Category Archives: neo-liberalism

the truth about Nazism in Ukraine: and why the media is (now) covering it up…

Russian President Putin has claimed that he ordered the invasion of Ukraine to “denazify” its government, while Western officials, such as former U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul, have called this pure propaganda, insisting, “There are no Nazis in Ukraine.”

In the context of the Russian invasion, the post-2014 Ukrainian government’s problematic relations with extreme right-wing groups and neo-Nazi parties has become an incendiary element on both sides of the propaganda war, with Russia exaggerating it as a pretext for war and the West trying to sweep it under the carpet.

The reality behind the propaganda is that the West and its Ukrainian allies have opportunistically exploited and empowered the extreme right in Ukraine, first to pull off the 2014 coup and then by redirecting it to fight separatists in Eastern Ukraine. And far from “denazifying” Ukraine, the Russian invasion is likely to further empower Ukrainian and international neo-Nazis, as it attracts fighters from around the world and provides them with weapons, military training and the combat experience that many of them are hungry for. 1

The paragraphs above form the introduction to a comprehensive and insightful piece written by Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies entitled “How the U.S. Has Empowered and Armed Neo-Nazis in Ukraine” published by Counterpunch on Friday 11th.

I will return to the conclusion of the article below but also encourage readers to follow the link to read it in full.

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In the summer of 2019, TIME Correspondent, Simon Shuster travelled to Ukraine to investigate the white supremacist militias that are recruiting people to join their fight:

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Embedded below is a speech made by Yevhen Karas, the leader of Ukraine’s neo-Nazi faction and youth wing C14 that he delivered on February 5th about a fortnight ahead of the Russian invasion.

Sat beside an effigy of notorious Nazi collaborator and war criminal Stepan Bandera, Karas brazenly dispels many of the narratives promoted by the mainstream media, European Union and US State Department claiming amongst other things that Ukraine is being armed as pawns of the West in order to destabilise Russia because “we have fun killing and we have fun fighting”:

 “LGBT and foreign embassies say ‘there were not many Nazis at Maidan, maybe about 10 percent of real ideological ones,’” Karas remarked. “If not for those eight percent [of neo-Nazis] the effectiveness [of the Maidan coup] would have dropped by 90 percent.”

The 2014 Maidan “Revolution of Dignity” would have been a “gay parade” if not for the instrumental role of neo-Nazis, he proclaimed.

Karas went on to opine that the West armed Ukrainian ultra-nationalists because “we have fun killing.” He also fantasized about the balkanization of Russia, declaring that it should be broken up into “five different” countries.

During the Maidan “Revolution of Dignity” that ousted Ukraine’s elected president in 2014, C14 activists took over Kiev’s city hall and plastered its walls with neo-Nazi insignia before taking shelter in the Canadian embassy.

As the former youth wing of the ultra-nationalist Svoboda Party, C14 appears to draw its name from the infamous 14 words of US neo-Nazi leader David Lane: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”

By offering to carry out acts of spectacular violence on behalf of anyone willing to pay, the hooligans have fostered a cozy relationship with various governing bodies and powerful elites across Ukraine. 2

The extracts above are taken from a recent Grayzone article which also reminds us of events that took place in early 2018 after Karas’ C14 gang signed an agreement with Kiev’s city government to patrol its streets. Months later it began a campaign of pogroms against Romani camps:

A March 2018 report by Reuters stated that “C14 and Kiev’s city government recently signed an agreement allowing C14 to establish a ‘municipal guard’ to patrol the streets,” effectively giving them the sanction of the state to carry out pogroms.

As The Grayzone reported, C14 led raid to “purge” Romani from Kiev’s railway station in collaboration with the Kiev police.

Not only was this activity sanctioned by the Kiev city government, the US government itself saw little problem with it, hosting [C14 activist Serhiy] Bondar at an official US government institution in Kiev where he bragged about the pogroms. C14 continued to receive state funding throughout 2018 for “national-patriotic education.”

Karas has claimed that the Ukrainian Security Serves would “pass on” information regarding pro-separatist rallies “not only [to] us, but also Azov, the Right Sector and so on.”

“In general, deputies of all factions, the National Guard, the Security Service of Ukraine and the Ministry of Internal Affairs work for us. You can joke like that,” Karas said.

Click here to read the full article entitled “How Ukraine’s Jewish president Zelensky made peace with neo-Nazi paramilitaries on front lines of war with Russia” written by Alexander Rubinstein and Max Blumenthal published on March 4th by The Grayzone.

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Eight years ago as the ugly truth about the Maidan slowly began to emerge even BBC Newsnight featured a handful of reports on the rise and influence of the “ultranationalists” including this segment (currently still available on Youtube) in which reporter Gabriel Gatehouse investigates the tightening links between the new Ukrainian government and neo-Nazis:

Halfway into his report, Gatehouse actually interviews Yevhen Karas about the role of his C14 movement when visiting its new base which had been the former headquarters of the Communist Party, but that had since been occupied by the far-right. Following the coup, the political party Svoboda, which is affiliated with C14, actually controlled four ministries in the new government including the Ministry of Defense. Two of its MPs had also been photographed brandishing well-known Nazi paraphernalia [5:00 mins into the report].

Karas told Gatehouse:

“Our general mission is to totally ruin chains that connect our country with the imperial power from the past.”

Gatehouse then prompts him: “… and that being Russia?”

Yes, said Karas, “Weaken the Russians –  not only Russia, Soviet Union.”

“Are you a Nazi?” Gatehouse asks directly. No, Karas replies smiling, “I don’t think I’m a Nazi – I’m a Ukrainian nationalist.”

Gatehouse prompts again: “And what does that mean?”

Karas continues: “The main confrontation is about that some ethnic groups have control: many business structures; some economics and political forces.”

Gatehouse again: “Which ethnic groups?”

Karas: “Russians and Jews. And it may be some non-Ukrainian group control a huge percent of some economic or political power.”

Finally, Gabriel Gatehouse rounds off the Newsnight report essentially confirming the opinion of Yevhen Karas with respect to the pivotal role played by neo-Nazis in the success of the coup:

“It’s clear that it was the radical groups who kept up the pressure on Viktor Yanukovych and many of them feel that this really is their victory – the question is how much power will that give the far-right in the new Ukraine.” [from 5:35 mins]

He adds: “With their anti-Russian rhetoric, events in Crimea will almost certainly play into the hands of the nationalists. No one knows exactly how strong they are in terms of numbers, but the influence of the far-right in Ukraine is growing.”

Eighteen months on, Gabriel Gatehouse then presented a follow-up BBC Newsnight report from Ukraine featuring arguably the most extreme “ultranationalist” group Pravyi Sektor (or Right Sector) as they marched on Kiev with neo-Nazi banners and chants of “Glory to Ukraine!”

At one point a commander of the Right Sector militia tells him: “I know the Chief of General Staff and all the armed forces, apart from a few generals; in principle they support us. The army will never go against us.” [from 7:00 mins]

Towards the end of his report, Gatehouse inspects a Right Sector banner which bears the Wolfsangel insignia saying “That’s a Nazi symbol, isn’t it?”

No, Dmytro Semen tells him disingenuously, “It means ‘idea of the Nation’, it’s not Nazi.” [from 7:35 mins]

As Gatehouse also acknowledges: “The revolution which is known here as Maidan overthrew the government and then set this country hurtling towards war. Just as it did during Maidan, the Right Sector has played a key role in the fighting in the east. Its members are more motivated than Ukraine’s conscripted regular army and the government relies on them to bolster their strength. Now they’re flexing their muscles.” [from 2:15 mins]

In April 2018, BBC Newsnight correspondent Jonah Fisher also reported on the increasing visibility of far-right groups in Ukraine. The National Militia brown shirts patrolling the streets and smashing up the premises of local businesses shouting “Glory to Ukraine”. Fisher acknowledges:

“The National Militia tell us they’re working alongside the police, but they have also on several occasions fought them. Here they brawled and used pepper spray on officers as they tried and failed to pressure a judge into keeping an allegedly corrupt politician in custody.”

Continuing:

“The National Militia are part of a group called Azov. Initially a volunteer military battalion, it has well established links to the far-right. Its founder this man Andriy Biletsky has in the past expressed racist and antisemitic views, and its logo [the Wolfsangel and Black Sun] has clear Nazi overtones.” [from 3:50 mins]

Vyacheslav Likhachev of the National Minority Rights Monitoring Group tells Jonah Fisher sardonically: “My favourite quote from Andriy Biletsky is that: ‘the destiny of the Ukrainian nation is to be in a vanguard in holy war of white people against under-humans [i.e., untermenschen] led by semites.’” [from 4:25 mins]

Fisher then explains that Biletsky “now denies he ever said that, but as this oath-making ceremony shows he’s not running away from the dubious imagery.”

Continuing: “Azov has now started a political party as well as launching the National Militia. The toxic racism has in public, at least, been replaced by patriotic nationalism.”

Speaking with leader of the National Militia, Ihor Mykhailenko, Fisher asks: “Do you now reject those values that you had in the past?”

Mykhailenko replies: “It’s been a long time, a lot has changed in Ukraine. We have always declared our lawful demand and desire that the country is governed by indigenous people.” [from 5:00 mins]

Deputy of Cherkasy City Hall, Olesksander Radutskyi, who has witnessed the takeover of his own council assembly by a gang of National Militia thugs, tells Fisher: “Cherkasy is now a training ground for a military coup in Ukraine.”

He continues: “This sort of thing can’t exist in Ukraine without the Interior Ministry’s approval. If [Arsen] Avakov decided that the National Militia with their balaclavas and uniforms shouldn’t exist, then it wouldn’t exist.” [from 6:45 mins]

Fisher points out that “Ukraine’s ambitious Interior Minister… links to the Azov group are well known. He’s put their fighters on the payroll of his ministry and appointed one of their commanders, Vadim Troyan, as his deputy.”

He continues: “The National Militia may well be the extreme right’s first move ahead of Ukraine’s elections next year, but it’s the uncertainty over who’s behind them that’s worrying people. Confidence in politicians and the police here is low, and for whatever reason the National Militia appear to have been given the nod to act outside the law.

Deputy of Cherkasy City Hall, Olesksander Radutskyi tells Fisher:

“History is repeating itself. If we look what happened in Germany when fascism was just rising up in the 1930s. That’s what I would compare this to.” [from 9:35 mins]

And Fisher concludes the report saying: “It’s an apocalyptic warning but, it’s a reminder that four years after Ukraine turned away from Russia towards Europe the struggle for its soul is far from over.”

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Here’s a report by Vice International released in May 2018 with the description: “In 2014, Ukraine was under siege and the military was unprepared. Desperate, the government urged anyone to get to the front and fight the Russian-backed separatists. As the war drags on, Ukraine claims their military is now in control and the volunteers have all been disbanded. But we tracked down some rogue volunteers still out there fighting, not prepared to hand over their weapons anytime soon.”

What the description above and the report curiously fails to mention is that these “rogue militia” and “volunteer brigades” are actually Right Sector neo-Nazis. The reporter, Ben Makuch, somehow manages to skirt around this issue entirely, even while showing fighters who are openly flaunting their “Blood and Soil” red and white flags and banners. Moreover, Oleksandr Turchynov who is interviewed close to the beginning of the film is a bit more than just “a controversial guy” who served as acting Ukrainian Prime Minister (2010) and then Chairman of the Verkhova Rada (Ukrainian parliament) in 2014 under President Poroshenko. In 2014 Turchynov also founded the ultranationalist People’s Front party along with Andriy Parubiy (Chairman of the Rada 2016–2019), who in turn had previously founded the Social-National Party of Ukraine (yes, the clue is in the name!) together with Oleh Tyahnybok.

Concluding his report, Ben Makuch joins a torchlight procession through Kiev on the annual “Day of the Defender” with thousands marching beneath neo-Nazi Right Sector and Svoboda banners, but still he only sees “a lot of angry yelling youths in masks and various forms of balaclava”. “What could possibly go wrong?” he asks rhetorically, while taking a selfie!

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And this is a Guardian report uploaded in September 2017 with the description: “In Ukraine, the far-right Azov militia is fighting on the frontline – and running a summer camp for children. The Guardian visited the camp and followed 16-year-old Anton through his experiences. Is Azov really a modern Hitler Youth organisation, or is it trying to prepare young Ukrainians for the tough reality that awaits them?”

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As Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies remind us in their latest Counterpunch article:

Despite Svoboda’s declining success in national elections, neo-Nazi and extreme nationalist groups, increasingly linked to the Azov Battalion, have maintained power on the street in Ukraine, and in local politics in the Ukrainian nationalist heartland around Lviv in Western Ukraine.

After President Zelensky’s election in 2019, the extreme right threatened him with removal from office, or even death, if he negotiated with separatist leaders from Donbas and followed through on the Minsk Protocol. Zelensky had run for election as a “peace candidate,” but under threat from the right, he refused to even talk to Donbas leaders, whom he dismissed as terrorists.

Continuing:

During Trump’s presidency, the United States reversed Obama’s ban on weapons sales to Ukraine, and Zelensky’s aggressive rhetoric raised new fears in Donbas and Russia that he was building up Ukraine’s forces for a new offensive to retake Donetsk and Luhansk by force.

The civil war has combined with the government’s neoliberal economic policies to create fertile ground for the extreme right. The post-coup government imposed more of the same neoliberal “shock therapy” that was imposed throughout Eastern Europe in the 1990s. Ukraine received a $40 billion IMF bailout and, as part of the deal, privatized 342 state-owned enterprises; reduced public sector employment by 20%, along with salary and pension cuts; privatized healthcare, and disinvested in public education, closing 60% of its universities.

Coupled with Ukraine’s endemic corruption, these policies led to the profitable looting of state assets by the corrupt ruling class, and to falling living standards and austerity measures for everybody else. The post-coup government upheld Poland as its model, but the reality was closer to Yeltsin’s Russia in the 1990s. After a nearly 25% fall in GDP between 2012 and 2016, Ukraine is still the poorest country in Europe.

As elsewhere, the failures of neoliberalism have fueled the rise of right-wing extremism and racism, and now the war with Russia promises to provide thousands of alienated young men from around the world with military training and combat experience, which they can then take home to terrorize their own countries.

The Soufan Center has compared the Azov Battalion’s international networking strategy to that of Al Qaeda and ISIS. U.S. and NATO support for the Azov Battalion poses similar risks as their support for Al Qaeda-linked groups in Syria ten years ago. Those chickens quickly came home to roost when they spawned ISIS and turned decisively against their Western backers.

Right now, Ukrainians are united in their resistance to Russia’s invasion, but we should not be surprised when the U.S. alliance with neo-Nazi proxy forces in Ukraine, including the infusion of billions of dollars in sophisticated weapons, results in similarly violent and destructive blowback.

Click here to read the full article by Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies entitled “How the U.S. Has Empowered and Armed Neo-Nazis in Ukraine” published by Counterpunch on Friday 11th.

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The following piece written by independent journalist Saj Awan was originally published on his website Burning Blogger on Saturday March 5th. It is reprinted below in full with all links and images retained.

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In December 2021 – just a few weeks before the Russian military incursion into Ukraine – something incredibly interesting happened.

A United Nations resolution was presented, its purpose being to condemn Nazism or the ‘glorification of Nazism’. Only two countries voted AGAINST the resolution. Guess which ones? It was the United States and Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Britain, Australia, Canada and the countries of the European Union were among those who abstained.

Just process this again, please. The US and Ukraine refused to condemn Nazism. While Canada, the UK and various European nations simply ‘abstained’ from having to do so. Fascinating, isn’t it?

Mere weeks later, Vladimir Putin is making a speech about ‘denazifying’ Ukraine (for which he was widely ridiculed in Western media), Russian forces were invading, and this whole disastrous situation unfolding.

Why would any government or nation, in this day and age, refuse to condemn Nazism – or even abstain from such a vote? Shouldn’t it be a simple, cut-and-paste matter? Apparently not.

Weeks later, all the world’s attention was fixed on the imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In the wake of the Russian military operation in Ukraine, a concerted and calculated propaganda programme has encompassed all of Western media and commentary: one that has sought to completely whitewash Ukraine of any controversies or of any unsavoury elements – and to present all of Ukraine, including its militias and armed groups and its politicians, as absolute Good Guys and the Russians as the Absolute Villains.

The programme, in short, has been to present Ukraine as entirely untainted and those within the Ukrainian state and its society as being entirely devoid of any failings, wrongdoings or blame for the state of affairs that preceded the current crisis.

This is all about Russia’s aggression and Putin’s mania – and nothing else. Putin is the new Hitler.

That’s the programme: and every single major news broadcaster, media outlet or newspaper has adopted this narrative. Across all of both mainstream/corporate media and online social media, this whitewashing operation has been in full swing.

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Now, I will preface this article the same way as every other I publish on this subject: which is to clarify that I am not being a Putin apologist and I am not endorsing or defending the military violation of one sovereign state by another.

This article isn’t about endorsing the military offensive in Ukraine: or all of the destruction and casualties that inevitably go along with such an operation.

What it is about is exposing and confronting the mass media whitewashing of the Ukraine situation: and the highly selective narrative that is being presented by both media and governments.

In this article, we will establish that:

  1. this mass media whitewashing is deliberate; and even could be considered sinister, given that,
  2. there absolutely is a Nazi presence in Ukraine, and
  3. NATO governments absolutely know this: and are in fact covering for it.

Anyone reading this is of course entitled to disagree with those conclusions: but you will probably find it very difficult to.

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As for this whitewashing, it is absolute: every measure has been taken to present a highly sanitised image of Ukrainian society and politics.

In recent days, Facebook has reversed its ban on posts praising the Azov Batallion: it had previously (and correctly) regarded Azov as being in the same category as groups like Islamic State and the Ku Klux Klan – but, of course, the recent onset of pro-Ukraine mania in the West has seen the social media giant change its mind, apparently.

Moreover, Facebook and Instagram have both been hosting dozens of accounts that are raising funds and selling merch for openly Nazi and extremist groups. As reported, ‘the network of accounts’ promoting Nazi and white supremacist merchandise are ‘linked to two extremist groups operating out of Ukraine: Azov Battalion and Misanthropic Division.

Here are a couple of fine examples: note the Nazi/SS ‘wolfsangel’ symbol in the second item.

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You can buy your Azov merchandise all over the place these days, by the way: try here or here, for example. Now that everyone is all about celebrating the Ukrainian heroes, I suspect some of this merchandise is going to be selling really well.

Get your Azov merch, folks: it’s the hip new thing.

I’ve written about Azov before: here, for example. An openly Neo-Nazi organisation that has been involved in violence, hate crime and the Russia conflict ever since the events of 2014, in which the US/Western-backed ‘revolution’ helped create the situation that has existed in Ukraine to the present day.

When we’re talking Azov Battalion, remember that this is the same organisation whose mission (according to its founder) is to “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade… against Semite-led subhumans”.

Remember that. When someone says ‘oh, but they’re patriots and nationalists who are fighting for Ukraine’s independence’. Sure: and how precisely does fighting for Ukraine’s independence relate to leading ‘the white races of the world in a final crusade against sub-humans’…?

I mean, just a suggestion here: but couldn’t you fight for Ukrainian independence and, you know, NOT lead the white race in a final crusade against sub-humans?

And, just a reminder, get more Azov merch here. And here. Support the Heroes of Ukraine!

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Alright, so let’s recap a little bit about the Azov Battalion.

Azov was apparently founded by Andriy Biletsky, who – during the Maidan Revolution in 2014 – was actually freed from prison to take part in the ‘revolution’: having been otherwise serving a sentence for murder. So that’s a good start right there, isn’t it?

Among various other ultra-right-wing groups in Ukraine (Right Sector, Svoboda, National Corps, etc, all of which are basically connected), the Azov Battalion stood out because of its brazen brandishing and adoption of Nazi imagery and because of some of its reportedly brutal behaviour.

Ukrainian officials, Azov supporters and apologists, all like to say the regiment is misunderstood.

This is clearly bullshit. The regiment’s symbols, including wolf’s hook (or wolfsangel) and black sun, were Nazi SS symbols during World War II. Everyone knows this. Azov members have frequently been shown wearing Nazi insignia, riding around with swastika flags or patches, and making Nazi salutes.

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Apologists like to say the Azov and other Nazi militias are not state actors, but individuals and rogues. A few bad apples, right? Not true. Azov Battalion was formally incorporated into the National Guard and operates under the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Azov and other Nazis are therefore part of the state apparatus, legitimised by elements of the Ukrainian state.

If officials in Ukraine were embarrassed by or ashamed for the Nazis in their midst, why the hell would they incorporate them into the state? How can they be ‘rogue’ if they’ve been made part of the system?

Azov ‘patrols’ and the like also became commonplace, with members of the militia basically acting like a police force: in some cases to enforce the law, while in other cases to (predictably) intimidate or persecute ethnic minorities (including ethnic Russians).

If this is sounding a lot like a white/European version of ‘ISIS’, that’s something I’ve pointed out before: I argued back in 2018, in fact, that Ukraine is being turned into a European Syria-like situation, with Azov and other white nationalists being empowered to be the ‘white power’ equivalent of ISIS and other jihadists. Only instead of waving the ISIS black flag, they’ll be waving swastikas and wolfangel symbols.

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As Michael Colborne wrote four years ago:

‘Azov is trying – as one of their higher-ups has told me personally – to build a far-right “state within the state,” running everything from nationalist study groups and mixed martial arts training to free gyms for youth and programs for the elderly. They’re also trying to turn Kiev into a capital of the global far-right, inviting neo-Nazis and white supremacists from around the world to visit…’

Apologists also like to say that the Neo-Nazi militants and white supremacists are a minority and have very little influence. This is also bullshit.

As this article from TIME magazine as recently as January explained:

It has its own political party; two publishing houses; summer camps for children; and a vigilante force known as the National Militia, which patrols the streets of Ukrainian cities alongside the police… [Its military wing] has at least two training bases and a vast arsenal of weapons, from drones and armoured vehicles to artillery pieces

This isn’t some small network of troublemakers. Azov and its related far-right groups have connections across Ukraine’s institutions: including security services, police, military and government. They are prevalent across the society.

The Nazi-inspired ideology has apparently been quite prevalent too. Whether a group like Azov is a minority presence or not, it obviously has supporters and collaborators in all the places that matter – not just in Ukraine, but abroad.

But the involvement of foreign intelligence services and governments is something we’ll come to shortly.

