barked ‘fake news; when presented with facts that they don’t like. Even when Trump issued executive orders to try and fulfil his racist promises and abused Immigration enforcement to instil fear in immigrant communities, many republicans still unquestioningly supported him. Why? Because it is convenient for them to do so.
The overarching racism of the Trump administration, widely supported by the Republican Party, is only the very beginning. Just in the past few weeks, they have signalled their intention to investigate whether white people are victims of discrimination in higher education. They have considered limiting the number of non-English speaking immigrants to the United States and they have threatened to increase the number of raids in immigrant communities, specifically targeting young immigrants brought into the country as children for deportation.
Apart from just providing a platform for Trumps racist hate speech, the Republican Party has helped to boost his political agenda – an agenda that  emboldens the racist right to the extent where they feel like they can terrorize or kill anyone who gets in their way. This includes black and brown people as well as the antiracists who fight them.
The fight against racism in Charlotsville finally forced public servants, senators and congressman to speak out against the growth of white supremacy and neo Nazis. We have to continue that struggle against them and stop them – before they kill again.