And Azov, in fact, is only the most blatant and visible tip of the Nazi iceberg: this isn’t just about Azov.

As Atlantic Council noted in 2018:

Ukraine’s Ministry of Youth and Sports is funding the neo-Nazi group C14 to promote “national patriotic education projects” in the country.

The authors advised:

Government agencies at all levels should stop cooperating with far-right groups. In addition to the Youth Ministry’s problematic funding, C14 and a Kyiv city district recently signed an agreement allowing C14 to establish a “municipal guard” to patrol the streets; three such militia-run guard forces are already registered in Kyiv, and twenty-one operate in other cities as well…

While we’re on the subject of C14‘, the group’s leader, Yevhen Karas, was filmed giving a speech in early February at a Svoboda event.

You really need to listen to what he’s saying here, as it really does reveal the true nature of the Maidan events in 2014 and what’s happening now: because the media is certainly not going to show any of this type of stuff (“we have fun killing” is my favorite part). Basically, among other things, he boasts about all the weaponry Western allies have sent to them, gets excited about all the fighting that’s going to happen, and – crucially – explains that the ultra-right really was the chief beneficiary of Maidan.

Svoboda, for the record, is widely acknowledged as a Neo-Nazi party, and was founded by Oleh Tahnybok and Andriy Parubiy, the latter of whom was the chairman of Ukraine’s parliament until 2019 (and was invited to address the US Congress three years ago), and the former having been famously photographed with Senator John McCain during the events of 2014.

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To demonstrate just how omnipresent the fascist element is, the current Ukrainian President (and now worldwide hero) Volodymyr Zelensky (originally a comedy actor playing the fictional president of Ukraine in a TV show and then subsequently becoming the real president of Ukraine) has been presented as a heroic leader and figure since the events of the Russian incursion.

And not without justification. His actions have been admirable, brave and – for ordinary Ukrainians – inspiring. It’s no surprise he has suddenly becoming an iconic figure worldwide.

However, it was reported as recently as April 2021 that the ostensibly ‘liberal’ Zelensky wanted to appoint one Serhiy Sternenko (a former leader of the Neo-Nazi ‘Right Sector‘) as the head of the SBU (the Secret Service in Ukraine).

This despite Sternenko being under investigation for murder and for involvement in a massacre during the events of 2014.

If even Zelensky – the current and apparently ‘liberal’ president – is willing to be in alliance with Nazis and murderers (let alone to seek to place a Nazi and murderer in charge of, of all things, the Secret Service), then how much of a ‘minor problem’ or ‘minority’ presence can the Neo-Nazis and ultra-nationalists really be?

So then you might argue, ‘well, okay, there’s Nazis – but Ukraine isn’t a totalitarian state, at least’.

Well, sure, okay.

But, as the Georgetown Security Studies Review reminds us:

[I]n 2015 Ukraine passed a law recognizing controversial nationalist groups… as “independence fighters” and making it illegal to question the legitimacy of their actions.

It’s illegal to question the legitimacy of groups linked to white supremacy and Nazism? Well, that doesn’t sound promising, does it?

It’s not as if this stuff has been well hidden.

A key figure in Azov’s political wing, the National Corps Party, is Volodymyr Zelensky: who has been photographed with the swastika flag and doing a Hitler salute. She was invited to be a visiting fellow at the Vienna-based Institute for Human Sciences.

The evidence of Nazism or fascism in the Azov group and other related groups in Ukraine is endless: there’s been so MUCH of it that it became impossible to cover up or deny a long time ago. Hell, its members and supporters don’t even bother covering it up, they’re open about it, proud of it: that’s the whole point – for them, it’s all part of the glorious national (and racial) struggle.

They’ve held public marches and gatherings – out in the open. Often with state officials in attendance. These people aren’t in hiding. On January 1st this year, hundreds gathered in Kiev to celebrate World War II Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera, for example.

Yet, somehow, Western media and commentators are managing to ignore it entirely right now: the media line that been adopted since Russia’s build-up of military forces has been to pretend none of this is significant.

As Fair.org has pointed out, Western media has almost completely whitewashed the fascists from their coverage of the Ukraine crisis. As I’ve said, they’re presenting only a very measured and binary narrative of Russian aggression and Ukrainian heroism.

Remember the images of Valentyna Konstantynovska, the 79-year-old Ukrainian grandmother learning to handle an AK-47? Those images went viral in mid-February, as everyone applauded the brave Ukrainian citizens taking up arms to help defend their country.

And what could be more poignant than a sweet old lady doing it? It was practically begging to go viral, right? And of course it did – with hundreds of thousands of people sharing the story.

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But, as discussed in the article here on Friday, almost all of the media outlets running the story failed to mention that the sweet old lady was being instructed by members of the Azov Battalion.

As the Fair.org piece points out:

The BBC (2/13/22), for instance, showed a clip of “civilians lining up for a few hours’ military training with the National Guard,” with International Correspondent Orla Guerin describing Konstantynovska endearingly as “a granny with a gun.” Though Azov Battalion insignia was visible in the report, Guerin made no reference to it, and the report ends perversely with an NGU combatant helping a child to load an ammunition magazine…

It continues:

The printed press fared little better. On February 13, UK newspapers the London Times and the Daily Telegraph ran front-page spreads showing Konstantynovska preparing her weapon, without any reference to the Azov Battalion running the training course.

As the article points out, this is all the more perverse because both The Times and the Telegraph, along with the BBC and other organisations, had already in the past reported on the Nazi presence in Ukraine’s security apparatus and its militias, as well openly calling the Azov group a Nazi organisation.

I can attest to this: having read numerous mainstream news outlets in 2014 and 2015 acknowledging the true nature of groups like Azov and the involvement of Nazi groups and ideology in the new Ukraine. This included a number of BBC Newsnight reports from the time (which can still be found on YouTube: here’s an example).

And, again, if something as mainstream as TIME published an article on the matter as recently as January, then clearly the mainstream media establishment cannot claim ignorance. The Guardian, The New York Times, and various other major media companies have – at various times in the last several years – published articles addressing this fascist element in Ukraine: and yet, suddenly, no one wants to acknowledge the issue anymore.

Which means simply that they’ve all decided – in lockstep – to omit that information and context as of February 2022 and the Russian invasion.

To be clear, this means that the major media organisations across the Western world are acting in unison to present a manufactured and incomplete narrative. In effect, this is war-time propaganda we’re now seeing: where broadcasters like the BBC were once at least willing to acknowledge the presence of Neo-Nazis and white supremacists in this equation, now they’re covering it up completely.

This can only be policy: a policy of omission that has apparently been adopted across all Western media – in order to make sure this Russia/Ukraine conflict is presented in only a very specific way.

Not that the disease of Nazi-inspired ideology in Ukraine is in itself a justification for Russian invasion: but when Putin referred to the Nazi issue in his speech a week ago, the media and Western politicians decided to mock his claims and essentially suggest Putin is mentally unhinged – instead of confronting or debating the issue.

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In effect, the argument is that any time Putin mentions ‘Nazis’, he is obviously either delusional, suffering from psychological issues, or a fantasist living in the Soviet past.

As a case in point, while both social media and mainstream media is presently filled with stories about Russian aggression (somewhat justifiably, given that Russia has launched an invasion: though it’s worrying that even the term ‘war crimes’ is being used a lot now too) and being contrasted to the apparently heroic struggle by the Ukrainian resistance, possible dynamics that don’t fit this neat-and-tidy narrative are being removed from all discussion.

For example, during the Russian assault on Mariupol, which has a strong ethnic Greek population living there, one Greek resident told Greek City Times that ‘Ukrainian “fascists” are killing people for trying to leave the city.

Regarding the ongoing siege in Mariupol (where Azov is based), other claims to a similar effect have been reported: albeit mostly from Russian media sources, which admittedly makes them biased and unreliable. But the Greek source quoted above seems to be more independent.

Now, of course we don’t know if those stories are true or not: but, if they were true, would the media tell us about it? Or would they cover it up and keep bombarding us with headlines about indiscriminate Russian shelling and civilians being targeted, etc?

Again, in the fog of war and under war-time propaganda conditions, the truth is always difficult to ascertain. And, regardless, none of this necessarily justifies Russia’s military assault on Ukrainian cities: invading a sovereign state is still a breach of international law.

And what is happening to ordinary people in Ukraine, caught in the midst of all of this, is terrible.

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But why is the fascism problem in Ukraine being covered up?

And, coming back to the question we started this article with, why did Ukraine, the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and others refuse to condemn Nazism in the UN in December?

Meanwhile, the reality – and obvious danger – of the Azov Battalion and other white supremacist groups that are pervasive in the Ukrainian sphere isn’t just limited to Ukrainians. The Azov group and related fascist entities in Ukraine have been attracting foreign recruits for years.

We talked about this before: about Russia in fact complaining to various European states about the ‘volunteers’ going over to Ukraine to fight alongside the militias.

As explored in this older piece on the subject, this included people like Brenton Tarrant – the Australian who would go on to carry out the Christchurch Massacre in New Zealand: an act (a massacre at a mosque) that is entirely in keeping with ideology of Azov and other white supremacist militias.

Security expert Ali Soufan told TIME magazine that more than “17,000 foreign fighters have come to Ukraine over the past six years from 50 countries.”

Remind you of anything? Yeah, the Islamic State again, right? Hell, they even look the same, don’t they?

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As for the foreign fighter element, that’s going to increase exponentially now that the war is happening in Ukraine: and now that Zelinsky has called on foreign ‘volunteers’ from everywhere to come to Ukraine to help in the fight against the Russians. One British security expert has warned, in response to Foreign Secretary Liz Truss’s apparent encouraging of British ‘volunteers’ to go fight in Ukraine, that the danger of far-right terrorism coming back to the UK as a result of this is significant.

That is in fact precisely the scenario I predicted in this older article: that Ukraine would become the white supremacist equivalent of the ISIS ‘caliphates’ – a bloody battleground in which militants belonging to the same ideology can come and get real-world experience of warfare and violence… and then export that violence across the continent.

Whereas the ISIS fanatics did it in the name of the fundamentalist Islamo-fascist ‘caliphate’, the Neo-Nazis will do it to, as Biletsky said, “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade…”

Everything I’m seeing right now, as this current crisis unfolds, is reinforcing my longstanding suspicion that this has been part of the long-term plan of the various agencies or parties involved in this business.

Michael Colborne, writing for Foreign Policy in 2019, seemed to agree, and described Ukraine as “a dangerous neo-Nazi-friendly extremist environment” with “global ambitions“.

And remember that earlier quote too: that they are ‘trying to turn Kiev into a capital of the global far-right, inviting neo-Nazis and white supremacists from around the world to visit…’

You can probably see then, if you didn’t already, why I was so bitchy the other day about the ‘Glory To Ukraine’ memes and hashtags that are all over social media since the Russian military operations began. Again, “Slava Ukraini, heroyam slava!” (“Glory to Ukraine, glory to the Heroes!”) is a slogan that goes back to the 1930s and Ukraine’s Nazi collaborators who, among other things, were involved in genocide.

As this Georgetown Security Studies Review article from 2018 explains:

Rather than leave it as the people’s unofficial rallying cry, the Ukrainian government pushed to have it become the official greeting of the Ukrainian Armed Forces’: a proposal that was made law in October of 2018.

While it’s worrying enough, given all of the other context laid out in this article, that this phrase – with its connotations – has literally been made the official greeting of Ukraine’s Armed Forces: it’s even more disturbing to now see it being nonchalantly adopted by so many people around the world, most of whom don’t understand the context.

But then that brings us back to the fact that the mass media is deliberately failing to inform the general public of the full context of these things: and, more generally, the full context of the present crisis that we’re seeing reported on every day and night on our televisions.

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As for any notion that the Maidan Revolution or the ousting of Victor Yanukovych (whether he was a corrupt oligarch, a Russian puppet or whatever else) was a purely domestic affair, this was contradicted from the very beginning by the United States’ Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland.

Nuland, who was on the scene for the Maidan protests (not unlike how the likes of Hillary Clinton were on the scene in Libya, parading with Libyan rebels), was public about the fact that America had spent five billion dollars on the regime change programme in Ukraine.

And everyone knew about the fascists and Nazis in the midst of things. Again, ignorance cannot be claimed.

The ‘revolution’ was co-opted and guided by those very groups: and it was always the fascists and ultra-nationalists who benefited most from those events. And just as the likes of Hillary Clinton and John McCain were in Libya meeting with so-called Libyan Rebels (often Al-Qaeda) trying to overthrow Gaddafi in 2011, in 2014 McCain was pictured in Kiev with Oleh Tyahnybok, a Nazi-saluting founder of the Svoboda party.

Like a great many Syrians and Libyans before them, any progressive or well-intentioned Ukrainian protesters involved in Maidan in 2014 were always going to be disappointed to find that the ‘revolution’ in fact was being stolen from them: that it didn’t really belong to them at all.

Ever since then, it’s been the thugs and militias that have had the run of the roost.

As Atlantic Council noted in this 2018 article, Amnesty International had warned that:

“Ukraine is sinking into a chaos of uncontrolled violence posed by radical groups and their total impunity. Practically no one in the country can feel safe under these conditions.”

Also it has to be borne in mind that the current state of affairs – the conditions created by the Russian military incursion – are exactly the kind of scenario the Neo-Nazi groups and militias have been waiting for. This situation – and the urgent need to defend Ukraine – will give them the opportunity to fully expand their influence and position within the society: even beyond that which the events of 2014 had already given them.

It’s exactly the same model by which Al-Qaeda, ISIS and other jihadist groups were able to thrive in the chaos and subsequent violence brought about by the so-called ‘Arab Spring’.

Remember what C14 leader Yevhen Karas said in the video from earlier: ‘We have fun killing, we have fun fighting…’

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And now it’s all about the fight: the ‘heroic struggle’. These fighters – and their foreign backers – have been preparing for this Russian incursion for a long time.

As far back as May last year, Arsen Avakov, the Minister of Internal Affairs (and affiliated with the Azov Battalion and other Nazis) was calling for ‘patriots’ to prepare to protect the Motherland from Russia. This Russian operation was clearly fully expected.

Moreover, the Nazi or fascist elements in Ukraine are not a rogue factor being overlooked by Western governments or intelligence services. The mass media’s current whitewashing of the Ukrainian situation is precisely to provide cover for our covert operations involving groups like the Azov Battalion and other fascists.

Research by the Institute for European Russian and Eurasian Studies at George Washington University revealed – as recently as September last year (PDF here) – that Canadian military were training Ukrainian students connected with the fascist organisation called ‘Centuria‘.

As this article from December informs us:

‘In April 2021, Centuria’s leaders boasted on Ukrainian social media that they “actively cooperate with foreign colleagues… participating in military exercises with France, Great Britain, Canada, the USA, Germany and Poland…” The same month, the group participated in a march glorifying the exploits of the 14th Division of the Nazi Waffen-SS, the “Galicia Division,” which was comprised of Ukrainian fascists. It honors this Nazi division because it “beat the Bolshevik contagion…”…’

Let’s reiterate that last bit: a march glorifying the Nazi Waffen-SS and its Ukrainian fascists. And again, this march – and others like it – have been held openly in Ukraine. These aren’t covert.

The same group also attacked an LGBTQ event in 2019, claiming to be defending the streets “from perverts”.

Concerning this Canadian and foreign military operation in Ukraine, WSWS.org reports that:

[T]he Ottawa Citizen reported that military and Defence Department officials attempted to conceal a 2018 meeting between a group of Canadian “officers and diplomats” and members of the Azov Battalion, an openly fascist group with members embedded in the Ukrainian National Guard. Fully briefed in 2017 on its Nazi ideology, Canadian officials were concerned only that the meeting remain secret. It was exposed when Azov boasted about it via social media…

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We’re further informed that the ‘Ukrainian Canadian Congress, which openly defends these Nazi veterans and glorifies the fascist World War II Ukrainian leader Stepan Bandera, wields considerable influence in Ottawa. The Deputy Prime Minister, Chrystia Freeland… is the granddaughter of one of the Waffen-SS Galicia division’s principal promoters, Mihailo Chomiak, the editor of a pro-Nazi newspaper in occupied Poland...’

This is true, about Chrystia Freeland – Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister: I didn’t know that until recently.

So Canadian military and defense officials not only were engaged with the Nazi Azov Battalion, but tried to cover it up.

Something virtually identical also happened with the British military.

Declassified UK revealed that ‘Ukraine’s National Guard says that in meeting last year the UK military agreed to start training its forces…’

As the piece shows, photos and details concerning this meeting in Kiev were published on the website of Ukraine’s National Guard – which includes the Azov Battalion. Despite this, the UK Ministry of Defence was angry that this ‘private’ meeting was publicised in Ukraine. And, as the Declassified UK article tells us, ‘There is no mention of the meeting in any UK records that are publicly available.’

This too was published in September 2021 – just a few months before this current Russian invasion.

Not that Western military agencies’ collaborations with Azov and other Ukrainian militias is new. In March 2015, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov had announced that the Azov Regiment would be among the first units to be trained by United States Army troops in their Operation Fearless Guardian training mission.

In fact, the US State Department has classified the Azov Battalion as a terrorist group. In 2018, the US House of Representatives passed a provision blocking training of Azov members by American forces, due to its Neo-Nazi links. However, extraordinarily, this ban was quietly lifted due to pressure from the Pentagon.

Obama had in fact blocked armed sales to Ukraine, presumably worried about the arming of Neo-Nazi units: but Trump and now Biden reversed this policy. Trump in fact approved the $39 million sale of defensive lethal weapons to Ukraine.

As noted in my 2018 article here, Israel was also reportedly selling weapons directly to the Azov group: that’s Israel selling weapons to Neo-Nazis. What a world.

Now, of course, in light of the current events, all kinds of weaponry is being openly sent to Ukraine. Everyone is sending weapons to Ukraine now (just look at this list) – even including countries like Germany and Finland.

Which is logical on one level – obviously everyone wants Ukraine to be able to defend itself against an invading aggressor. But you also have to ask precisely whose hands all the weapons are going to end up in: because, as we once saw with the Islamic State group, it’s usually the worst-case scenario.

It is clear, at any rate, that Western intelligence and military groups have been supporting and engaging with groups like the Azov Battalion: in spite of their openly Nazi ideology. No one is under any illusions about this.

It is now looking increasingly like Special Forces from various countries are arriving in Ukraine to fight the Russians. Israeli special forces, it is reported, are in Ukraine: so are Canadian special forces. And British SAS personnel are said to be headed to Ukraine. You know, let’s just assume everyone’s ‘special forces’ are arriving in Ukraine.

My question. given everything else, is how many of them are going to be colluding with the likes of Azov.

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To conclude here: no, Ukrainians aren’t all Nazi-loving white supremacists. Of course they’re not. It’s a country of 40 million people: most of them I’m sure have no affinity with the extremists, just as most people in Mosul had no affinity with the Islamic State militants.

But the evident and obvious Nazi presence in the affairs of the Ukraine/Russia/NATO conflict is too big and too significant to be so completely removed from the equation in the way the media is doing. The general public in most Western nations are not particularly versed in the details of the Ukraine/Russia situation or the recent history leading up to this present state of affairs: and generally do not know much about the Nazi resurgence or about the nature of groups like Azov – or our governments’ collusion in these matters.

And the mass media is making sure it stays this way: presenting the general public only with the context and ‘information’ that suits the present propaganda agenda. This policy of omission is either stupidly short-sighted or it’s actually sinister: draw your own conclusion as to which it is.

Click here to read the same article as it was originally published by S. Awan on his official website Burning Blogger on March 5th.

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1 From an article entitled entitled “How the U.S. Has Empowered and Armed Neo-Nazis in Ukraine” written by Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies published in Counterpunch on March 11, 2022. https://www.counterpunch.org/2022/03/11/how-the-u-s-has-empowered-and-armed-neo-nazis-in-ukraine/

2 From an article entitled “How Ukraine’s Jewish president Zelensky made peace with neo-Nazi paramilitaries on front lines of war with Russia” written by by Alexander Rubinstein and Max Blumenthal published in The Grayzone on March 4, 2022. https://thegrayzone.com/2022/03/04/nazis-ukrainian-war-russia/ 

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Dennis Kucinich on disaster capitalism, corporate sabotage, bipartisan corruption, press collusion, the war machine and that time he was nearly assassinated by the Mafia…

“I will tell you that we have a crisis which involves a loss of public confidence in government and in government leaders, and the root of it is that corporate interests have infiltrated the government and are actually calling the shots for policy in just about every area of American life.” [from 25:45 mins]

“One of my one of my books in my library is about the life of David Eisenhower who was President of the United States. When he left the office, in his valedictory speech, he warned about the influence of what he called ‘the military-industrial complex’ [MIC] on the everyday lives of Americans. His warning should be put in stone outside of public buildings across the country.

“Because what’s happened is that a larger and larger percentage of the budget of the United States goes for military contracting and in a way – behind the scenes – it helps inspire wars and to keep us at war. It is a corrupt system that will take money that should be used for education, for healthcare, for feeding people, and just give it to military contractors who will make sophisticated hardware that they’ll try to find a way to use.

“You know I was right in the middle of that for 16 years and I refused to vote for budgets which ended up siphoning money from the American people and giving it to this big war machine which just looks for ways to keep things stirred up so they can find a way to use their products.

“I mean, you know, is there a connection? – look anytime, any large corporate interest

has great influence over a government, it cannot be to the benefit of the people of that nation.” [from 22:20 mins]

“The hysteria that’s being whipped up [over Ukraine] needs to be discounted mightily in light of the fact that there are various agendas that are seeking to be advanced in the name of security which actually, when they’re unmasked, you can see it’s a kind of a naked attempt to grab energy markets and we have to be very careful about that.” [from 3:25 mins]

These are the stark warnings of ex-Congressman and former Mayor of Cleveland, Dennis Kucinich, who stood twice as Democrat presidential candidate in 2004 and 2008, when asked to address the current state of the American political system by host of RT’s Going Underground, Afshin Rattansi, on the Jan 31st episode:

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Dennis Kucinich, in his third book The Division of Light & Power, recounts the endless battles he faced after he had been elected America’s youngest city mayor and once he tried to follow through with his commitment to tackle out-of-control corporate power. He says:

“I had to make a choice about who did I represent. Did I represent the company that was attempting to grab a monopoly so they could increase the price of electricity, or did I represent the people of the city who have a competitive electric system that exists ostensibly to be able to keep rates low? And so, you know, this was what it was all about, and there were billions of dollars at stake.” [from 5:45 mins]

Continuing:

“If you can get a monopoly on something that belongs to the public, whether it’s electricity, water, natural gas, public transportation, education, on and on and on… If you can get a monopoly: you can name your price and get it. So what happened in Cleveland is that the private utility subverted the city government – you know, gave contributions to politicians so that they would vote their way.

“But they went beyond that. They subverted the media. They used their advertising dollars to be able to get the media to say whatever they wanted to say with respect to the city’s public utility. So the media fell in line [as] dutiful stenographers and attacked the city’s utility (and the city’s ability to run a utility) even though the city’s utility was making a profit, was serving the people.

“And behind the scenes – and this is documented by the Atomic Safety and Licensing [Board Panel (ASLBP)] of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission – behind the scenes, the private power company was working to stop city council from [making] any kind of improvements to the city’s electric system. And it was determined later on, they were creating outages on the municipal system. There were blackouts that were created, particularly during holiday seasons, and then the media would say: ‘see you have an electric system that doesn’t work.’ No, we had one that was being sabotaged.

“And this book is a story of corporate espionage, of corporate sabotage, of the creating blackouts in the city; all with the intention of grabbing a monopoly on electric power and wiping out the city system. In Cleveland, we have competitive systems – we have a private system serving part of the city and a public system serving part of the city, but the private power company wanted it all.” [from 9:15 mins]

Adding:

“From my experience in Cleveland, it was early in my political career as a city councilman that I came into contact with an internal document of the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company *, where they basically were bragging how they were using and manipulating the media in order to get positive coverage of the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company and negative coverage of the municipal electric system owned by the people; so much so that they were directly delivering editorials to newspapers and to television stations, and having them published verbatim.” [from 19:15 mins]

Asked more broadly whether he believes private corporations routinely collude with governments to run down public systems for this purpose, Kucinich who amended the proposed 2009 Affordable Health Care bill calling for single-payer Medicare for All, again addresses the unfair provision of healthcare in America:

“Political parties are controlled by corporate interests and the Democrats unfortunately went that way decades ago and decided the only way they could get enough money to win elections was to do what Republicans are doing; that was get the money from corporations.

“And the private healthcare interests and private insurers can, you know, contribute mightily to US campaigns [so] that basically it’s a pay-to-play system. It’s almost an auction, and the policy goes to the highest bidder – you know, it’s pretty simple in that regard.

“I mean even though the great mass of American people would prefer to have access to healthcare, to pay less, and have a broader range of services, it’s not happening… I really feel sorry for so many people suffering because this system doesn’t serve the people, it serves interest groups.” [from 13.25 mins]

More generally, he says:

“The Midwest was de-industrialised and one of the reasons why we lost so many industries was the high cost of electricity, particularly because of these private utilities [were] raising the cost of energy to the roof.

“Now, the overarching issue is a philosophical one. The Mayor of Cleveland who founded our municipal electric system at the turn of the 20th century, Tom L Johnson; he said this, and I think that you know his words are very eloquent and I want to repeat them:

‘I believe in public ownership of public service monopolies of water systems, of schools, electric systems, of parks, and on and on, because if you do not own them, they will in time own you. They’ll corrupt your politics, rule your institutions, and finally destroy your liberties.’

“Now that was said over 100 years ago.

“There’s nothing short of freedom involved here, and when people end up paying more, and businesses end up paying more, and industries end up paying more, it creates a destructive economic undermining of people’s lives. Period.” [from 20:55 mins]

And that time Kucinich was nearly assassinated by the Mafia… you’ll have to listen to his full interview for details, or failing that you could even buy the book.

* commonly known as The Illuminating Company subsequently merged and rebranded FirstEnergy Corp.

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how Wall Street is about to monetise nature, or why Glasgow COP26 was a roaring success for the one percent – Whitney Webb pulls back the curtain on GFANZ

[T]he United Nations has been transformed since we last met here in Davos. The Organization has undergone a complete overhaul that I have described as a ‘quiet revolution.” . . . A fundamental shift has occurred. The United Nations once dealt only with governments. By now we know that peace and prosperity cannot be achieved without partnerships involving governments, international organizations, the business community and civil society. . . . The business of the United Nations involves the businesses of the world.”

— UN Secretary General Kofi Annan speaking to the World Economic Forum in 1998

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Anyone who has read John Perkins bestselling mea culpa “Confessions of an Economic Hitman” is already familiar with the modus operandi of global vulture capitalism. Employed by an engineering consultancy firm, Perkins tells us that his actual job was to persuade the leaders of poor countries to take on enormous loans for prestigious development projects from global financial institutions including the World Bank and other multilateral development banks (MDBs).

Once saddled with debts – and the word ‘saddled’ aptly characterises what it means to be heavily indebted – the countries would then be compelled to acquiesce to US pressure on a whole host of issues including, centrally, the adoption of neoliberal policies which require the privatisation of state assets and a vast transfer of wealth to enrich a handful of Western financial elites.

As Perkins tells us right at the top of the preface to his book:

Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. They funnel money from the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign “aid” organizations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet’s natural resources. Their tools included fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder. They play a game as old as empire, but one that has taken on new and terrifying dimensions during this time of globalization.

I should know; I was an EHM.

Of course, what Perkins describes is old school neo-imperialism. This was how late-twentieth century imperialists captured foreign nations and controlled them without too much need of direct military intervention or “boots on the ground” because mechanisms of financialisation are sufficient means for the usurpation of governments and exploitation of resources. However, as the world moves forward and new opportunities for exploitation recede, methods of plunder and ways of disguising it are swiftly being upgraded. These days when everything is going ‘green’, neo-imperialism is no exception:

Today, MDBs are used as “instruments of power” that utilize debt to force developing nations to implement policies that benefit foreign interests rather than their own national interests. If GFANZ gets its way [see below], the MDBs of tomorrow will be used to essentially eliminate national sovereignty, privatize the “natural assets” (e.g., ecosystems, ecological processes) of the developing world, and force increasingly technocratic policies designed by global governance institutions and think tanks on ever more disenfranchised populations.

The warning above is taken from a recent article by independent journalist Whitney Webb entitled “UN-Backed Banker Alliance Announces ‘Green’ Plan to Transform the Global Financial System”.

GFANZ, short for the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, as Webb explains, is an “industry-led and UN-convened” initiative. It was launched last April by John Kerry, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate; Janet Yellen, US Secretary of the Treasury; Mark Carney, former chair of the Bank of England and now UN Special Envoy for Climate Action; who co-chairs the GFANZ alliance with US billionaire and former mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg.

According to their blurb (follow the link above):

GFANZ will work to mobilise the trillions of dollars necessary to build a global zero emissions economy and deliver the goals of the Paris Agreement. GFANZ will provide a forum for strategic coordination among the leadership of finance institutions from across the finance sector to accelerate the transition to a net zero economy.

Whitney Webb then follows the money:

GFANZ is composed of several “subsector alliances,” including the Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative (NZAM), the Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance (NZAOA), and the Net Zero Banking Alliance (NZBA). Together, they command a formidable part of global private banking and finance interests, with the NZBA alone currently representing 43 percent of all global banking assets. However, the “largest financial players” who dominate GFANZ include the CEOs of BlackRock, Citi, Bank of America, Banco Santander, and HSBC, as well as David Schwimmer, CEO of the London Stock Exchange Group and Nili Gilbert, chair of the Investment Committee of the David Rockefeller Fund.

Notably, another Rockefeller-connected entity, the Rockefeller Foundation, recently played a pivotal role in the creation of Natural Asset Corporations (NACs) in September. These NACs seek to create a new asset class that would put the natural world, as well as the ecological processes that underpin all life, up for sale under the guise of “protecting” them.

Continuing:

Details of GFANZ’s plan to deploy trillions of member investments into emerging markets and developing countries was published in the alliance’s inaugural “Progress Report,” the release of which was timed to coincide with the COP26 conference. The report details the alliance’s “near-term work plan and ambitions,” which the alliance succinctly summarizes as a “program of work to transform the financial system.” […]

In addition to the creation of “corporatist” “country platforms” that focus on specific areas and/or issues in the developing world, GFANZ aims to also further “corporatize” multilateral development banks (MDBs) and development finance institutions (DFIs) in order to better fulfill the investment goals of alliance members. Per the alliance, this is described as increasing “MDB-private sector collaboration.” The GFANZ report notes that “MDBs play a critical role in helping to grow investment flows” in the developing world. MDBs, like the World Bank, have long been criticized for accomplishing this task by trapping developing nations in debt and then using that debt to force those nations to deregulate markets (specifically financial markets), privatize state assets and implement unpopular austerity policies. The GFANZ report makes it clear that the alliance now seeks to use these same, controversial tactics of MDBs by forcing even greater deregulation on developing countries to facilitate “green” investments from alliance members.

The quote by Kofi Annan is also taken from Whitney Webb’s excellent article (which I firmly encourage you to read in full). It represents the final piece that completes the picture of the new neo-imperialist jigsaw. As she writes:

With the UN now essentially a vehicle for the promotion of stakeholder capitalism, it is only fitting that it would “convene” and support the efforts of a group like GFANZ to extend that stakeholder capitalist model to other institutions involved in global governance, specifically global financial governance. Allowing GFANZ members, that is, many of the largest private banks and financial institutions in the world, to fuse with MDBs, remake the “global financial governance system,” and gain increased control over political decisions in the emerging world is a banker’s dream come true. To get this far, all they have needed to do was to convince enough of the world’s population that such shifts are necessary due to the perceived urgency of climate change and the need to rapidly decarbonize the economy. Yet, if put into practice, what will result is hardly a “greener” world but a world dominated by a small financial and technocratic elite who are free to profit and pillage from both “natural capital” and “human capital.”

Click here to read Whitney Webb’s full article published on her official Unlimited Hangout website on November 5th.

On November 19th, Whitney Webb was interviewed by RJ Eskow on his show The Zero Hour where they discussed the issues raised in the article:

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Extracts from the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s address, entitled “Markets for a Better World”, delivered on January 31, 1998 at the World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland. https://www.un.org/press/en/1998/19980130.SGSM6448.html

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I wouldn’t start from here…

The following article is the Introduction to a book entitled Finishing The Rat Race.

All chapters are available (in sequence) by following the link above or from category link in the main menu, where you will also find a table of contents and a preface on why I started writing it.

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The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism – ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power…. Among us today a concentration of private power without equal in history is growing.

— Franklin D. Roosevelt 1

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Talk of revolution is very much out of vogue. Instead, we look back on the late sixties, when its prospect was the brightest in living memory, with nostalgia and wistful detachment. Certainly it is true that we pay homage to the civil rights movement and tribute to its lasting achievements, but little else remains – that sexual liberation happened to coincide with the invention of the pill was surely no coincidence!

Tragically, what started up as glorious peaceful sedition: an anti-war, anti-establishment, anti-capitalist upwelling that had genuinely threatened the existing order; finished up largely as a carnival – ultimately the dark carnival of Altamont 2 and the depravity of the Manson Family murders 3 – and with this, the path to social justice was promptly cordoned off. The revellers mostly went home, cut their hair, removed the flowers and beads to keep as mementos, and then looked ahead to another fad. All of which is unsurprising. After all, why jeopardise the comforts and security won during the heated post-war struggles in the slim hope of a resoundingly radical victory?

If history teaches anything – other than its central thread that empires rise and fall – is it not that the toppling of entrenched political regimes or even of diabolical tyrannies, whether by violent means or more peaceable ones, ends too often with the emergence of new regimes as tyrannical and entrenched as the ones they replaced? True or false (and how to decide anyway?) what matters is that the modern tendency is to believe this is the case: thus contrary to Marx’s bold forecast, the age of revolutionary upheaval appears over, or – in the West at least – perpetually stalled with political quietism established as the norm – don’t worry, I shall go on shortly to contradict myself!

Indeed, our acquired taste for conservatism has usefully served the interests of the ruling establishment throughout my adult life, a period lasting three decades in which time its creed became ever more rapacious. ‘Conservatism’ has in fact been transformed well beyond any easy recognition. Adapted in the eighties, it came to serve the demands of a rising corporatist class which, like various species of shark, is itself compelled to move restlessly forward or perish. As the Red Queen tells Alice in Through the Looking-Glass, “it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.” 4

To these ends traditional conservatism, which tries to engender forms of social stagnation, has been entirely superseded by neo-liberalism; today’s predominant, in fact unrivalled, politico-economic ideology with its overarching quasi-conservative doctrine of minimal ‘state interference’.  In practice this involves a combination of wholesale privatisation with swingeing cuts to public services and welfare. Inculcated by economics departments throughout the land, it has been implanted as a monoculture within our institutions of government, as within the plethora of foundation-funded think tanks and policy forums from whence it originally sprang (most notably The Adam Smith Institute and the Aspen Institute).

All distinguished economists, senior politicians, civil servants and mainstream journalists (the latter three more than likely indoctrinated through courses on Philosophy, Politics & Economics (PPE) at Oxford – with stress here very much placed on the ‘E’ of neo-liberal economics 5) are attuned to the belief that, in the words of its great trailblazer, Margaret Thatcher, “there is no alternative”. And luminaries of the new economics turn to historical precedents to buttress their pervasive doctrine; every kind of planned redistribution of wealth and resources (i.e., any conceivable alternative to their own ‘free market’ absolutism), irrespective of competency or goodwill, they say, has been doomed to failure.

The communist experiments of the Soviet Union and Mao’s China – examples they single out (continuing to do so long after the fall of both regimes) – did indeed result in catastrophes both at the level of production and due to lack of supply of goods. And if, indeed, the only foreseeable alternatives to neoliberalism were thoughtless reruns of a Soviet model or Maoism, this line of criticism could hardly be gainsaid; in reality, however, the vast majority of the world already subsists, living in dire poverty and likewise deprived of basic resources, although not under socialism, but in strict adherence to ‘free market’ directives extolled by the self-same experts. China, on the other hand, which remains autocratic and to a great extent a centrally planned economy, is evidently booming – but that’s for a different debate (suffice to say here, I certainly do not propose we follow their example).

In reality, neo-liberalism is an exceedingly cruel doctrine, and its staunchest proponents have often been candid about administering what they openly describe as their economic ‘shock therapy’ – although this label is generally attached when the treatment is meted out to the poorest nations. To soften its blow in other instances, a parallel ideology has arisen. The principle of so-called meritocracy provides the velvet glove when this same iron fist of laissez-faire fundamentalism is applied throughout western democracies. You get just as much as you deserve and this is best ensured by market mechanisms.

But finally, the socio-economic pendulum has moved in extremis. Today, even in the comfortable West, income and wealth inequality have grown to unprecedented levels. Our societies appear to be in the process of rupturing just as they did less than a century ago on the eve of the most destructive war in history. Meanwhile, the ‘progressives’, who long ago ditched the dog-eared pamphlets of revolutionaries, remain captivated by the spell of the more glossy portfolios of the meritocracists.

Having inveigled both political wings – becoming the new left and new right – they now hope to persuade us that ‘centrism’, founded on strict meritocratic principles, remains the single viable – since least ‘extreme’ – vision for democracy. Mostly stuck on the lower social rungs, however, we, the people are clearly restless. For the moment we moan and groan impatiently, but that moment is set to pass. Calls for fundamental social change are gaining strength and I dare to predict that we are on the brink – for better or for worse – of an altogether seismic shift.

Jordan Peterson is famously critical of ‘ideology’. He has a particular distain for Marxism, Stalinism, Nazism, Postmodernism, Feminism, in fact, any ism. Instead, he argues, that the individual is sovereign, ideology should be renounced, and that, quote, “If we each live properly, we will collectively flourish.” So what is ideology? And what leads Jordan Peterson (and others) to believe he is somehow above it all?

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So how do we break free of the spells that bind us – the increasingly entangled entrapments of technology, money and work? There are really only two approaches we can take. Either we turn inwards, as an increasing number are doing, to try to rediscover who we are through methods of deep introspection. Or, confronting external reality head-on, we engage in collective acts of defiance, since our true strength lies in numbers.

There are good arguments for both approaches. The boundary between the subjective and objective is infinitely thin and I address this more fully in the chapters ahead. To repeat an old rallying slogan: the personal is the political! This cannot be said often enough.

My greatest concern is that we should not remain passive. Clear and unshakeable demands are urgent, since power concedes nothing without. But again, introspection is invaluable in this regard – for how can we better understand what we truly want without solidly comprehending who we really are? Any hope of shaping a better future nevertheless lies in collective hands and depends upon acts of solidarity.

The alternative is grim. Besides the prospect of new kinds of techno-tyranny, failure or refusal to react decisively will exacerbate the troubles that already plague us; ones forecast by Erich Fromm in the conclusion to his book The Sane Society:

In the 19th century inhumanity meant cruelty; in the 20th century it means schizoid self-alienation. The danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that men may become robots. True enough, robots do not rebel. But given man’s nature, robots cannot live and remain sane, they become “Golems”; they will destroy their world and themselves because they cannot stand any longer the boredom of a meaningless life. 6

Fromm’s vision is the best outcome, not the worst. For it wrongly presumes, as many still do, that the ruling class has no agenda of its own. In fairness, he lived in a different age: a time before the significant rise of today’s postmodern, globalist (supranationalist as opposed to internationalist), corporatocratic, neo-feudal, technetronic, technocratic age – I have chosen each of these words with care, since each reveals a different facet of the grand design. Hold the thought, because I’ll come back to it.

In Europe, America and much of the rest of the Western world, the entire political system is captured by variants of what would traditionally be labelled ‘right-wing’ or even ‘extreme right’. However, this is not the old-style extremism of Hitler or Mussolini, which was built upon the foundations of bombastic nationalism, but a new brand that cleverly disguises itself as non-ideological, tolerant or even moderate – I heard political commentator Tariq Ali once refer to it as the ‘extreme centre’. This is actually the best description we have.

This new extremism chooses new methods to promote and protect its crony insiders. It says sorry but we (meaning ‘you’) just have no choice – there is no alternative! – and these other chaps are more valuable, and simply “too big to fail”, before confirming, more or less as an aside, that democracy wasn’t working in any case. Meanwhile, it also finds new justifications for engaging in aggressive foreign wars that we are told have no relationship to the old wars of conquest and exploitation. War today becomes nothing more than a matter of preemption, or if that fails to impress the grumbling populous, a means of humanitarianism. However, the new extremism finds old and very well-tested excuses when it comes to clampdowns on our individual freedoms at home, with the main one being, ironically enough, to protect us from ‘extremists’.

Were the ruling class more candid about their truer intent (and the broader agenda is gradually emerging as an open secret) then we would have heard plenty by now about the coming dawn of what ought to be straightforwardly called fascism (Trump was not an aberration, but a symptom), except that aspiring tyrants, for self-evident reasons, cannot be expected to speak too loudly about their grandest ambitions. Even so, the quickening steps on our road to serfdom are becoming harder to deny.

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Some years ago I had been thinking up names for an envisaged progressive political movement, when, after realising that all of the traditional labels ‘people’s’, ‘popular’, ‘democratic’, ‘freedom’, ‘revolutionary’, etc were already irreparably sullied, it occurred to me that in our mimetic age something snappier might be more suitable. Something along the lines of ‘system reset’, although without the Maoist overtones! Briefly that led me to consider the familiar 3-fingered salute on every computer keyboard, Ctrl-Alt-Del: a consideration that altogether stopped me in my tracks.

In fact, picking apart the elements, Ctrl-Alt-Del already represents the three-pronged assault we are increasingly subjected to: the plutocrats using these precise three strategies to oppress and dominate. First through Ctrl by means of propaganda and censorship, with the steady encroachment of mass surveillance in all areas of our lives (the panopticon), and arguably too with the mental health crisis and widespread prescription of ‘chemical cosh’ opiates and more Soma-like SSRI antidepressants.

In a recent study by scientists at University of Chicago, it was found that rats given anti-anxiety medications were less inclined to free a companion in distress, presumably because they didn’t have the same ability to feel empathy:

Next is Alt (i.e., alteration) with rollout of GMO in agriculture and transhumanism which opens the door to many developments including the advent of designer babies by means of gene editing and the literal rewiring of human consciousness. Finally there is Del (delete) by virtue of ‘population control’ which is a shorthand euphemism for the desire to dramatically reduce human numbers.

Nick Bostrom is a philosopher with deep scientific and technical training 7, who aside from being Director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University is also co-founder of the World Transhumanist Association (renamed Humanity+, Inc.) as well as an acknowledged inspiration for Elon Musk and Bill Gates. 8

Bostrom clearly stands at the forefront of methods of Ctrl and Alt being a leading proponent of total surveillance and for transhumanism, which is basically eugenics 2.0 enhanced by virtue of refined genetic manipulation and accentuated through interfacing with machines. As Bostrom’s Humanity+ announces its own intentions:

What does it mean to be human in a technologically enhanced world? Humanity+ is a 501(c)3 international nonprofit membership organization that advocates the ethical use of technology, such as artificial intelligence, to expand human capacities. In other words, we want people to be better than well. This is the goal of transhumanism.

‘Better than well’ is putting it extremely mildly. If you read past the opening statements then you quickly appreciate that the final goal is nothing short of total mastery of biology in order to achieve absolute control of human life and everything in the biosphere. Advocates of such godlike dominion over Nature should perhaps attend to the writings of Mary Shelley and Johann von Goethe. For Bostrom with his outspoken desire to install mass surveillance to save the world, I also recommend a healthy dose of Orwell.

It is almost tempting to think that the choice of Ctrl-Alt-Del was meant to be a piece of subliminal predictive programming, except that the man credited with its origins is an IBM engineer called David Bradley, who says it was not intended for use by ordinary end users but helpful for software designers. Curiously, however, as Bradley also says (see interview embedded below): “I may have invented control-alt-delete, but Bill Gates made it really famous.” 9

This section above was previously posted on October 14th 2020 as part of an extended article entitled the united colours of Bilderberg — a late review of Montreux 2019: #7 global system reset.

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Civilisation stands on the brink. A radical transformation is coming; that is inescapable. The old patterns can no longer sustain us either materially or spiritually, and this seldom confessed truth is perfectly well understood by the ruling class who have already constructed the road ahead to an envisioned future and presented us with roadmaps.

Eager to keep as much control over everything as possible – call it ‘full spectrum dominance’ as the military arm of their military-industrial-financial complex does – they have long-since spread their tentacles into every conceivable area of politics and society more generally. This has been achieved primarily through the agency of huge foundations which indirectly support a network of think tanks, policy forums, NGOs and so forth: a stealth takeover, spreading into every nook and cranny of public life. By cloaking their real intentions under the guise of internationalism (or “globalisation”, or “global governance”) and environmentalism (or “sustainability”) since the 1970s and long before, the mainstream left is today as sold out to the same ruling powers and, in consequence, has become as unimaginative and non-progressive, as the right.

And the ruling class is the master of illusion that has slowly perfected its talent for deception and manipulation. Unlike the Wizard of Oz, who has a certain homespun wisdom, it has nothing real to offer in exchange for our deepening servitude. But the racket persists because the majority of us have become so intellectually impoverished we somehow cannot imagine any better alternative.

But finally, the system is crumbling apart altogether. One way or another, and very soon, it will have to be replaced. The ruling class, interested first and foremost in maintaining and increasing their power and privilege, already understand and acknowledge this, seeing that they must resort to some form of neo-feudalism, or creeping fascism, if you prefer (more below), which in any case they also see as “the natural order”.

The onslaught facing those of us in the West already seems a relentless one. As we enter the most important period of world history since the Second World War, this immediate fight is political, and involves us in the perennial Marxist dispute over control and allocation of material resources. By contrast, the longer-term battle assaults our humanity at the most fundamental levels since it threatens to hold autonomy over our minds and bodies; policing our thoughts and finally altering our biology down to the molecular level. This last step of transhumanism seeks the literal melding of humans to artificial technology. Bizarre, certainly, like the worst science fiction dystopia, yet this is what the billionaires are seriously into, and what they are beginning to discuss publicly at gatherings like the World Economic Forum.

The infrastructure for this coming era of tyranny has already been installed, or else is close to completion: a mass surveillance panopticon; the arming and privatisation of the police (in America this militarisation is now more starkly evident); the emergence of secret courts and draconian legislation (America’s NDAA 2012 arguably the most egregious example so far). In short, we see the emergence of a revised judicial framework that prosecutes whistleblowers for treason and charges dissenters as terrorists.

It is a shift that also coincides with our “age of austerity”, which once again is gamed to ruin the already destitute, while simultaneously it slowly undermines the middle class. The crash of 2008 was really an economic coup de grâce following four decades of more gradual decline: incomes continue to be reduced in real terms thanks to stagnant wages and zero interest on savings, neither of which can keep up with the demands of rising costs of living. But all stages of this ongoing decline – a more or less controlled collapse – are facilitated by the most sophisticated systems of mass propaganda ever devised. The internet is essentially owned by the same billionaires, as is the bulk of the corporate media. Free speech was snuffed out years ago.

Incidentally, for those who feel that ‘fascism’ is too strong a word, or too vague, and too freely bandied around by the doom-mongers who proffer nothing but “a council of despair”, there is another post (which is essentially the book’s final extra chapter) where I try to explain at greater length why we need to keep using the word, no matter how badly misappropriated and damaged it has become over time.

A brief aside: the vitally important lesson to be learned from the rise of the Nazis (as well as the other fascist governments of the twentieth century) is not that monsters are sometimes capable of holding an otherwise educated if unwitting public in their thrall, but that fascism is most vigorous when it feeds on the pain and fear of a desperately struggling population. It is when economies are ruined that fascism almost spontaneously arises, just as flies rush to a rotting corpse. As for the monsters, it may be that many of them do not appear much like monsters at all. As Hannah Arendt, who is best known for coining the phrase “the banality of evil”, wrote after she saw Adolf Eichmann testify at his trial in 1961:

The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together, for it implied — as had been said at Nuremberg over and over again by the defendants and their counsels — that this new type of criminal, who is in actual fact hostis generis humani [“enemy of mankind”], commits his crimes under circumstances that make it well-nigh impossible for him to know or to feel that he is doing wrong. 10

Today, Hitler strikes us as an absolutely ridiculous and grotesque figure. He is the epitome of evil; the devil incarnate. His chubby pal Mussolini appears no less ranting and raving mad. The very fact I have included any reference to them in my argument already weakens it: the first person to mention Hitler being the loser in all our debates today.

Indeed, when it comes to any appraisal of Hitler and Mussolini, an extraordinarily difficult task presents itself in simply disentangling the caricatures from the men themselves. So unfortunately, we are unable to see these demagogues through the eyes of their contemporaries. We ought to be periodically reminded therefore – pinching ourselves if necessary – how throughout Europe and America both men were not only presented as respectable, but feted as great statesmen. Hitler was lauded by Time magazine and the Daily Mail; he was good friends with Henry Ford and King Edward VIII; financially supported by Prescott Bush, father of George H. W., and by the then-Governor of the Bank of England, Montagu Norman. Prior to – and also during the war – fascism met with great favour amongst the highest echelons of the ruling class: aristocrats and plutocrats falling in love with fascism, because fascism is inherently plutocratic and aristocratic. 11

But fascism is not just the dirty secret of a staggeringly recent past, all mention of it as a political force now seems anachronistic. Few outside the thuggish gangs of neo-Nazis and white supremacists will openly call themselves fascist today. But tragically, fascism as a mainstream political force did not expire with the deaths of Hitler and Mussolini; it changed its name and its modus operandi, but little else.

So while any mention of fascism as a major political force seems anachronistic, and no-one outside the thuggish gangs of neo-Nazis and white supremacists openly calls themselves fascist today, it remains the dirty mainstream secret of an astonishingly recent past. Tragically, its mainstream political force did not expire, however, with the deaths of Hitler and Mussolini; it changed its name and its modus operandi, but little else.

The steady rise of this postmodern, globalist, corporatocratic, neo-feudal, technetronic, technocracy is, as I say, an open secret. Saying you don’t like my characterisation is a bit like saying you don’t like the colour of the sky! Indeed, half of these identifiers are ones coined, or at least preferred, by the world shapers themselves – the globalist plutocrats who so love technocracy. Certainly, you may raise a challenge that we are now beyond postmodernism, the irony of which ought to raise a little smile if not a full-blown chuckle, whilst it may also be admitted that ‘corporatocracy’ and ‘neo-feudal’ are pejorative terms. What is harder to ignore is the stench of decay under our peasant noses, although dutifully the pliant hoards will often hold their noses with considerable gratitude.

The majority has always behaved this way, although history was reshaped regardless and in spite of such widespread propensity for Stockholm syndrome. As Goethe wrote: “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” 12

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Addendum: A republic of the new malarkey

A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realisation of Utopias. 13

— Oscar Wilde

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“What is the meaning of life?” is an unintentionally hilarious question. So abstruse and rarified that it awkwardly bumps into the authentic experience of being alive before meandering off with eyes barely lifted from its own navel. It is just too damned philosophic! And yet there is a related though ineffable question that does respectfully and more intelligently seek an answer, and so at a primordial and existential level a kind of paradox confronts us daily. This paradox is indeed a source of much merriment.

But then, this question, which is hardly raised in polite company, finds a more permissible everyday enquiry: “what is the purpose of life?” A question, I think, we all ask ourselves from time to time, and one that takes its lead from the Socratic challenge: the search for self-improvement through self-examination. More confrontationally, you may have faced interrogation along the lines of: “so what are you doing with your life?” The implication here, of course, is that something purposeful needs to be done in life, whereas just drifting along without a clear purpose or goal is completely unacceptable.

In the modern world this belief is common sense. By contrast, pre-modern humans mostly live from day-to-day – as we all did until comparatively recent times – but still we forget how ‘purpose’ is not an ordinary and natural consideration, and not one that those in primitive societies would actually understand, but a later invention. Civilisation gave birth to ‘purpose’ in the abstract, and then once we had acquired aspirations of ‘purpose’, ‘meaning’ arose as a more diffuse back-projection.

And formerly, religion was the wellspring we drew upon to make determinations about our ultimate significance and so answers to questions of ‘purpose’ and ‘meaning’ were entirely contingent upon ordained beliefs about the divine and of morality. Today, with no gods to bother us, we might suppose the invitation simply to eat, drink and be merry would be sufficient enough, and yet few appear fully satisfied in following this straightforward directive; a nagging doubt persists that we may still be here for some higher purpose – or failing that that we can reinvent one anyway. Put differently, we have a tremendous longing for ‘worth’.

Unfortunately in our valiant attempt to save the world from the most egregious of religious doctrines, the cure becomes rather too clinical. In practical terms utilitarianism has stolen religion’s mantle and this numbs us in a peculiar way. With notions of ‘purpose’ and ‘worth’ necessarily adapted to fit the new paradigm, and with no better yardstick these have become equated, almost unavoidably, with notions of being socially useful in one way or another. Finally, morality, which is inherently unquantifiable, might be conveniently cut away too leaving usefulness above all else apprehended as good, virtuous and valuable. This is where utilitarianism logically leads and it is how modern society trains us to feel. What is your contribution? This is really the measure of man today.

Of course, tracing the lineage, we see utilitarianism is actually the bastard child of science – a quasi-Newtonian calculus misapplied to happiness such that all human relations can be narrowly reduced to a cost-benefit analysis. We have adopted this approach primarily because of its origins: science works! But science in turn depends upon reductionism. It maps reality, and as with every other map, does this by craftily omitting all of the detail of the actual territory; this refined attention to very specific elements is what makes all maps and scientific models useful. Utilitarianism reduces everything to usefulness.

Moreover, by successfully measuring all of creation, including each particle of our own nature, in the strict but narrow terms of what is scientifically quantifiable, we have accidentally impaired ourselves in another way. Through the high-magnification lens of science, we have learned to see trees, flowers, birds and all other creatures as cellular machines programmed and operating purely to survive and reproduce. This is a partial truth, of course, for no matter how high our magnification, science sees the world through its glass darkly, and at another level we remain keenly aware that the universe is not a wholly dead and lifeless automaton that endlessly recycles itself through ingestion and procreation. That there is more ‘meaning’ to life.

Back in the real world, the trees, the birds, the sky and the stars above that enthralled us as children, are no less wondrous if as adults we remain incurious to reflect upon their immanent mysteriousness. Indeed, not only life, but sheer existence is absolutely extraordinary and beyond all words. This we know at one level – call it ‘the unconscious’ for lack of a better term – with unflinching certainty. Importantly, and aside from death, it is the only substantial thing we can ever know for sure. The poets keep vigil to this spectacularly simple truth and are endlessly enraptured by it.

Thus the gauche and frankly silly question “what is the meaning of life?” has actually never gone away, but now hides out of bemused embarrassment in the more or less unconscious form of “what is my social function in life?” Life may be just as meaningless as it is mechanical, the acceptable view goes, but we can surely agree on the seriousness of this meaninglessness and on importance of making a worthwhile contribution. Robots in particular just need to get with the program!

When philosopher and spiritual teacher Alan Watts advises that “The meaning of life is just to be alive”, what does he mean precisely? Iain McGilchrist, who first studied literature before retraining in biology and becoming a expert is brain lateralisation, tackles this question and also considers more broadly how our pursuit of meaningful goals is related to happiness and a fulfilled life:

McGilchrist is also concerned by how meaning has been crushed through the ultra-capitalism of the West with its destructive obsession about the efficient use of ‘human resources’ and by the commensurate micro-management of the modern workplace:

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A few years ago a friend said that, like him, I too was fed up with the old malarkey. What you want, he proposed, is “a republic of the new malarkey”! Well, since life always involves a certain amount of malarkey, then maybe this is the best we can finally hope to achieve. But then, continuing the theme, I wondered, why not aim instead for “a republic of the least malarkey”? After all, ask most people (myself included) if the world might be improved and they will generally say yes, but then ask how, and answers typically become trite and (for want of a better word) utopian. ‘Make poverty history’ is a perfect example. Remember that one? Some of us once marched under banners demanding that we ‘make poverty history’ – yes, but how? ‘Give peace a chance’, we might add – but again, getting no closer to ending the daily carnage of the forever wars.

Ask most people (again myself included) to explain the nitty-gritty of how we might make our societies better and we probably feel dumbstruck by the complexity and overwhelmed by the confusion of potential outcomes. We simply don’t quite know precisely what we want, or, better put, how to bring about the necessary changes – or at least never precisely enough to outline effective measures. Our problem, in one sense, is that positive action becomes difficult. After all, the world is a deeply and inherently puzzling place and so figuring the best course can be an inordinately difficult task.

But then ask an alternative question and you immediately receive better answers. Ask, for instance, what our society least needs and many people can instantly pull up a fairly detailed list of complaints. Pointing out stupidities, asinine rules, debilitating conventions, especially wherever our personal development is stunted or our lives are hamstrung; this comes perfectly naturally. Finding faults is just so much easier than offering details for improvements or formulating solutions. “It is very easy to criticise”, people often say, which is itself a criticism! But why? Why the eagerness to dismiss this one faculty common to all? Wouldn’t it be better to exploit it?

Which brings me to establishment of “a republic of the least malarkey”: a society constructed with the very deliberate intention of avoiding too many negatives: negatives being that much easier to put your finger on, and, crucially, to agree about. So why not make this our ambition? To set forth boldly to junk all nonsensical burdens and impositions because, aside their counterproductivity, any such transparently pointless impediments are generally as tedious as they are odious. Time is too precious to be needlessly wasted on nonsense.

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A corresponding political movement would aim at an intelligent and humane transformation, turning away from the current drive for structuring societies on the proclaimed basis of the optimisation of efficiency and productiveness, with rigidly imposed structures that inevitably hamper the human imagination whilst infringing our most basic right: the inalienable right to be free-thinking human beings. Surely this is the most fundamental of all rights. So what of our other inalienable right, so far as practicable without infringing the freedoms and rights of others, which is to be freely-acting creatures?

All of this is a kind of ‘liberalism’, although of a very rough, unpolished form. Together with the Golden Rule, ‘liberalism’ of some kind is vital presuming we wish to live in a freer, saner and more tolerant society. Indeed, if we ever seriously decide to construct a better world for ourselves then freedom for the individual must remain the paramount concern, but so too is ensuring a nurturing and protecting society. I feel obliged therefore to add a few important caveats. As the poet and English civil war polemicist John Milton wrote:

For indeed none can love freedom heartily, but good men: the rest love not freedom, but license: which never hath more scope, or more indulgence than under tyrants. 14

The great danger of liberalism, as Milton says, is that inadvertently or otherwise, licence may be granted to tyrants, and then one man’s ‘freedom’ offers legitimacy, since it is reliant upon, another’s debasement and servitude. Sadly, this has been the primary mode of liberalism as it has existed until now, and in spite of the warnings of more thoughtful liberals who, from the outset, asserted loudly that unfettered individual liberty is entirely at odds with freedom that serves any common interest.

Elizabeth Anderson, Professor of Philosophy at University of Michigan, is the author of “Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (and Why We Don’t Talk about It)” about the tyranny of the corporate workplace from non-disclosure agreements to punitive, restrictive work conditions and censorship. Here she discusses with journalist Chris Hedges how the libertarian model is cruel and why liberalism has historically defended the rights of capital above the rights of the individual:

Today’s self-proclaimed (neo-)liberal thinkers are misguided in another crucial and related way. Their emphasis on freedom of the market has dispelled one system of serfdom only to replace it with another that, although superficially different, is comparably repressive: the exaltation of the market to the rank of our new lord and master brings tyranny of more cleverly concealed designs.

What the liberal too often and rather too conveniently overlooks is that money, besides being an inherently utilitarian artifact, is a thoroughly and indivisibly social instrument too. That money is not some product of private contracts since these do not supply and protect its value, but that since society creates it to lubricate its means for production and distribution of goods and services, then society maintains, in principle at least, complete autonomy over it. Taxation, therefore, isn’t reducible to theft of private property since money isn’t strictly speaking either private or property.

Nor should money or the profit-making engines called corporations be put on a pedestal: money has no rights at all, only sentient beings can have rights, and likewise, having money ought to accord no special rights or privileges other than in enabling the procurement of stuff. This is what it does and nothing else. Money has been our terrible master, but now we must transform it into a useful servant, striving to break its links to power in every way this can be achieved.

In fact, the decline of money is already happening, and this is rather crucial to understand. Once industrial production becomes fully automated, and services follow, money will lose its primary function, which is as a token of exchange for labour. Without labour there will be no need to reward it. In order to ensure a smooth and humane transition to this future post-wage society (and the robots are coming sooner than we think), we need an honest reflection of our values: values entirely without any pound or dollar sign attached. If we are serious about our collective futures, this fundamental reevaluation of life has to happen without delay and in earnest, long before we are completely freed from treadmill of work itself.

James Suzman, author of “Work: A History of How We Spend Our Time”, here discusses how work as we know it is really a modern concept that didn’t exist until recently:

But then, final and complete individual freedom (as we often claim to desire) is only attainable once the reins that harnessed us to work have begun to slacken. Meanwhile, unbridling ourselves of the work ethic, as unavoidable as it is, is no straightforward matter, since it requires the tackling opponents on all sides. Both left and right, for contrary reasons, are mindful to keep the workers hard at it.

Indeed, all that ultimately stands between us and this gateway to an unprecedented age of freedom and abundance are two abiding obstructions. The first of these: further advances and refinements to our technology, are certain to arise whatever we decide to do; whereas, the second, that invisible but super-sticky glue which binds money to political power, can never be fully dissolved unless we act very decisively to see that it is.

This second obstacle is virtually immoveable, and yet we must finally meet it with our truly irresistible force, if only because tremendous concentrations of wealth and power are overbearingly anti-democratic. In fact they reinforce themselves entirely to the exclusion of the dispossessed, and as the tie between money and power continually tightens, so the world is made captive to a tiny privileged coterie in what are already de facto plutocracies where the lives of workers increasingly resemble those of more visibly bonded slaves – held captive by chains of debts rather than steel. So long as the economic system is not reformed, we will head unswerving to a time when the current labour resource is made totally redundant. If no action is taken, this future prospect leaves us infinitely worse off again.

Moreover, the obstacles we face are interconnected, since for so long as a few moneyed interests hold such an iron grip on political power (as is currently the case), all technological development must remain primarily directed to serve and maintain these special interests. Rather glaringly, government money is today ceaselessly pumped into the giant hands of the military-industrial complex.

Suppose instead that this enormous expenditure on the weapons industry, and thus into weapons research, was redirected to transform methods of energy production and transportation systems. Imagine then how more wonderful our lives would be had this wasteful investment in destruction already been funneled into peacetime projects. And here I mean real investment in the fullest, truest sense of time and human ingenuity, rather than simply investment of money – which is only ever a tool remember.

Full and final severance of financial and political power is extremely hard to achieve, of course, but there is a great deal that could be done to remedy the present crisis. However, to begin to move in the right direction we are compelled first to organise. This is as urgent as it is imperative. Seizing power from the one-percent must become the primary goal for all who sincerely wish to usher in a better age.

Here is Comedian Lee Camp considering the same issue in one of his “Moments of Clarity”:

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Effing utilitarianism

If we require a more ideologically framed foundation then I also half-jokingly make the following proposal: our new approach can be futilitarianism. 15 That is, a full one-eighty degree U-turn against utilitarianism and its consequentialist basis in which ends alone purportedly justify means. Let us instead turn this inculcated foolishness entirely on its head such that, and aside from properly disconnecting moral value from mere usefulness, we remind ourselves, as Gandhi correctly asserted, that ‘means’ are also ‘ends in the making’. Thus we grant that, conversely, ‘means’ really can and do justify themselves, intrinsically, without regard to whatever the ‘ends’ may to turn out to be. 16

In other words, emphasis should be correctly placed on a person’s sincere endeavour “to do the right thing”, since this is inherently virtuous. In all ethical matters, reciprocity then becomes the touchstone again: that maxim of the Golden Rule, which holds that each should treat the other as one wishes to be treated in return. For the most ancient of all ethical rules remains the wisest and most parsimonious; and it is always better not to fix things that were never broken. 17

Futilitarianism involves an item-by-item elimination of each of our extant but inessential sociopolitical complications: an unravelling of the knots that hogtie us little by little. Beginning from the top, to first free up our financial systems, although not by so-called ‘deregulation’, since deregulation is precisely how those systems became so corrupted; but by dispelling all that is so toxic, craftily convoluted, nonsensical and plain criminal (the last ought to go without saying but evidently doesn’t!). Whilst from the bottom, the goal is to bring an end to the commercialisation of our lives on which our debt-riven (because debt-driven) economies depend: to unwind our ever-more rampant and empty consumerist culture.

In the futilitarian future, security – that most misappropriated of words – would ensure that everyone (not just the super rich) is fully protected against all conceivable forms of harm that can feasibly be eradicated, or – if eradication is not completely realisable – then greatly diminished and/or ameliorated. It will mean the individual is protected from persecution by all agents including the state itself, and will guarantee both the freedom and privacy which permit us to think and act as individuals.

From the outset, therefore, a social framework must ensure basic freedoms by acknowledging and guaranteeing not only civil liberties, but economic rights too. A living income for all and one that is eventually independent of earned salary. Such unconditional basic incomes are now under consideration, but I advocate a steady move in this direction through instituting a range of measures including extended holidays, reductions in working hours, and the lowering of the pension age. All of this should be achieved on a voluntary basis, since nobody ought to be compelled to remain idle any more than we must be compelled to work. In pursuing this goal it is also vital to maintain equivalence or preferably to increase levels of income.

Ensuring essential economic rights requires universal provision of the highest quality healthcare and optimum social entitlement. Homes and food for all. Clothing and warmth for all. Unpolluted air and clear water for all. In fact, such universal access to every necessity and much else besides is already inscribed in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) under Article 25, which reads:

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. 18

The overarching aim is to reconstruct every society (beginning with our own) to eliminate the ills of poverty because there is ample energy, food, and even non-essential but desirable material goods for everyone alive in the world today and much more again.

Emphatically, this does NOT require any form of imposed population controls, since prosperity automatically correlates with population stability (as proved by the steadily declining populations in the Western world), and so we should resolutely reject the scaremongering about imminent global scarcity of food or other vital resources. In fact contrary to all the neo-Malthusian prophesies of doom, just as the population of the world is peaking 19 we still have a great plenty of food to go around (lacking only the political and economic will to distribute it fairly) 20, with official UN estimates indicating that we shall continue to have such abundance both for the immediate future and far beyond. 21

Likewise, problems associated with energy production and hazards like pollution need to be tackled as a priority. To such ends, the brightest minds should be organised to find daring solutions to our energy needs – a new Manhattan Project, but this time to save lives. For technology justly configured is the essential key to humanity’s continuing betterment.

In short, the futilitarian cry is “Basta!” Enough is enough! Enough of poverty, and of curable sickness. Enough of excessive hard labour. An end to so much insanity.

The long-term vision might see an international community no longer perpetually at war, nor hypnotised and zombified by the infinitely-receding baubles of our faux-free markets nor the limiting and phoney promise of “freedom of choice”. Likewise, it marks a sharp retreat from our red in tooth and claw ‘meritocracies’, offering genuine hope (that most shamelessly abused of all words!) to millions in our own societies, who devoid of respect and finding little evidence of compassion, exist in abject desperation having long since turned their backs both on politics and society. Numbing their hardships with recourse to narcotics (criminalised by virtue of that other war against the dispossessed) or, more permissibly, since corporately profitable, they fill the emptiness with lifelong dependence upon doses of fully legally sanctioned opiates.

Besides the regular bread and circuses of TV, Hollywood and wall-to-wall professional sport, the rush of high-speed editing and ceaseless agitation offered through CGI, we also have nonstop access to more and more digital pacifiers thanks to iphones, Candy Crush, and TikTok. Driven to worship the tawdry, there was never a more distracted and narcissistic age than ours. It is self-evident however that we are hooked on painkillers because we are so deeply racked with pain. No amount of such distractions can ever satisfy us: the emptiness persists.

Lastly, and should we find a requirement for some pithy and memorable slogan, I propose recycling this one: “people before profits”. Generously acted upon, the rest follows automatically. Or, if such a slogan smacks too much of pleading, then let’s be more emphatic saying, “Power to the people!” Hackneyed, yes, but risible – why risible? “Power to the people” speaks to the heart and soul of what it should literally mean to live in any democracy. Our greatest tragedy is that the people have long since forgotten their birthright.

As playwright Harold Pinter said in the final words of his magnificent Nobel Lecture speech delivered in late 2005 when he was already dying from cancer:

I believe that despite the enormous odds which exist, unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory.

If such a determination is not embodied in our political vision we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to us – the dignity of man.

Go to first chapter.

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Please note that for the purposes of ‘publishing’ here I have taken advantage of the option to incorporate hypertext links and embed videos – in order to distinguish additional commentary from the original text all newly incorporated text has been italised.

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1 A warning to Congress that the growth of private power could lead to fascism, delivered by Franklin D. Roosevelt on April 29, 1938.

2 The Altamont Free Concert was held in northern California in December 1969. The security had been given over to a chapter of Hells Angels. It is mostly remembered for violence and a number of deaths, including the murder of Meredith Curly Hunter, Jr.

3 The Tate–LaBianca murders were a series of murders perpetrated by members of the Manson Family during August 8–10, 1969, in Los Angeles, California, under the direction of Tex Watson and Charles Manson.

4 Quote from Chapter 2 entitled “The Garden of Live Flowers” of Through the Looking-Glass (1871) by Lewis Carroll.

5 Wikipedia devotes an entire entry to “List of University of Oxford people with PPE degrees which begins:

Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) at Oxford University has traditionally been a degree read by those seeking a career in politics, public life (including senior positions in Her Majesty’s Civil Service) and journalism. This list does not include those notable figures, such as U.S. President Bill Clinton, who studied PPE at the university but did not complete their degrees.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_University_of_Oxford_people_with_PPE_degrees

6 From The Sane Society, Ch. 9: Summary — Conclusion, written by Erich Fromm, published in 1955.

7 He was awarded a PhD in philosophy, but perhaps a more fitting title is ‘futurist’.

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Bostrom, a 43-year-old Swedish-born philosopher, has lately acquired something of the status of prophet of doom among those currently doing most to shape our civilisation: the tech billionaires of Silicon Valley. His reputation rests primarily on his book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, which was a surprise New York Times bestseller last year and now arrives in paperback, trailing must-read recommendations from Bill Gates and Tesla’s Elon Musk. (In the best kind of literary review, Musk also gave Bostrom’s institute £1m to continue to pursue its inquiries.)

From an article entitled “Artificial intelligence: ‘We’re like children playing with a bomb’” written by Tim Adams, published in the Guardian on June 12, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jun/12/nick-bostrom-artificial-intelligence-machine

9 From an article entitled “Ctrl-Alt-Del inventor makes final reboot: David Bradley, we salute you” written by Andrew Orlowski, published in The Register on January 29, 2004. https://www.theregister.com/2004/01/29/ctrlaltdel_inventor_makes_final_reboot/

10 From the Epilogue of Eichmann in Jerusalem: A report on the Banality of Evil written by Hannah Arendt, published in 1963.

11 The word ‘fascism’ is beginning to be usefully reclaimed. Reattached with careful deliberation and appropriateness to the situation we find unfolding today. For instance, veteran journalist and political analyst John Pilger writes:

Under the “weak” Obama, militarism has risen perhaps as never before. With not a single tank on the White House lawn, a military coup has taken place in Washington. In 2008, while his liberal devotees dried their eyes, Obama accepted the entire Pentagon of his predecessor, George Bush: its wars and war crimes. As the constitution is replaced by an emerging police state, those who destroyed Iraq with shock and awe, piled up the rubble in Afghanistan and reduced Libya to a Hobbesian nightmare, are ascendant across the US administration. Behind their beribboned facade, more former US soldiers are killing themselves than are dying on battlefields. Last year 6,500 veterans took their own lives. Put out more flags.

The historian Norman Pollack calls this “liberal fascism”: “For goose-steppers substitute the seemingly more innocuous militarisation of the total culture. And for the bombastic leader, we have the reformer manqué, blithely at work, planning and executing assassination, smiling all the while.” Every Tuesday the “humanitarian” Obama personally oversees a worldwide terror network of drones that “bugsplat” people, their rescuers and mourners. In the west’s comfort zones, the first black leader of the land of slavery still feels good, as if his very existence represents a social advance, regardless of his trail of blood. This obeisance to a symbol has all but destroyed the US anti-war movement – Obama’s singular achievement.

In Britain, the distractions of the fakery of image and identity politics have not quite succeeded. A stirring has begun, though people of conscience should hurry. The judges at Nuremberg were succinct: “Individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity.” The ordinary people of Syria, and countless others, and our own self-respect, deserve nothing less now.

From “The silent military coup that took over Washington” written by John Pilger, published in the Guardian on September 10, 2013. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/10/silent-military-coup-took-over-washington

12 In the original German: “Niemand ist mehr Sklave, als der sich für frei hält, ohne es zu sein.

From Book II, Ch. 5 of Die Wahlverwandtschaften (‘Elective Affinities’ or ‘Kindred by Choice’) by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, published in 1809.

13    From The Soul of Man under socialism, an essay by Oscar Wilde published in 1891.

14    From Tenure of Kings and Magistrates written by John Milton, published in 1649.

15    I recently discovered that there is already a name for the kind of social philosophy I have tried to outline here. Apparently it’s called “metanoia” and that fine with me… a rose by any other name. In any case, the term futilitarianism was originally coined as a joke by a friend. Suggested as a useful working title to encapsulate the views of our mutual friend, James, the economist, who gets a mention earlier in the book. It was a great joke – one of those jokes that causes you to laugh first and then to think more deeply afterwards. I have kept the word in mind every since simply because it fit so comfortably with my own developing thoughts about life, the universe and everything – thoughts fleshed out and committed to the pages of this book. Of course, neologisms are useful only when they happen to plug a gap, and futilitarianism serves that function. Once I had the word I wanted to know what it might mean. The joke became a matter for playful contemplation, and that contemplation became what I hope is a playful book – playful but serious – as the best jokes always are.

16    After writing this I came across a quote attributed to Aldous Huxley (from source unknown) as follows: “But the nature of the universe is such that the ends never justify the means. On the contrary, the means always determine the end.”

17    There are many formulations of the Golden Rule. A multitude of philosophical attempts to refine and more strictly formalise the basic tenet to the point of logical perfection. Kant’s concept of the “categorical imperative” is one such reformulation. But these reformulations create more confusion than they solve. There simply is no absolutely perfect way to state the Golden Rule and recast it into a solid law. The Golden Rule better understood and applied as a universal guideline. Acting in accordance with the spirit of the rule is what matters.

18    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948. It consists of 30 articles which have been elaborated in subsequent international treaties, regional human rights instruments, national constitutions and laws. Eleanor Roosevelt, first chairwoman of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) that drafted the Declaration, stated that it “may well become the international Magna Carta of all men everywhere.”

These notes are taken from the wikipedia entry on UDHR. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UN_Declaration_of_Universal_Human_Rights

19    We have now reached what is called “peak child”, which means that although the overall population of the world will continue to grow for a few moire decades, the number of children in the world has already stopped rising. The global population is set to reach at 10 billion people, due to the “Great Fill-Up”.  World-famous statistician Professor Hans Rosling explains this using building blocks to illustrate the point [from 10 mins in]:

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After 30 years of rapid growth in agricultural production, the world can produce enough food to provide every person with more than 2 700 Calories per day level which is normally sufficient to ensure that all have access to adequate food, provided distribution is not too unequal

From report of World Food Summit of FAO (Rome 13-17 November 1996), entitled “Food for All”. http://www.fao.org/3/x0262e/x0262e05.htm#e

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“[However,] the slowdown [of worldwide agricultural production] has occurred not because of shortages of land or water but rather because demand for agricultural products has also slowed. This is mainly because world population growth rates have been declining since the late 1960s, and fairly high levels of food consumption per person are now being reached in many countries, beyond which further rises will be limited.” – “This study suggests that world agricultural production can grow in line with demand, provided that the necessary national and international policies to promote agriculture are put in place. Global shortages are unlikely, but serious problems already exist at national and local levels and may worsen unless focused efforts are made.” – “Agricultural production could probably meet expected demand over the period to 2030 even without major advances in modern biotechnology.”

Extracts from the Executive Summary of the FAO summary report “World agriculture: towards 2015/2030”, published in 2002. http://www.fao.org/3/y3557e/y3557e.pdf

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Don’t tell Sid | statement issued by campaign group ‘we own it’

The following statement produced by the campaign group ‘we own it’ landed in my email inbox today. It provides an excellent summary of recent privatisation failures in the operation of UK public services and highlights how these mounting problems are beginning to shift perceptions across the political spectrum in favour of renewed state intervention within the public sector.

I am reprinting their statement in full with all highlights and links retained, and also strongly encourage readers to follow the main link to an open letter to Labour leader, Keir Starmer, which was published on September 23rd.

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People are waking up to the fact that privatisation has failed the UK for nearly 40 years.

In the Times, Jon Yeomans talks about Thatcher’s sell offs, saying “More than 30 years later, Britain lives with the consequences of that 1980s revolution. From buses to trains to energy, there are signs that the wheels may be coming off.”

In the Herald, Lesley Riddoch asks on behalf of frustrated Scots “Is there any way to escape privatised Britain other than independence?”

Scotland is bringing its railway into public ownership.

Wales is bringing its railway into public ownership.

The East Coast line was brought into public ownership in 2018 (it’s now run by the government’s operator of last resort).

The Northern franchise was brought into public ownership in 2020.

And this week Southeastern, after defrauding the government of £25 million, has also been brought into public hands.

As the Telegraph (yes, the Telegraph) says “the Southeastern debacle exposes the failure of Britain’s rail privatisation”.

It’s not just rail – with Covid, the bus ‘market’ (never much of a market) is collapsing.

The Guardian comments on the proposed merger of Stagecoach and National Express, saying “Passengers, who have seen rail fares rocket and local bus services wither, may also hope this signals the end of a chapter when a few could profit so enormously from an essential public service.”

Meanwhile Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, who has committed to re-regulating the buses there (a victory of our campaign!) comments about himself and Mayors Tracy Brabin and Dan Jarvis “Between us we are rolling back the 1980s, we are overturning the Thatcher legacy.”

At the Labour party conference, shadow energy secretary Ed Miliband talked about the Green New Deal, committing to “a green Britain where public and alternative models of ownership play their proper role in making the transition affordable, secure and fair.”

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon confirmed his support for public ownership of rail and buses.

And Labour delegates voted for a Green New Deal, including public ownership of transport and energy, with speech after inspiring speech explaining why this is needed.

Despite all of this, Keir Starmer (who hasn’t responded yet to our open letter) and his shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves have said they don’t support nationalising the energy supply companies. They’ve said they don’t want to be “ideological” about it.

But the truth, as Cat writes in the Guardian today, is that privatisation is an extreme ideological experiment that has failed us all for decades, and people have had enough of it.

When the Times, the Telegraph, the Herald and the Guardian are questioning privatisation, when more and more of our railway is being brought into public ownership, when Mayors are re-regulating buses, and when the energy market is in crisis – there’s a shift happening.

On moral and on economic grounds, privatisation just isn’t making sense anymore.

Don’t tell Sid 😉

Cat, Alice, Johnbosco, Matthew, Zana and Anna – the We Own It team

PS Who’s Sid? In 1986, when Thatcher sold off British Gas, the company was floated on the stock market, accompanied by the famous ‘Tell Sid’ advertising campaign.

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black ops in the Black Sea: Johnson’s dangerous provocation in the ‘New Cold War’

In light of yesterday’s outlandish provocation in the Black Sea, when British Navy destroyer, HMS Defender, weapons loaded and with a BBC correspondent conveniently aboard, quite deliberately sailed into Crimean territorial waters close to the Russian base at Sevastopol, Craig Murray posted two articles which I have reprinted unabridged below – in the second, Murray explains in detail how the UK action was in clear breach of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

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Sometimes it is worth stating the obvious. The United Kingdom does not have a coast in the Black Sea. British warships are not infesting the Black Sea out of a peaceful intent, and there is no cause for them to be entering disputed waters close to anybody’s coast. This is not a question of freedom of navigation under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea. There is nowhere that a British warship can be heading from the UK under the right of innocent passage that would require it to pass through coastal waters by Crimea. The Black Sea is famously a cul-de-sac.

There is certainly a right to pass to the Ukrainian port of Odessa – but that in now way requires passing close to Crimea. This is therefore not “innocent passage”. There is a right of passage through the Kerch strait, which Russia has to date respected. Russia has not just a right but a duty to enforce sea lanes for safe navigation through the strait, exactly as the UK does off Dover.

I expect we will now be in for a mad frenzy of Russophobia, yet again. I shall comment further once I have more details of why and exactly where Russia was firing warning shots. But just remember this, it was not Russian warships near the British coast, it was British warships in an area where they had no business other than ludicrous, British nationalist, sabre-rattling.

The UK needs to lose its imperial delusions. Sending gunboats to the Crimea is as mad as – well, sailing an aircraft carrier expressly to threaten the Chinese. There are those who see this activity as evidence of the UK’s continued great power status. I see it as evidence of lunacy.

Click here to read the original article entitled “Black Ops in the Black Sea” published yesterday by Craig Murray.

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The pre-positioning of the BBC correspondent on HMS Defender shatters the pretence that the BBC is something different to a state propaganda broadcaster. It also makes plain that this propaganda exercise to provoke the Russian military was calculated and deliberate. Indeed that was confirmed by that BBC correspondent’s TV news report last night when he broadcast that the Defender’s route “had been approved at the very highest levels of the British government.”

The Prime Minister does not normally look at the precise positions of British ships. This was a deliberate act of dangerous belligerence.

The presence of a BBC correspondent is more than a political point. In fact it has important legal consequences. One thing that is plain is that the Defender cannot possible claim it was engaged in “innocent passage” through territorial waters, between Odessa and Georgia. Let me for now leave aside the fact that there is absolutely no necessity to pass within 12 miles of Cape Fiolent on such passage, and the designated sea lane (originally designated by Ukraine) stays just out of the territorial sea. Look at the definition of innocent passage in Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea:

screenshot-1612

Very plainly this was not innocent passage. It was certainly 2 (d) an act of propaganda, and equally certainly 2 (c), an exercise in collecting information on military defences. I would argue it is also 2 (a), a threat of force.

So far as I can establish, the British are not claiming they were engaged in innocent passage, which is plainly nonsense, but that they were entering territorial waters off Crimea at the invitation of the government of Ukraine, and that they regard Crimea as the territory of Ukraine and Crimean territorial waters as Ukrainian territorial waters.

I want to impress on you how mad this is. The whole point of “territorial sea” is that, legally, it is an integral part of the state and that the state’s full domestic law applies within the territorial sea. That is not the case with the much larger 200 mile exclusive economic zone or sometimes even larger continental shelf, where the coastal state’s legal jurisdiction only applies to specific marine or mineral resources rights.

Let me put it this way. If somebody is murdered on a ship within twelve nautical miles of the coast, the coastal state has jurisdiction and its law applies. If somebody is murdered on a ship more than twelve miles off the coast, the jurisdiction and law of the flag state of the ship applies, not the law of any coastal state in whose exclusive economic zone the ship is.

In international law, the twelve mile territorial sea is as much part of the state as its land. So to sail a warship into Crimean territorial seas is exactly the same act as to land a regiment of paratroops in the Crimea and declare you are doing so at the invitation of the Government of Ukraine.

There is no dispute that Russia is in de facto control of the Crimea, irrespective of British support for the government of Ukraine’s claim to the region. It is also true that Russian annexation of the Crimea was not carried out in an accordance with international law. However, it is not, in practice, likely to be reversed and the situation needs to be resolved by treaty or by the International Court of Justice. In the interim, the UK government legal position can only be that Russia is an “occupying power”. It is impossible that the UK government legal position is that Ukraine is in “effective control” of the territory.

We need to see the legal advice provided by FCO legal advisers. It is simply not the practice in international law to ignore the existence of an occupying power which is a recognised state, and act with armed forces on the authority of a government not in effective control. The difference in British attitude towards Russia as an occupying power and towards Israel is tellingly different.

The legality of the British action is, at very best, moot. In realpolitik, it is an act of brinkmanship with a nuclear power and further effort to ramp up the new Cold War with Russia, to the benefit of the military, security services and armaments companies and the disbenefit of those who need more socially useful government spending. It is further an act of jingoist populism for the neo-liberal elite to distract the masses, as the billionaires’ incredible wealth continues to boom.

NATO will shortly commence a naval exercise in the Black Sea. As not all the member states of NATO are quite as unhinged as Johnson, it is to be hoped it will refrain from this kind of extra layer of provocation. There is a large part of me that says they cannot possibly be mad enough to attempt to intervene in Ukraine with military force, or at least its threat. But then I look at Johnson and Biden, and worry. This can all go horribly wrong.

Click here to read the same post entitled “Warmongering British Actions in the Black Sea” as it originally appeared today on Craig Murray’s official website.

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To mark ten year’s blogging, this is the fifth of my re-uploads from the WoC archive. Originally posted on April 22nd 2014, never let a good Ukrainian crisis go to waste… was one of a number of articles in which I reported on how the Ukrainian crisis had been deliberately provoked on behalf of western corporate interests, leading us into what the late Stephen Cohen, Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies and Politics, warned was already becoming a “New Cold War”.

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On Thursday [April 17th] Democracy Now! welcomed back Stephen Cohen, Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies and Politics at New York University and Princeton University, to discuss the deepening crisis in Ukraine. Cohen, a specialist on Russia and the Soviet Union, is the author of numerous books on the subject including his latest Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War. He was asked “Are we seeing the beginning of a new Cold War?” and “what exactly is happening right now in Ukraine?” Cohen’s response began as follows:

Those are big questions. We are not at the beginning of the Cold War, a new one; we are well into it—which alerts us to the fact, just watching what you showed up there, that hot war is imaginable now, for the first time in my lifetime, my adult lifetime, since the Cuban missile crisis, hot war with Russia. It’s unlikely, but it’s conceivable. And if it’s conceivable, something has to be done about it.

You did two things on your introduction which were very important. Almost alone among American media, you actually allowed Putin to speak for himself. He’s being filtered through the interpretation of the mass media here, allegedly, what he said, and it’s not representative. The second thing is, let us look just what’s happening at this moment, or at least yesterday. The political head of NATO just announced a major escalation of NATO forces in Europe. He did a Churchillian riff: “We will increase our power in the air, in the sea, on the land.” Meanwhile, as negotiations today begin in Geneva, we’re demanding that Russians de-escalate. And yet, we, NATO, are escalating as these negotiations begin.

So, if you were to say what is going on in Ukraine today—and, unfortunately, the focus is entirely on eastern Ukraine. We don’t have any Western media—in eastern Ukraine. We don’t have any Western—any Western media in western Ukraine, the other half of the country. We’re not clear what’s going on there. But clearly, things are getting worse and worse. Each side has a story that totally conflicts with the other side’s story. There seems to be no middle ground. And if there’s no middle ground in the public discourse, in the Russian media or the American media, it’s not clear what middle ground they can find in these negotiations, though personally, I think—and people will say, “Oh, Cohen’s a Putin apologist”—but it seemed to me that the proposals the Russians made a month ago for resolving the conflict are at least a good starting point. But it’s not clear the United States is >going to accept them.

I will come back to some of Cohen’s further points in a moment, but first I’d like to just try to understand why, as Cohen points out, there is such a lack of media coverage across Ukraine and in particular in the western half of the country.

Below is a video (I can’t find a still frame) recorded in mid-March featuring a statement by Vitali Klitschko as he warned of an impending catastrophe in Crimea should it vote to join Russia in the recent referendum. Klitschko has since been sidelined, of course, but what strikes me as odd is that he was standing in front of a board much like the kind of sponsorship boards we see behind interviews of Premier League footballers. Similar except that the ex-sportsman here was backed by just one logo. You can see that it reads “Ukraine Crisis Media Center”:

Now if you type “Ukraine Crisis Media Center” into the Google image search you will find many other Ukrainian political figures giving statements in front of that same logo board. So just who are the “Ukraine Crisis Media Center”?

Well, they have a website and you can search for details there, but in fact you will find very few and none at all about their own sponsors. Instead, what you will read is this:

Ukrainian Crisis Media Center is launched to provide the international community with objective information about events in Ukraine and threats to national security, particularly in the military, political, economic, energy and humanitarian spheres. During this crisis period, the Center on a 24/7 basis will provide support to all the media who cover events in Ukraine.

Having failed to find further information on their website, I decided to email the organisation [on Thursday April 3rd] and asked the following:

I cannot find any information on your site about where financial support for the media center comes from. Without information on who is backing the venture how can we be sure that your coverage is wholly impartial?

I have not received a reply.

In the meantime, I also searched the web for insight from other places – and came across a glowing report published in Kyiv Post which began as follows:

Much like the EuroMaidan Revolution itself, the Ukraine Crisis Media Center sprang to life with speed, spontaneity, creativity, competence – and a strong sense of mission.

Although the center has been open only since March 4, its third floor headquarters in the Hotel Ukraine on 4 Institutska St. is already a required daily stop for dozens of Ukrainian and foreign journalists.

Continuing:

The group came together at Razumkov Center in Kyiv on March 2.

Nataliya Popovych, the president of Kyiv’s PRP Group, an affiliate of the global Webber Shandwick company, is among the founders.

Popovych said that the Kremlin is fast on its feet in spreading lies about Ukraine, whose government is often slow to respond to allegations and counter untruths.

Well, here’s one of the details I was searching for – so who is Nataliya Popovych?

Nataliya started career in Leo Burnett, one of the leading advertising agencies in the world, and continued in Romyr & Associates, Canadian government and public relations firm. After getting Master degree and probation in USA, Nataliya has become a head of PRP Ukraine, a Weber Shandwick Affiliate Company in Ukraine, and in a year became the President of PRP Group, Weber Shandwick partner on CIS markets.

And PRP? You probably won’t be surprised to learn that they are a PR company:

PRP is more than an integrated solutions agency. It is a creative concept. It is a strategy. It is the management of reputations in a new era. It is the ability to communicate and create goodwill. It is integrated solutions which engage audiences into the lives of companies and brands.

That’s taken from their current LinkedIn profile and the profile of Nataliya Popovych is from PR Congress.

But back to the article in the Kyiv Post:

She [Nataliya Popovych] considers Ukrainians to be loving, peaceful and tolerant people and, while she didn’t consider herself a follower of iconic and controversial nationalist hero Stepan Bandera (1909-1959), she is now “proud to be called a Banderite.”1

And for those who don’t know who Stepan Bandera was, then here are a few extracts taken from a detailed and rather generous biography written by Professor of History at Yale University, Timothy Snyder, and published by The New York Review of Books around the time Viktor Yushchenko (President after the “Orange Revolution”) was voted out of office in 2010:

The incoming Ukrainian president will have to turn some attention to history, because the outgoing one has just made a hero of a long-dead Ukrainian fascist. By conferring the highest state honor of “Hero of Ukraine” upon Stepan Bandera (1909-1959) on January 22, Viktor Yushchenko provoked protests from the chief rabbi of Ukraine, the president of Poland, and many of his own citizens. It is no wonder. Bandera aimed to make of Ukraine a one-party fascist dictatorship without national minorities. During World War II, his followers killed many Poles and Jews. Why would President Yushchenko, the leader of the democratic Orange Revolution, wish to rehabilitate such a figure? Bandera, who spent years in Polish and Nazi confinement, and died at the hands of the Soviet KGB, is for some Ukrainians a symbol of the struggle for independence during the twentieth century. […]

Consistent as the rehabilitation of Bandera might be with the ideological competition of the mid-twentieth century, it makes little ethical sense today. Yushchenko, who praised the recent Kiev court verdict condemning Stalin for genocide, regards as a hero a man whose political program called for ethnic purity and whose followers took part in the ethnic cleansing of Poles and, in some cases, in the Holocaust. Bandera opposed Stalin, but that does not mean that the two men were entirely different. In their struggle for Ukraine, we see the triumph of the principle, common to fascists and communists, that political transformation sanctifies violence. It was precisely this legacy that east European revolutionaries seemed to have overcome in the past thirty years, from the Solidarity movement in Poland of 1980 through the Ukrainian presidential elections of 2005. It was then, during the Orange Revolution, that peaceful demonstrations for free and fair elections brought Yushchenko the presidency. In embracing Bandera as he leaves office, Yushchenko has cast a shadow over his own political legacy.2

All of which helps to explain something else that has been puzzling me… why every other story about what’s happening in Ukraine is entitled “Ukraine Crisis: something or other” – the reason being that “Ukraine Crisis” is more or less the brand name that Nataliya Popovych and other “Ukrainian nationalists” have adopted — a list of the founders of the “Ukraine Crisis Media Center” is available at the end of the same Kyiv Post article.3

So what is this new political brand promoting?

*

The “war on terror” is dead, long live the new cold war!

Returning to Stephen Cohen, here is what he had to say about the rise of this new cold war:

As a historian, I would say that this conflict began 300 years ago, but we can’t do that. As a contemporary observer, it certainly began in November 2013 when the European Union issued an ultimatum, really, to the then-president, elected president, of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, that “Sign an agreement with us, but you can’t have one with Russia, too.” In my mind, that precipitated this crisis, because why give a country that has been profoundly divided for centuries, and certainly in recent decades, an ultimatum—an elected president: “Choose, and divide your country further”? So when we say today Putin initiated this chaos, this danger of war, this confrontation, the answer is, no, that narrative is wrong from the beginning. It was triggered by the European Union’s unwise ultimatum.

Now flash forward to just one month ago, about the time I was with you before. Remember that the European foreign ministers—three of them, I think—went to Kiev and negotiated with Yanukovych, who was still the president, an agreement. Now, the Russians were present at the negotiation, but they didn’t sign it. But they signed off on it. They said, “OK.” What did that agreement call for? Yanukovych would remain president until December—not May, when elections are now scheduled, but December of this year. Then there would be a presidential election. He could run in them, or not. Meanwhile, there would be a kind of government of national accord trying to pull the government together. And, importantly, Russia would chip in, in trying to save the Ukrainian economy. But there would also be parliamentary elections. That made a lot of sense. And it lasted six hours.

The next day, the street, which was now a mob—let’s—it was no longer peaceful protesters as it had been in November. It now becomes something else, controlled by very ultra-nationalist forces; overthrew Yanukovych, who fled to Russia; burned up the agreement. So who initiated the next stage of the crisis? It wasn’t Russia. They wanted that agreement of February, a month ago, to hold. And they’re still saying, “Why don’t we go back to it?” You can’t go back to it, though there is a report this morning that Yanukovych, who is in exile in Russia, may fly to eastern Ukraine today or tomorrow, which will be a whole new dimension.

But the point of it is, is that Putin didn’t want—and this is reality, this is not pro-Putin or pro-Washington, this is just a fact—Putin did not want this crisis. He didn’t initiate it. But with Putin, once you get something like that, you get Mr. Pushback. And that’s what you’re now seeing. And the reality is, as even the Americans admit, he holds all the good options. We have none. That’s not good policymaking, is it?

Click here to read a full transcript or watch the latest interview with Stephen Cohen on the Democracy Now! website.

*

The United States spent over a decade hunting down Osama Bin Laden at financial a cost running into multiple trillions and a human cost of more than a million lives, yet since his demise the jihadist cause that Bin Laden once spearheaded is stronger than ever. Forces of al-Qaeda and other near identical jihadist factions now hold control of a large region of Iraq and Syria that exceeds the area of Britain, whilst other Islamist gangs run amok throughout Libya. Thus, after a decade of dirty wars executed by means of “shock and awe” air strikes, the perpetual overhead threat of drones and the knock at the door that ends with secret rendition to faraway torture sites, the “war on terror” has been lost. “Terror” reigns supreme as the victor: terror from all sides that is.

But then, it is hard to imagine any foreign policy that could have manufactured and spread terrorism more effectively than the policies enacted during this decade-long “war on terror”. Blowback? Up to a point. But, we must not forget that all of the many al-Qaeda factions that have gained so much territory could never have done so without our help. Whether indirectly, with the establishment of the power vacuum in Iraq, or more purposefully, with Nato bombers opening the way for the Islamist insurgency in Libya. But mostly, the gains of al-Qaeda are thanks to the very generous funding of one of America and Britain’s closest allies, that bastion of freedom and democracy, Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Bin Laden, and the nation known to have the closest ties to those accused of the 9/11 attacks. Attacks that provided the very springboard from which the “war on terror” was launched all those years ago. These are the facts and none can be refuted, so make of them what you will – if it was a plot for a film it would seem ludicrously far-fetched.

Of course, the “war on terror” lost a great deal of its public appeal with the bludgeoning of Iraq, and so under Obama we’ve had “humanitarian interventions”. But this new gloss has also flaked away, with the majority of people in the West absolutely sick of war. That said, the wars go on regardless – wreaking havoc but still satisfying the insatiable thirst for blood demanded by our military-industrial-financial complex.

None of these wars have had anything to do with stamping out terrorism or, surely more laughably, the West’s desire to bring “freedom and democracy”. The United States’ covert backing of al-Qaeda is nothing new and neither is the West’s more brazen support of al-Qaeda’s primary sponsor Saudi Arabia? If the wars were about either terrorism or “freedom and democracy”, then the Saudi regime would surely have topped the charts of “the axis of evil”.

In truth, the game never changed. And sadly it is a game (at least to those currently holding power) – as Zbigniew Brzezinski, one of America’s leading geopolitical strategists, makes clear not least with the title of his notorious book on Eurasian geostrategy, “The Grand Chessboard”. In it he wrote:

In brief, for the United States, Eurasian geostrategy involves the purposeful management of geostrategically dynamic states and the careful handling of geopolitically catalytic states, in keeping with the twin interests of America in the short-term: preservation of its unique global power and in the long-run transformation of it into increasingly institutionalized global cooperation. To put it in a terminology that hearkens back to the more brutal age of ancient empires, the three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together.4

This neo-imperialist game is much the same as the older imperialist game, in which only the strategies have been updated. It is about control of territory, of energy resources, of financial systems, and it has (and always did) amount to a series of proxy wars against the competing interests of competing powers. Traditionally Russia have been the great adversary, but now there is China too. So the Cold War that officially concluded with the fall of the Berlin Wall in October 1989… ended only in name. With the Ukrainian crisis (or should that be “Ukraine Crisis”) the chill that remained has become considerably icier. Treacherously so. But our military-industrial-financial complex needs perpetual war just to keep the racket going, or, when that ceases to be an option (as it now has), to maintain the illusion of an imminent threat against us. Bin Laden is dead, so a new Cold War is just the ticket. On top of which, as Brzezinski also explained in his book:

“Ukraine, a new and important space on the Eurasian chessboard, is a geopolitical pivot because its very existence as an independent country helps to transform Russia. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire.”

Here’s Stephen Cohen again:

The real debate going on in NATO—the real debate, because this is a distraction—is what Rasmussen said in your earlier clip—he’s the political head of NATO—that we’re building up, as we talk, our forces in eastern Europe. Now, understand what’s going on here. When we took in—”we” meaning the United States and NATO—all these countries in eastern Europe into NATO, we did not—we agreed with the Russians we would not put forward military installations there. We built some infrastructure—air strips, there’s some barracks, stuff like that. But we didn’t station troops that could march toward Russia there. Now what NATO is saying, it is time to do that. Now, Russia already felt encircled by NATO member states on its borders. The Baltics are on its borders. If we move the forces, NATO forces, including American troops, to—toward Russia’s borders, where will we be then? I mean, it’s obviously going to militarize the situation, and therefore raise the danger of war.

And I think it’s important to emphasize, though I regret saying this, Russia will not back off. This is existential. Too much has happened. Putin—and it’s not just Putin. We seem to think Putin runs the whole of the universe. He has a political class. That political class has opinions. Public support is running overwhelmingly in favor of Russian policy. Putin will compromise at these negotiations, but he will not back off if confronted militarily. He will not.

*

A trade war opens the way for new trade deals

The new cold war isn’t only a military escalation, it also potentially marks the beginning of a new trade war. But due to reliance on Russia imports (especially when it comes to energy) EU sanctions on Russia will be difficult, and so one way forward could involve loosening trade restrictions between the EU and the US.

The following passages are taken from a press release by the European Council following the recent EU-US Summit in Brussels. It begins:

Recent events in Ukraine have confirmed that strong cooperation between the European Union and the United States on peace and security is of critical importance.

Continuing under the next heading “Economy and global challenges” as follows:

Reinforcing economic growth and job creation remains central on both sides of the Atlantic. The EU and the United States have taken important steps to stabilise financial conditions and overcome the crisis. The EU remains committed to building a deep and genuine economic and monetary union, including a banking union. […]

The EU and US leaders renewed their commitment to a strong Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). this should go beyond a free trade agreement and reaffirm Europe and the United States’ shared values of democracy, individual freedom, the rule of law and human rights, and a common commitment to open societies and economies. [bold highlights maintained from original source]

And what is TTIP? Here are additional notes at the end of the same press release:

The EU and US have decided to take their economic relationship to a higher level by agreeing to launch negotiations on a comprehensive trade and investment agreement. It aims to remove trade barriers in a wide range of economic sectors to make it easier to buy and sell goods and services between the EU and the US.

In fact, I have already touched on the subject of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) as well as its sister treaty the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) . Both of these “free-trade agreements” appear to have alternative and conflicting names and acronyms and in the case of TTIP it is also known as the Transatlantic Free Trade Area, abbreviated as TAFTA, which is how it appeared in that earlier post. Why trade agreements need to have multiple names becomes more apparent when you realise what this commitment to “freeing up regulations” will mean. Here are a few extracts from a detailed analysis published by Der Spiegel International and entitled “Corporation Carte Blanche: Will US-EU Trade Become Too Free?”:

Lori Wallach had but 10 minutes to speak when she stepped up to podium inside Room 405 at George Washington University, located not too far away from the White House. Her audience was made up of delegates currently negotiating the trans-Atlantic free trade agreement between the United States and the European Union.

They had already spent hours listening to presentations by every possible lobbying group — duty bound to hear myriad opinions. But when Wallach, a trade expert for the consumer protection group Public Citizen, took the stage, people suddenly started paying attention. The 49-year-old Harvard lawyer, after all, is a key figure in international trade debates.

“The planned deal will transfer power from elected governments and civil society to private corporations,” she said, warning that the project presents a threat of entirely new dimensions. [bold emphasis added]

How will TTIP help to transfer even more power out of democratic control and into the hands of the major corporations? Well, let us count the ways:

After the third round of negotiations, an unusually broad alliance of anti-globalization groups, NGOs, environmental and consumer protection groups, civil rights groups and organized labor is joining forces to campaign against TTIP.

These critics have numerous concerns about the treaty – including their collective fear that the convergence of standards will destroy important gains made over the years in health and nutrition policy, environmental protection and employee rights. They argue the treaty will make it easier for corporations to turn profits at the public’s expense in areas like water supply, health or education. It would also clear the path for controversial technologies like fracking or for undesired food products like growth hormone-treated meat to make their way to Europe. Broadly worded copyrights would also restrict access to culture, education and science. They also believe it could open the door to comprehensive surveillance.5

Click here to read the full article in Der Spiegel.

*

Fracking for freedom (and digging for victory)

I have already highlighted at the end of an earlier and rather more extended post how energy giants Chevron and Exxon Mobil have been getting ready to move their operations to Ukraine with the intention of exploring both conventional and “unconventional” resources (otherwise known as “fracking”). On Saturday’s Keiser Report, Max Keiser spoke to freelance journalist JP Sottile of Newsvandal.com, who also occasionally writes for the Guardian, about not only how Big Oil, but also Big Agra, have their eyes fixed on Ukraine. Sottile names the people and corporations hoping to take advantage of Ukraine’s exceptional fertile lands. Here are some excerpts of what he had to say [from about 13 mins in]:

“One of the bones of contention with Russia, Europe, and its transit point Ukraine, is Russia’s domination of the natural gas market in Europe. So I thought it was very interesting when the deal was announced that Chevron was involved in developing shale gas in Ukraine. Now that would have been with the previous government of Yanukovych – and I believe that that led to a lot of the pressure coming out of Moscow for Yanukovych to reject the economic deal between Ukraine and Europe, and that then of course led to a cascading number of events, which led to the deposing of Yanukovych and the ‘crisis in Ukraine’ as it is now called.”

Beyond the oil and gas, Sottile has also looked closely into the interests of agricultural giants Cargill and Monsanto, who are keen to exploit Ukraine’s riches closer to the surface:

US-Ukraine Business Council is an investor in the US-Ukraine Foundation where Ms [Victoria] Nuland was speaking on December 13th [about how the US had already spent $5 billion helping Ukraine realise its “European aspirations”] and also on December 13th, that was the day that Cargill invested in a Black Sea port to help open the Russian market to its agriculture. Well, Cargill is also heavily invested in Ukraine in a company called Ukrlandfarming. The just bought a two hundred thousand dollar stake in Ukrlandfarming. In fact they bought that stake – or it was announced – on the very day, January 12th of this year, that fifty thousand Ukrainians flooded Kiev to protest the government of Yanukovych.

They are all connected through Freedom House – a guy there who worked with Ms Nuland, who is Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, she had a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, a guy named David Kramer. David Kramer serves on – he’s actually head of Freedom House – Freedom House is one of the organisations that the United States uses to stoke democracy movements around the world. It is actually responsible, along with the National Endowment for Democracy, for funding many of the opposition forces there in Ukraine. And David Kramer also serves on the US-Ukraine Business Council. If you go the US-Ukraine Business Council – which is a very interesting organisation – on the executive board of the US-Ukraine Business Council you’ll find Cargill, Monsanto, John Deere, CNH International (which is a farming equipment and tractor-making company), Eli Lilly and DuPont Pioneer – DuPont Pioneer being the genetically modified organisms and agricultural wing of DuPont. And they all serve together under the guidance of a guy named Morgan Williams. Morgan Williams is CEO and President of US-Ukraine Business Council, and he has been a fixer for Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, [and] other big agricultural companies in Ukraine for the last fifteen to twenty years.

There is an expression from my part of the world that goes: “where there’s muck, there’s brass”. Well, as Sottile’s investigations reveal, there’s loads of muck in Ukraine and not just in oil and gas deposits. Perhaps, as he suspects, the bigger prize is the land itself. Either way, the vultures are already circling. Except that they are more predatory than the much maligned vulture. Rather than waiting for a crisis to happen they have been directly involved in fomenting one, and now, as their “Ukraine Crisis” escalates, they won’t be planning to let it to go to waste.

Click here to read more about this in JP Sottile’s article entitled “Ukraine, Chevron, Condi Rice and Shale Gas… join the dots” published by The Ecologist magazine on March 18th.

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Filed under al-Qaeda & DAESH / ISIS / ISIL, analysis & opinion, Britain, Craig Murray, Max Keiser, neo-liberalism, Ukraine

Brazilian ex-President Lula da Silva on Op. Car Wash, Bolsonaro, Assange, US meddling and more

In April 2018 former Brazilian President Lula da Silva (of the Workers’ Party or PT) was convicted on charges of money laundering and corruption and sentenced to serve 12 years following the largest investigation into corruption in the country’s history; this was so-called Operation Car Wash.

Although Lula’s sentence was upheld at appeal, he has always vigorously denied all the charges and consistently claimed the case against him was politically motivated: Lula’s conviction immediately opening the way for Jair Bolsonaro to be elected with his main challenger now eliminated from the race. As if to settle the matter, Judge Sérgio Moro, who had presided over the case, was shortly afterward appointed as Bolsonaro’s Minister of Justice:

In a transaction that even anti-Lula crusaders found highly distasteful, the judge who found Lula guilty and cleared the path for Bolsonaro’s ascension to the presidency — Judge Moro — thereafter accepted a position in Bolsonaro’s government that has been described as a “Super Justice Minister”: a newly designed position consolidating powers under Moro that had previously been dispersed among various agencies. It rendered Judge Moro — less than a year after putting Lula in prison and thus removing Bolsonaro’s key obstacle — one of the most powerful men in Brazil.

From an article written by Glenn Greenwald based around an interview he conducted with Lula while he was still in prison. In the same piece, Greenwald explains in more detail how Lula’s conviction paved the way for Bolsonaro’s accession:

Lula’s criminal conviction on corruption charges last year came under highly suspicious circumstances. All year long, polls showed him as the clear front-runner for the 2018 presidential race. After anti-PT forces finally succeeded with [former President] Dilma [Rousseff]’s impeachment in doing what they spent 16 years trying with futility to accomplish at the ballot box — removing PT from power — it seemed that Lula’s 2018 return to presidency was virtually inevitable and that only one instrument existed for preventing it: quickly convicting him of a felony which, under Brazilian law, would render him ineligible to run as a candidate. And that’s precisely what happened. 1

Lula was finally released in November 2019 after serving 580 days in prison. This followed revelations also published by Glenn Greenwald in The Intercept based on:

[G]roup chats between Car Wash prosecutors and conversations between task force coordinator Deltan Dallagnol and Moro, showing that the then-judge and the prosecutors were unethically and inappropriately collaborating in secret. Despite repeatedly insisting in public that they were acting ethically and impartially, the chats revealed that the judge was passing on advice, investigative leads, and inside information to the prosecutors — who were themselves plotting to prevent Lula’s Workers’ Party from winning last year’s election. 2

Click here to find the full “Secret Brazil Archive” published by The Intercept (The quote above is from Part 4 of the 14 part series).

On his release, Lula spoke to supporters saying, “They did not imprison a man. They tried to kill an idea.”

Adding that under Bolsonaro, “Brazil did not improve, Brazil got worse. The people are going hungry. The people are unemployed. The people do not have formal jobs. People are working for Uber – they’re riding bikes to deliver pizzas.” 3

Click here to read an earlier post about the coup against Dilma Rousseff entitled “‘Brazil’: now more than ever, a satire for our age”.

*

On Saturday, RT’s Going Underground devoted its show to an extended interview with Lula da Silva, which is embedded below. He told host Afshin Rattansi:

In Brazil some important things took place that the world needs to know about. For the first time in its history, during my government, Brazil became an international player. Brazil had created UNASUL [the Union of South American Nations] demonstrating a beautiful relationship within South America. Brazil had developed a relationship between South America and Africa; between South America and the Arab countries. Brazil had taken part in the creation of the BRICS. Brazil had created IBAS [or IBAS initiative (India, Brazil and South Africa), also called the G-3]. That is, Brazil was becoming an international player and that is something that the Americans never allowed.

Now Brazil is returning to the colonial period. After the coup on President Dilma, they would never want to have Lula back as the President of the Republic to continue our domestic social inclusion policy and our international protagonism policy. They want Brazil to continue to be a colony.

So they conjured this lie called the Car Wash Operation against me. They invented a lie during the procedure. They condemned me without any evidence. I’ve proved my innocence and I am waiting for them to prove any guilt on my part. I have challenged the Federal Prosecutor and the Judge who headed my trial. But I am much more concerned with Brazil at this moment. [from 4:55 mins]

*

Continuing:

We had eliminated hunger in Brazil and hunger has returned. We were in a process of raising education in this country and now we have a great setback in education as well as in science and technology.

We have major setbacks in the environmental legislation, in deforestation and in the preservation of our forests and out water resources. Obviously Brazil would be better off if I had been allowed to be a candidate [during the last Presidential elections]. They withdrew my candidacy for presidency with a legal procedure because they knew that if I ran in the elections I would have won in the first round.

And here in Brazil, a part of the country’s elite cannot stand to see poor people eating in restaurants, or travelling by plane, or buying cars. They cannot stand to see poor people ascending, which is what we achieved through hundreds of public policies to improve the lives of the poor people in this country.

I am proud that the President of the United Nations acknowledged that Brazil had eliminated hunger. I am proud that in 2010, Brazil was the country with the highest level of hope in the world – with the happiest people in the world – because we had so many expectations; so many dreams. And Brazil was about to become the fifth global economy.

Now we see Brazil experiencing a rise in poverty. People are hungry in Sao Paolo, in Rio de Janeiro and all over the country people have gone back to the streets. Wages dropped drastically and unemployment has risen. This is the country of the fascists who rule it.

I want a democratic country, a sovereign country, a country where people are happy and proud to say they are Brazilian. [from 6:25 mins]

When asked whether leaving the oligarchs in power to falsely prosecute him and afterwards to remove Dilma from office in a de facto coup, Lula replies:

I won an election; I did not start a revolution. I do not believe that a metalworker, like myself, could have become President of the Republic if it had not been for democracy; and if it had not been, most of all for democracy and for the Brazilian people’s comprehension and maturity when they voted.

I confess that I ruled for all. I doubt that there was any moment in Brazil’s history when everyone benefited so much. It is true that businesses won. It is true that bankers won. It is true that big landowners won. But it is also true that the poor workers won too.

We had the greatest pay rise for the poor during my government; the greatest rise in education. We are already known in history as the government that built the greatest number of universities and technical schools; invested the most in science and technology; and for sure we must have made mistakes, or else there would have been no coup against President Dilma.

The coup was the beginning of a new attitude in Brazil. In my opinion it was organised by the US Department of Justice with the participation of the CIA. We have video recordings. The Intercept has publicly exposed all the scams of the Federal Prosecutor and Judge Moro – and the participation of the US DOJ in destroying the construction and engineering sector in Brazil; the gas industry in Brazil; and the country’s politics. Because the US never accepted the fact that Brazil would become an international player.

You must remember that the US and Europe had a hard time dealing with Iran, because they could not reach an agreement with regards to uranium enrichment. Ambassador Celso Amorim and I went to Iran with the President of Turkey, and we were successful in convincing Iran to accept an agreement which was better than this deal that was signed by the Americans and the European Union.

Regretfully, when we proposed the agreement I expected that the US and the EU would thanks Brazil and Turkey; instead they applied more sanctions against Iran in a clear demonstration that they were telling us that Brazil is a small third world country that cannot meddle with major countries’ affairs.  [from 8:50 mins]

In 2008, Lula had also negotiated with French President Nicolas Sarkozy to win a contract with naval supplier DCNS [renamed Naval Group] for the sale of five submarines. This deal permitted a transfer of technology enabling Brazil to assemble four conventional submarines and one submarine with nuclear capability. During Operation Car Wash in 2016, DCNS was investigated over concerns of “corruption of foreign officials”. Asked about this part of the scandal, Lula says:

I am certain that the Americans did not agree that we should settle an agreement with France to build the nuclear submarine. I am certain that they did not appreciate it when I created the South American Defence Secretariat because as soon as we discovered the pre-salt oil, which was the major oil discovery of the twenty-first century – one thousand meters deep in the Atlantic Ocean – the Americans announced that they would reactivate their Fourth (maritime) Fleet in the Atlantic Ocean, which had ceased to operate after World War II.

Petrobras, the Brazilian state-run energy giant, had discovered the Tupi oilfield, which is located in the Santos Basin’s subsalt layer and estimated to hold recoverable reserves of between 5 billion and 8 billion barrels of oil, back in November 2007. It began pumping in May 2009. 4

Our oil is on the maritime border with international waters. So I believe that the US truly is interested in taking over our oil, just as they grabbed so much oil in so many countries around the world.

As you know Afshin, all political confusions around the world occur because of oil and the Americans do not want Petrobras, or the Brazilian people, to keep all that oil. [from 15:15 mins]

Lula also spoke about the assistance gave to his friend Hugo Chavez in Venezuela:

I had a fantastic relationship with President Chavez for many years, and I created a group of “Friends of Venezuela” to prevent any American intervention. And we were very successful during the Bush administration and later in the Obama administration with the following phrase: The people of Venezuela take care of democracy in Venezuela.

An American citizen who wins elections based on fake news like Trump has no moral authority to talk about democracy – likewise Bolsonaro in Brazil. Certainly I may have been naive, as well as Dilma, in believing in democracy; in believing in the conduct of the Brazilian elite, and we are paying the price for that. But nevertheless, I think that the solution is a democratic one. It involves democracy; freedom of the press; freedom of labour unions; freedom of association; respect for human rights. This is what motivates me and this is what I will fight for because it is only with democracy that we will be able to improve the quality of life of the poor; of the workers; and of the excluded people in our country. [from 17:00 mins]

Regarding the current political situation in Brazil, Lula says he thinks his former prosecutor Sérgio Moro will not run for President in 2022:

Moro will never become president. Moro was fabricated by Globo TV. Moro is an invention of the media and without the media, he is nothing. Moro is a citizen who I believe seems to be a coward because I have challenged him to debate with me. Now that he’s no longer a judge he could debate with me, but he won’t. And I do not think Globo will have the guts to support him. But if he is it is not a problem at all. [from 21:50 mins]

While at another point Lula says:

I am sure that Moro and [lead prosecutor of Op. Car Wash, Deltan] Dallagnol must take very heavy drugs to sleep because their conscience is not calm. They know that they lied about me. Dallagnol knows that he formed a gang in the Car Wash taskforce to pass on information to the US, and to strike a deal – a financial deal even – through which Dallagnol would raise a 200 million real fund to do something here in Brazil. My conscience is clear because my innocence is proven. Now I want to prove their guilt in the crimes they committed against Brazil. Attempting to destroy Brazil’s sovereignty.

Today I do not feel any hatred or resentment. I am actually destined to continue fighting for democracy, because as you know, although I will be 75-years old on October 27th, I have the energy of a thirty-year old and the political will of a twenty-year old. Therefore I still have a lot of energy to fight for democracy and for the Brazilian people and also to try to contribute to a world with new leaders that are more impetuous and brave for politics, because world governance nowadays has been outsourced.

Crises are no longer managed by governments, but rather by bureaucrats. So there are no more political leaders and this weakens politics and originates people of the like of Trump and Bolsonaro. [from 12:15 mins]

The full story is available in the “Secret Brazil Archive” at The Intercept but you can also read a summary of some of these allegation in a Guardian report published in June 2019.

Asked why he did nothing to reform oligarch-owned media in Brazil, Lula says:

I didn’t do anything because in Brazil to change the rules for the media you need to submit a bill to be voted in the National Congress and the majority in Congress being so conservative will never approve the rules to make the media more democratic.

We created a public TV channel. Certainly we did not make the necessary investments to make it competitive – not financially competitive – but competitive with regards to providing more information to society. This is something I regret not having one.

We developed a project to regulate the media – it was complete by mid-2009. We did not have support from Congress because elections would be held the following year, and we left it for the new administration. This is one thing that we will need to do when the PT returns to the government, because information that is meant for society cannot have an owner. Information cannot be conveyed to society from the viewpoint of ‘the economy’, or of a part of that society. [from 20:00 mins]

And regarding the incarceration and looming potential extradition to America of Julian Assange, Lula reminds us:

It is true that the Americans may hate Snowden because he was a State Department employee and he leaked information, but the fact is that Assange should be considered a hero by all democratic countries around the world. Because he was the one who used Snowden’s leaks to expose US espionage in Petrobras, in Brazil, in Germany, in Argentina, in France. That is why Assange cannot be handed over to the US. Assange should win the Nobel Peace Prize because he managed to expose the rotten espionage of the US in the rest of the world.

It is a pity that European and South American countries are not brave enough to stand up for Assange for all the good he did for mankind. [from 18:30 mins]

At the beginning of the interview, Afshin Rattansi asks Lula directly “why are you accusing your successor Jair Bolsonaro of genocide?” To which he replies:

For a very simple reason, our president did not take care of Brazil and of the Brazilian people as he should have done. This pandemic did not reach Brazil without prior notice. We already had experience of what was going on in other countries around the world, and the president should simply have done the obvious, only what common sense teaches us to do.

The president, since he doesn’t know about anything except weapons and violence, should have set up a technical committee with experts and scientists. He should have gathered all state governors as well as mayors and established a crisis committee to guide Brazilian society – to participate in the process of mitigating the impact of the pandemic in Brazil.

He did not do this. He decried the pandemic. He said that people should not wear masks. He proscribed a drug called chloroquinine to the population without any scientific basis. And to this date he continues to vulgarise death because effectively he does not believe in science, or in the Brazilian people, and he does not respect individuals. The only thing he does is compliment Trump and to try to copy the same foolish things that Trump does in the US. [from 1:27 mins]

Later in the interview, Lula is asked what he believes the likely consequences of Bolsonaro winning 2022 election will be, especially when it comes to impacts on the environment. He replies:

[Protection of] the Amazon must remain an issue for the Brazilian society. The Amazon does not need to have squatters or invaders. Instead of cattle breeders and soy bean farmers, the Amazon needs to be occupied by researchers, anthropologists and scientists to study its plants and animals, and all of the pharmacological wealth it has, as well as its potential to feed our society.

The Amazon is extraordinary for mankind and Brazil needs to have the obligation, the moral and ethical commitment, to preserve the Amazon in order to provide balance to Planet Earth. This is an irresponsibility of the Bolsonaro government, which has destroyed the entire surveillance system. Even the director of the agency that monitored deforestation with spatial imaging was dismissed. Now they are blaming the indigenous people and the small farmers for deforestation.

I have high hopes that in 2022, Brazil will return to democracy: that the people will elect a democrat for president who respects the environment and our air space; our borders; and who knows the meaning of our country’s sovereignty. [from 22:30 mins]

Adding finally:

I am convinced that the only solution we have is to strengthen democracy including for the American people now. They have the right to change American politics by electing someone who is civilised; someone who has some humanity; someone who has at least some respect for blacks, for native Americans, for the women and for differences between human beings. Therefore we have the duty to rebuild democracy in the world, so that we can prevent the destruction of Planet Earth, which is like a boat and we are all sinking in it.

I think we need to realise that the Americans are going backwards in exercising democracy. Recently I saw Trump calling Obama a communist. Calling Biden a communist. Calling Clinton a communist. He doesn’t even know what communism is.

I think ignorance is defeating intelligence and… intelligence, humanism, solidarity need to be restored in the world. The world today is being ruled by committees, not by governments. I think that governments need to rediscover their role in governance including the United Nations.

The UN needs to change its role. Today’s UN cannot be the same as it was in 1948. We need to have African countries in the UN Security Council. We need Latin American countries in the Security Council. And countries like India. It cannot be the same five countries as in 1948. We need to create a new global governance.

In 1948 the UN was strong enough to create the State of Israel. In 2020 the UN does not have the power to create the Palestinian state.

It is shameful because we need to renegotiate the role of the UN and other institutions. We need to discuss the IMF. What is the use of the IMF? What is the use of the World Bank?

I have already talked to Pope Francis. I have gone to the World Council of Churches in Geneva. We need a global campaign against inequality on our planet. It is not possible that half a dozen entrepreneurs in digital corporations make in one year what billions of human beings do not ever have. We also need to discuss the role of capitalism. And I am willing to do this.  [from 24:35 mins]

Note that: The transcript above is my own although based on the translation provided by the show. It is more or less complete but reordered with time stamps for each section.

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1 From an article entitled “Watch: Interview With Brazil’s Ex-President Lula From Prison, Discussing Global Threats, Neoliberalism, Bolsonaro, and More” written by Glenn Greenwald, published in The Intercept on May 22, 2019. https://theintercept.com/2019/05/22/lula-brazil-ex-president-prison-interview/

2 From an article entitled “Their Little Show” which is Part 4 of a series of 14 articles based upon what is described as “A massive trove of previously undisclosed materials provid[ing] unprecedented insight into the operations of the anti-corruption task force that transformed Brazilian politics and gained worldwide attention”, entitled “Secret Brazil Archive” published by The Intercept. https://theintercept.com/series/secret-brazil-archive/ 

3 From an article entitled “Brazil’s former president Lula walks free from prison after supreme court ruling” written by Dom Phillips, published in the Guardian in November 8, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/nov/08/lula-brazil-released-prison-supreme-court-ruling

4 https://www.rigzone.com/news/oil_gas/a/75679/petrobras_pumps_first_crude_from_massive_tupi_field_offshore_brazil/ 

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corona marginalia: grand theft redux

The bailout package that US Congress just passed represents a $500 Billion+ transfer of wealth from the public sphere into the coffers of the corporations. Arguably, it is the largest theft in US history.

The following extract from an article written by Pam and Russ Martens examines the small print to reveal how this latest bailout – one of  the largest corporate bailouts in US history – has been deliberately crafted to dodge oversight:

The U.S. Senate voted 96-0 late yesterday [March 25th] on a massive bailout of Wall Street banks versus a short-term survival plan for American workers thrown out of their jobs – and potentially their homes. The text of the final bill was breathtaking in the breadth of new powers it bestowed on the Federal Reserve, including the Fed’s ability to conduct secret meetings with no minutes provided to the American people. The House of Representatives has yet to vote on the bill.

The bill provides specific sums that can be made as loans or loan guarantees to passenger airlines ($25 billion), cargo airlines ($4 billion), and loans and loan guarantees to businesses necessary to national security ($17 billion). But when it comes to the money going to the Federal Reserve and then out the door to Wall Street, the legislation says only this:

“Not more than the sum of $454,000,000,000…shall be available to make loans and loan guarantees to, and other investments in, programs or facilities established by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System for the purpose of providing liquidity to the financial system….”

Why does the Federal Reserve need $454 billion from the U.S. taxpayer to bail out Wall Street when it has the power to create money out of thin air and has already dumped more than $9 trillion cumulatively in revolving loans to prop up Wall Street’s trading houses since September 17, 2019 – long before there was any diagnosis of coronavirus anywhere in the world.

The Fed needs that money to create more Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) — the same device used by Enron to hide its toxic debt off its balance sheet before it went belly up. With the taxpayers’ money taking a 10 percent stake in the various Wall Street bailout programs offered by the Fed, structured as SPVs, the Fed can keep these dark pools off its balance sheet while levering them up 10-fold. […]

Adding to the suspicions that the Fed doesn’t want to have to battle Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests (sunshine law requests) again in court, as it did and lost during the last financial crisis to keep its outrageous $29 trillion bailout program to Wall Street a secret from the public, the Senate-approved stimulus bill repeals the sunshine law for the Fed’s meetings until the President says the coronavirus threat is over or the end of this year. That could make any FOIA lawsuits to unleash details of what’s going on next to impossible since it has been codified in a federal law. The bill states the following:

SEC. 4009. TEMPORARY GOVERNMENT IN THE SUNSHINE ACT RELIEF. (a) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided in subsection 8 (b), notwithstanding any other provision of law, if the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System determines, in writing, that unusual and exigent circumstances exist, the Board may conduct meetings without regard to the requirements of section 552b of title 5, United States Code, during the period beginning on the date of enactment of this Act and ending on the earlier of— (1) the date on which the national emergency concerning the novel coronavirus disease (COVID–19) outbreak declared by the President on March 13, 2020 under the National Emergencies Act (50 20 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.) terminates; or (2) December 31, 2020.

This could mean that the American taxpayer may never learn why it went into debt to the tune of $454 billion if no records are being maintained.

Click here to read the full article by Pam Martens and Russ Martens, published by Wall Street on Parade.

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Meanwhile Rob Urie asks: where is the bailout of the people?

Most readers probably don’t know this, but the Federal Reserve began re-bailing out Wall Street early last Fall, well before the coronavirus hit. Why this matters is that it indicates that nothing was fundamentally fixed through earlier bailouts. Hedge funds of the sort that pay their executives tens of millions of dollars created the market dislocations they claim to be able to exploit. In 2007 these strategies were derided as ‘picking up pennies in front of a steamroller’ for their tendency to earn regular profits until they give them all back plus some when they blow up.

The socially and economically rational solution to these types of blow-ups is to unwind the trades — the bailout, and then shut the hedge funds down and make their managers find honest work in other industries. However, what the Federal Reserve has been doing, following from the Obama administration’s decision to keep insolvent banks on life support in perpetuity, is to manage markets so that losing trades don’t result in loses.

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With Donald Trump’s threat to ‘get America working again’ by Easter (April 12th), the same tactic that turned Italy’s pandemic from tragedy to catastrophe is being repeated on a much larger scale here. And for what? In an economy where the richest 1% takes all the gains while the poor and working class haven’t seen a raise in four decades, it is the rich who will reap the benefits while workers get sick and die. It is finance capitalism that is being bailed out when it should have suffocated under its own weight in 2009.

Where are the bailouts for the people? $1,200 checks against $30,000 bills for being treated for coronavirus? Why isn’t providing healthcare for all of the people the primary objective of the bailouts? Mr. Trump says he will send workers back to work while Democrats leave them no alternative but to work or starve. Without providing them the means— assured by meager bailouts, Democrats are every bit as guilty as Donald Trump of sending working people to die in a pandemic to add a few more dollars to the bank accounts of the rich.

More to the point, where are the virus test kits, ventilators and protective equipment for health care workers and the rest of us? Nick Turse of The Intercept puts a lie to the claim that the need for these couldn’t have been foreseen. For decades epidemiologists and health care professionals have been shouting from the rooftops about the need to prepare for a pandemic caused by a respiratory virus. Successive neoliberal governments dismissed the warnings and here we are to suffer the consequences.

When Mr. Trump uttered ‘our country wasn’t built to be shut down,’ one could be forgiven for asking whose country he was talking about and why it can’t be shut down? The country that most of us inhabit has been in the process of being shut down for some four decades through outsourcing, privatization, austerity and cuts to the social safety net. The region I live in was completely shut down in 2008 and stayed closed until just recently. That’s how long it took the last round of bailouts to land here.

Implied in the statement is that we, the people, must comport ourselves with the dictates of ‘the economy’ rather than the other way around. For all of the talk of freedom and democracy, the economy is theorized to exist in a realm where human needs are secondary, a mere matter of opinion. The coronavirus pandemic can’t in any meaningful sense be said to have been chosen. Neither are the marginal existences many of us live. In this way, deference to the economic system is cover for power relations, not a natural order.

Click here to read the full article written by Rob Urie, published in Counterpunch.

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The alternative: Economist Michael Hudson calls for a corona debt jubilee

America’s 2008 bank crash offered a great opportunity to write down the often fraudulent junk mortgages that burdened many lower-income families, especially minorities. But this was not done, and millions of American families were evicted. The way to restore normalcy today is a debt write-down. The debts in deepest arrears and most likely to default are student debts, medical debts, general consumer debts and purely speculative debts. They block spending on goods and services, shrinking the “real” economy. A write-down would be pragmatic, not merely moral sympathy with the less affluent.

In fact, it could create what the Germans called an “Economic Miracle” — their own modern debt jubilee in 1948, the currency reform administered by the Allied Powers. When the Deutsche Mark was introduced, replacing the Reichsmark, 90 percent of government and private debt was wiped out. Germany emerged as an almost debt-free country, with low costs of production that jump-started its modern economy.

Critics warn of a creditor collapse and ruinous costs to government. But if the U.S. government can finance $4.5 trillion in quantitative easing, it can absorb the cost of forgoing student and other debt. And for private lenders, only bad loans need be wiped out. Much of what would be written off are accruals, late charges and penalties on loans gone bad. It actually subsidizes bad lending to leave them in place.

In the past, the politically powerful financial sector has blocked a write-down. Until now, the basic ethic of most of us has been that debts must be repaid. But it is time to recognize that most debts now cannot be paid — through no real fault of the debtors in the face of today’s economic disaster.

The coronavirus outbreak is serving as a mind-expansion exercise, making hitherto unthinkable solutions thinkable. Debts that can’t be paid won’t be. A debt jubilee may be the best way out.

Click here to read Michael Hudson’s full article calling for a “Corona Debt Jubilee”.

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On Episode 1278 of the Keiser Report [September 11th, 2018], Michael Hudson discussed the historical precedents for a debt jubilee:

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The Great NHS Heist

“Once judged as the finest, most cost efficient health service in the world, the NHS is now in mortal danger – due to ruthless government privatisation plans. Are the British people fully aware of this? Or have they been sidetracked by the propaganda of so-called austerity. A group of doctors and health care professionals are dedicated to getting the truth out. Please support this film.” — John Pilger

THE GREAT NHS HEIST is an independent production designed to expose the covert destruction of the English National Health Service. Post-war Atlee’s government implemented Aneurin Bevan’s ambition of an NHS in July 1948. It meant everyone in Britain could get free medical care and this successful revolutionary social advance was copied across the world.

From the beginning there was strong political opposition and from the British Medical Association. Throughout Margaret Thatcher’s premiership, forces determined to replace the NHS with an American style, profit making, private insurance-based system gathered momentum.

In Britain’s Biggest Enterprise (1988) Oliver Letwin MP outlined the plan which required stealth, complexity, deception and co-operation of consecutive governments to avoid a public backlash. We witnessed the new corporate managerialism and marketisation of healthcare, shrinkage of the NHS bed capacity, and transfer of assets into the private sector using Private Finance Initiative and NHS land sales. Private operators expanding their grip on the NHS, securing contracts for the provision of ancillary and then clinical services, rapidly accelerated by the 2012 Health and Social Care Act.

The privatisation lobby crafted effective cover stories and carefully managed the national debate to maintain public ignorance and remained largely unchallenged by a compliant mainstream media. Successive reforms were presented as essential improvements while disguising the reality of creeping privatisation. The stage was set for the heist of NHS land, patient medical data, and the £120 billion annual tax-funded budget for US corporate raiders.

Screenshot from the documentary ‘The Great NHS Heist’

The American medical-industrial complex is expensive, dysfunctional and endemically fraudulent yet it is the model being replicated in England. Over thirty million Americans have no medical insurance or government funded care, millions more also financially ruined by medical bills despite having insurance. Hospital providers over investigate and over treat to increase profits by defrauding and potentially harming the sick – while insurers try to avoid seriously ill and expensive people and deny payments when policyholders become too costly. In America, life expectancy, infant and maternal mortality measures are much worse than in other countries where expenditure on healthcare is vastly lower.

Nevertheless health policy in England has accelerated in the wrong direction under the cover of austerity. Chief Executive of NHS England, Mr Simon Stevens, former head of global expansion for US health insurance giant UnitedHealth Group, has progressed the insurance industry designed changes in the NHS, introducing their personnel, IT systems and business methods. The final legal changes to create American Health Maintenance Organisation models, called Integrated Care Systems, are underway. Aligning financial incentives for providers with those of insurers to increase profits by the denial of care to the sick.

In the documentary, patients, health professionals, campaigners and experts from England and America including former Labour Health Secretary Frank Dobson, filmmaker Ken Loach, Anthropologist David Graeber and economists Yanis Varoufakis and Steve Keen deliver a comprehensive exposé of the three-decade long heist of our nation’s proudest achievement, as summed up in this warning from former US insurance industry executive turned whistleblower, Wendell Potter:

“In this country we scare people by saying we don’t want to go down the slippery slope to socialised medicine. Well I tell you something, (what) scares me even worse is going down the slippery slope to the American healthcare system.”

The notes above are adapted from those available on the official website for the documentary.

The full documentary is now uploaded on youtube and embedded below:

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roll up the red carpet!

The following article is Chapter Five of a book entitled Finishing The Rat Race which I am posting chapter by chapter throughout this year and beyond. Since blog posts are stacked in a reverse time sequence (always with the latest at the top), I have decided that the best approach is to post the chapters in reverse order.

All previously uploaded chapters are available (in sequence) by following the link above or from category link in the main menu, where you will also find a brief introductory article about the book itself and why I started writing it.

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“All animals are equal
but some animals are more equal than others

— George Orwell 1

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I discovered recently and by happy accident that the author, Michael Young, who invented the term ‘meritocracy’, detested his own creation. Here’s how Young outlined his position in a Guardian article “Down with meritocracy”, published in 2001:

I have been sadly disappointed by my 1958 book, The Rise of the Meritocracy. I coined a word which has gone into general circulation, especially in the United States, and most recently found a prominent place in the speeches of Mr Blair.

The book was a satire meant to be a warning (which needless to say has not been heeded) against what might happen to Britain between 1958 and the imagined final revolt against the meritocracy in 2033.2

But I shall save further thoughts of Michael Young until later, and begin here by considering what lies in the shadows of a meritocracy. After all, and at first glance, what on earth can be wrong with the purposeful restructuring of society in ways that prioritise ‘merit’ above all else? Isn’t this the epitome of a fair system?

As with examining most ideas, it is helpful first to step back a little to gain perspective. In this case, it is important to get a fuller grasp of what ‘merit’ means when buried within the heart of ‘meritocracy’. What does ‘merit’, in this narrow political sense, finally equate to?

Throughout the last two hundred and more years, including under progressive administrations such as Clement Attlee’s reforming government in Britain and FDR’s earlier New Deal for America, the political systems in the West have remained very solidly rooted in capitalism, and being so, they have remained inherently utilitarian in design. It follows that ‘merit’ (in our narrow definitional sense) must be gauged on the scales of those extant utilitarian-capitalist conventions: that ‘merit’ therefore becomes an adjunct of ‘utility’ or, in other words, ‘usefulness’.

Advocates of capitalism like to evoke the invisible hand of the market, which they say enhances productivity and safeguards against wanton overproduction, thereby ensuring society’s needs are met. Thanks to the market that which is wasteful falls away, and in consequence profits and earnings will flow to the most efficient producers. So it follows that within a meritocracy governed strictly by market forces, with the invisible hand steering our efforts unerringly toward ‘usefulness’, estimations of ‘merit’ ought to be fairly directly measureable in terms of salaries and wealth. Maximum profits and earnings tending to go to those who serve the most useful function and are, by dint of this, the most ‘merited’. The losers are those who merit little since they provide little to nothing of use, and, conversely, the winners contribute most gainfully in every sense…

There is already a suffocating tightness in this loop; a circularity that brings me to consider the first serious objection against meritocracy, if only the most trivial and conspicuous. For judged solely by its own terms just how meritocratic is our celebrated meritocracy? Hmmm – need I go on? Very well then, I shall offer this brisk reductio ad absurdum:

Let’s start where the debate ordinarily ends, with the topic of professional footballers… To most people, the excessive salaries paid to footballers stands out as an egregious example of unfairness. I share the same view, but wonder why we stop at footballers. They are not alone; not by a long chalk.

Indeed, given that our utilitarian-capitalist meritocracy does in fact function as it is presumed to function, then it follows that most top sportsmen (to a lesser extent, sportswomen too), including footballers, but also tennis players, golfers, F1 drivers, cyclists, athletes, etc – sports of low popularity by comparison – as well as pop idols, TV celebrities and film stars (not forgetting agents and the retinue of hangers-on) are, by virtue of their fabulous incomes, not merely most deserving of such high rewards, but also, by direct extension, some of the most ‘productive’ amongst us. Would any deign to defend this high visibility flaw in our socio-economic system? Truth is that many on this ever-expanding list are rewarded for just one thing: fame – thanks to another self-perpetuating cycle in which fame makes you wealthy, and then wealth makes you more famous again.

Nor does such rightful utilitarian calculus reliably account for the gargantuan salaries and bonuses (and who else gets bonuses in excess of their salaries!) of so many bankers, hedge fund managers and other financiers who callously wrecked our western economies. With annual remuneration that outstrips most ordinary worker’s lifetime earnings, the staggering rewards heaped upon those working in The City and Wall Street have little relationship to levels of productivity and usefulness, but worse, remuneration is evidently disconnected from levels of basic competence. Instead we find that greedy ineptitude is routinely and richly rewarded, if only for the ‘made men’ already at the top and lucky enough to be “too big to fail”. In light of the crash of 2008, any further talk of “the classless society” ought to have us all running for the exits!

Then we come to the other end of our meritocratic muck-heap. And here amongst the human debris we find contradictions of an arguably more absurd kind. I am referring to those disgustingly unworthy winners of our many lotteries – you know the types: petty criminals, knuckle-draggers and wastrels (the tone here is strictly in keeping with tabloid outrage on which it is based) who blow all their winnings on a binge of brash consumerism and a garage full of intoxicants. Conspicuous consumption of the most vulgar kinds! How dare they squander such hard, unearned dosh on having fun! But wait a minute… surely the whole point of running a lottery is that anyone can win. Have we forgotten the advertisement already? So if we are really serious about our meritocracy then perhaps we should to be stricter: no lotteries at all! Yet a cursory consideration of this point presents us with far bigger hurdles by far. For if we are truly committed to the project of constructing a meritocracy (and we must decide precisely what this means), it is vital to acknowledge the fact that life is inherently beset with lotteries. Indeed when roundly considered, this represents an existential dilemma that potentially undermines the entire project.

For life begins with what might best be described as our lottery of inheritance. Where you are born and to whom, the postal code you reside in, the schools you attended, your religious (or not) upbringing, whether you happen to carry one or two x-chromosomes, and the colour of your skin… the whole nine yards. Your entire existence happened by extraordinary chance and each and every aspect of it owes an unfathomable debt to further blind chance.

Therefore, in our most puritanical understanding of meritocracy, lotteries relating to the guessing of random numbers will be abolished altogether, in order to set a precedent, although still these other lotteries, life’s lotteries, remain inescapable. Which is devastating blow to the very concept of fully-fledged meritocracy, since whatever meritocracy we might choose to build will always remain a compromise of one kind or another.

In point of fact, however, we have been moving instead in the completely opposite direction. There has been a tremendous and rapid growth in lotteries of all shapes and sizes: from the casino economy working to the advantage of financial speculators at the top; to the rise of online casinos and the latest betting apps, mathematically honed to suck money from the pockets of the desperate and sometimes destitute pipedreamers at the bottom. Further indications of how far our society truly diverges from even the most rudimentary notions of meritocracy.

So there is plenty of scope for devising a better version of meritocracy; one that isn’t so riddled with blatant inconsistencies and arbitrary rewards. A more refined meritocracy operating according to common sense fairness and consistency, with built-in checks and balances to ensure the winners are more consistently worthy than the losers. A more level playing field bringing us closer to the ideal – for surely a better devised version of meritocracy is the fairest system we can ever hope to live under. In fact, I beg to differ, but before entering further objections to the sham ideal of meritocracy, I wish first to celebrate the different areas in which greater equality has indeed been achieved and ones where it is still dangerously lacking.

During the Q&A session following a lecture entitled “Capitalist Democracy and its Prospect’s” that he delivered in Boston on September 30th, 2014, Noam Chomsky speaks to why the notion of a capitalist democracy is oxymoronic. He also discusses the widespread misinterpretation of Adam Smith’s economic thinking, especially amongst libertarians, and specifically regarding the misuse of his terms ‘invisible hand’ and ‘division of labour’.

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There is no denying that at the start of the twenty-first century our own society has, and in a number of related ways, been made fairer and more equal than it was just thirty years ago when I was a school-leaver. Most apparent is the sweeping change in attitudes towards race and gender. Casual racism wasn’t merely permissible in seventies and early eighties Britain, but an everyday part of the mainstream culture. The sporadic Black or Asian characters on TV were neatly allotted into their long-established stereotypes, and comedians like bilious standup Bernard Manning had free rein to defile the airwaves with their popular brands of inflammatory bigotry. Huge strides have been taken since then, and social attitudes are unalterably changed for the better. Today the issue of diversity is central to political debate, and social exclusion on the grounds of race and gender is outlawed.

In the prophetic words of abolitionist preacher Theodore Parker, “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice”; words famously borrowed by Martin Luther King in a celebrated sermon he delivered in the year of 1965.3 It was a momentous year: one that marked the official end to racial segregation in the Southern United States with the repeal of the horrendous Jim Crow laws, and the same year when Harold Wilson’s Labour government passed the Race Relations Act prohibiting discrimination in Britain on “grounds of colour, race, or ethnic and national origins”.

On August 28th (last Tuesday) ‘Democracy Now’ interviewed co-founder and chair of the Black Panther Party, Bobby Seale, who was arrested and indicted after speaking outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. He describes how during his trial Judge Julius Hoffman ordered him to be gagged and bound to his chair [from 9:15 mins]:

Did Bobby Seale’s treatment provide inspiration for Woody Allen’s madcap courtroom scene in ‘Bananas’? [from 5:00 mins]:

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As Parker and King understood well, of course, the arc of the moral universe does not bend of its own accord but requires tremendous pressure from below. And so it was, again in 1965, after shockwaves sent by Wilson’s government through former colony Rhodesia, that in efforts to avoid the end of its apartheid system, the white minority government under then-Prime Minister Ian Smith, declared independence, and an armed struggle for black liberation ensued. It was a bloody struggle that would grind on throughout the 70s, but one that ended in triumph. Meanwhile, apartheid in neighbouring South Africa outlasted Rhodesia for a further decade and a half before it too was dismantled in 1994 and the rainbow flag could be hoisted.

In solidarity with Nelson Mandela and leading the armed struggle had been Joe Slovo, a commander of the ANC’s military wing Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) who fought alongside deputy Ronnie Kasrils; both the sons of émigré Jews. Also prominent within the anti-apartheid resistance were other Jewish figures including Denis Goldberg, Albie Sachs, and Ruth First – an activist, scholar and wife of Joe Slovo, she was murdered by a parcel bomb sent to her in Mozambique. Ironically, today Israel stands alone as the last remaining state that legally enforces racial segregation, but even the concrete walls and barbed wire dividing the West Bank and Gaza cannot hold forever.

This video footage was uploaded as recently as Wednesday 29th. It shows a young Palestinian girl living under Israeli control in Hebron having to climb a closed security gate just to get home:

The fence had been extended in 2012 and fitted with a single gate to provide entrance to the Gheith and a-Salaimeh neighborhoods in Hebron. The footage below was recorded by B’Tselem in May 2018 and shows other students unable to return from school and their mothers beseeching the Border Police officers to open it. The officers say in response that the gate is closed as “punishment” for stone throwing; a collective punishment that is prohibited under international law:

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Likewise, homosexuality, which until astonishingly recent times remained a virtually unspoken taboo, was decriminalised as comparatively recently as 1967 – the year of my birth and coincidentally the same year aboriginal Australians received full citizenship and the right to vote.

Before the Sexual Offences Act came into force, gay men faced prosecution and a prison sentence (lesbians slipped through the legal loophole due to technicalities surrounding the delicate issue of penetration), whereas today they enjoy the equal right to marriage, which cynics will doubtless say entitles them to an alternative form of imprisonment, but hurrah for that… since irrespective of one’s views on the institution of marriage, equality under law is indicative of genuine social progress. The same goes for the transformation of attitudes and legal framework in countering discrimination on grounds of gender, disability and age. Discrimination based on all these prejudices is plain wrong, and liberation on all fronts, an unimpeachable good.

In these ways, our own society – like others across the globe – has become more inclusive, and, if we choose to describe it as such, more meritocratic. Yet many are still left out in the cold. Which people? Sadly, but in truth, all of the old prejudices linger on – maybe they always will – but prime amongst them is the malignant spectre of racism.

For overall, as we have become more conscious and less consenting of racism than in the past, the racists, in consequence, have adapted to fit back in. More furtive than old-style racism, which wore its spiteful intolerance so brashly on its sleeve, many in the fresh crop of bigots have learned to feign better manners. The foaming rhetoric of racial supremacy is greatly moderated, and there is more care taken to legitimise the targeting of the chosen pariahs. Where it used to be said how “the Coloureds” and “the Pakis” (and other labels very much more obscene again) were innately ‘stupid’, ‘lazy’, ‘doped-up’ and ‘dirty’ (the traditional rationalisations for racial hatred), the stated concern today is in difference per se. As former BNP leader Nick Griffin once put it:

[I]nstead of talking about racial purity, you talk about identity, and about the needs and the rights and the duty to preserve and enhance the identity of our own people.4

And note how identity politics here plays to the right wing just as does to the left, better in fact, because it is a form of essentialism. In effect, Griffin is saying ‘white lives matter’, when of course what he really means is ‘white lives are superior’. But talk of race is mostly old hat to the new racists in any case, who prefer to attack ‘culture’ over ‘colour’.

In multicultural Britain, it is the Muslim minority, and especially Muslim women, who receive the brunt of the racial taunts, the physical abuse, and who have become the most preyed upon as victims of hate crimes, while the current hypocrisy lays blame at their door for failing to adopt western values and mix in; a scapegoating that alarmingly recalls the Nazi denigration and demonisation of the Jews. It follows, of course, that it is not the racists who are intolerant but the oppressed minority who are or who look like Muslims. By this sleight of hand, Islamophobia (a very clumsy word for a vile creed) festers as the last manifestation of semi-respectable racism.

When it was released in 1974, “Blazing Saddles” shocked audiences. It is no less shocking today, but the difference today is that no-one could make it. No contemporary film in which every third word is a vile racist expletive would pass the censors. Yet as it plunges us headlong into a frenetic whirlwind of bigotry, and as all commonsense rationality is suspended, nothing remains besides the hilarious absurdity of racial prejudice. Dumb, crude, and daring: it is comedy of rare and under-appreciated genius. As Gene Wilder puts it “They’ve smashed racism in the face and the nose is bleeding, but they’re doing it while you laugh” [6:15 mins]. Embedded below is a BTS documentary tribute entitled “Back in the Saddle” [Viewer discretion advised]:

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“It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances,” quipped Oscar Wilde.5 And though the accusation at the heart of his bon mot may be contested, that most people certainly do judge by appearances really cannot be. Briefly then, I wish to consider a few of the most overlooked but widespread social prejudices, which though seldom so vicious and of less clear historical significance than other such virulent strains as sexism and racism, are long-standing and ingrained prejudices nonetheless. These tend to be prejudices against certain types of individual, rather than against interconnected “communities”. Prejudices so commonplace that some readers will doubtless see my digression as trivial, or even laughable, and yet there is good reason to delve into the matter as it opens up a bigger question, and, once expanded upon, more fundamentally challenges our whole notion of meritocracy. So here goes… (I am braced for the many titters and guffaws and encourage you to laugh along!)

Firstly, there is a permitted prejudice on the one hand against short blokes (trust me, I am one), and on the other against fat ladies. Short men and fat women being considered fair game for ridicule literally on the grounds that we don’t shape up. Which would be fine – believe me, I can take a joke – except that in playing down the deep-seated nature of such prejudice, as society generally does, there are all sorts of insidious consequences. For it means, to offer a hopefully persuasive example, that whenever satirists (and I use the term loosely, since genuine satire is rather thin on the ground) lampoon Nicolas Sarkozy, rather than holding him to account for his reactionary politics and unsavoury character, they go for the cheaper shot of quite literally belittling him (and yes, prejudice in favour of tallness saturates our language too). Worse still, Sarkozy had the gall to marry a taller and rather glamorous woman, which apparently makes him a still better target for wisecracks about being a short-arse (it’s okay, I’m reclaiming the word). As a result, Sarkozy is most consistently disparaged only for what he couldn’t and needn’t have altered, instead of what he could and should have. No doubt he takes it all on the chin… presuming anyone can actually reach down that far! Yes, it’s perfectly fine to laugh, just so long as we don’t all continue pretending that there is no actual prejudice operating.

Moreover, it is healthy for us to at least admit that there is a broader prejudice operating against all people regarded in one way or another as physically less attractive. Being fat, short, bald or just plain ugly are – in the strictest sense – all handicaps, which, and though far from insurmountable, represent a hindrance to achieving success. Even the ginger-haired enjoy a less than even break, as Neil Kinnock (who was unfortunate enough to be a Welshman too) discovered shortly after he was elected leader of the Labour Party.

Indeed, most of us will have been pigeon-holed one way or another, and though we may sincerely believe that we don’t qualify to be categorised too negatively, our enemies will assuredly degrade us for reasons beyond our ken. But then, could we ever conceive of, for instance, the rise of something akin to let’s say an “ugly pride” movement? Obviously it would be comprised solely of those self-aware and unblinkingly honest enough to see themselves as others actually see them. This envisaged pressure group would comprise an exceptionally brave and uncommon lot.

Then what of the arguably more delicate issues surrounding social class? Indeed, we might reasonably ask ourselves why is there such an animal as social class in the first place? And the quick answer is that people are inherently hierarchical. That “I look up to him because he is upper class, but I look down on him because he is lower class”, to quote again the famous skit from The Frost Report. But now pay proper attention to the vocabulary and its direct correspondence with the physical stature of the three comedians.6

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Class and stature side-by-side, just as they are in the dictionary – and as they have been throughout recent history thanks to dietary deficiencies. Here is a visual gag with etymological parallels: the word ‘stature’ itself a double entendre. But, and unlike physical stature, class is already inextricably tied into levels of wealth and success, and virtually impossible to escape in any society – the Soviet system and Mao’s China were arguably more deeply class-riven than our own purportedly “classless” societies.

Incidentally, I in no way advocate the drafting of future legislation to close the gap on these alternative forms of everyday discrimination: demanding social justice for all those with unpopular body shapes, or who speak with the wrong accent, or stutter, or who have chosen to grow patches of hair in the wrong places, or whatever it is (beards became fashionable after I wrote this!). That would instantly make our lives intolerable in another way: it would be (as the Daily Mail loves to point out) “political correctness gone mad!” After all, prejudice and discrimination come in infinite guises, so where could we finally draw the line?

All of which brings me to our last great tolerated prejudice, and one that is seldom if ever acknowledged as a prejudice in the first place. It is our own society’s – and every other society’s for that matter – very freely held discrimination on the grounds of stupidity. And no, this is not meant as a joke. But that it sounds like a joke makes any serious discussion about it inherently tricky.

Because the dim (and I have decided to moderate my language to avoid sounding unduly provocative, which is not easy – I’ll come to other tags I might have chosen in a moment) cannot very easily stand up for themselves, even if they decide to try. Those willing to concede that their lives are held back by a deficit in braininess (sorry, but the lack of more appropriate words is unusually hampering) will very probably fail to grasp much, if anything at all, of the bigger picture, or be able to articulate any of the frustrations they may feel as daily they confront a prejudice so deeply entrenched that it passes mostly unseen. Well, it’s fun to pick on the idiots, blockheads, boneheads, thickos, cretins, dimwits, dunderheads, dunces, knuckleheads, dumbbells, imbeciles, morons, jerks, and simpletons of the world isn’t it? It is the cheaper half of every comedy sketch, and in all likelihood will remain so; with much of the rest that brings us merriment being the schadenfreude of witnessing the self-same idiots cocking up over and over again. And finally, is there really a nicer word that usefully replaces all the pejoratives above? Our casual prejudice against the dim has been indelibly written into our dictionaries.

On May 13th, 1999, comedian George Carlin was invited to deliver a speech to the National Press Club at Washington D.C. He used the occasion to poke fun at the tortuous abuse of language by politicians as well as the growing tyranny of an invented “soft language”, which includes what he describes as ‘the tedious liberal labeling’ of minorities. His speech is followed by an entertaining Q&A session:

Here’s a little more from Carlin dishing the dirt on political correctness:

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Now if I’d been writing say a hundred years ago (or even more recently) the available vocabulary would have been a little different. For it was permissible during the first half of the last century to speak and write about the problem of ‘feeble-mindedness’ – a term that implies an innate (and thus inherited) ‘disability’. Moreover, as part of a quasi-scientific conversation, social reformers including intellectuals and political thinkers got into the habit of discussing how this affliction (as it was then regarded) might best be eradicated.

Those on the political left were no less shameful in this regard than those on the right, with radical thinkers like H.G. Wells 7 and George Bernard Shaw, chipping in alongside the youthful Winston Churchill8; all scratching their high brows to think up ways of preventing the spread of such evidently bad stock from ruining good society – ‘the feeble-minded’, for reasons never dwelt on by the pioneering eugenicists, not the least bit incapable of passing on their enfeebled genes.

Thanks again to genuine social progress it is unacceptable to speak (openly) about the elimination of the underclasses in our societies today, or to openly speculate on means of halting their uncontrolled and unwanted proliferation (though I write very much in terms that Wells, Shaw and Churchill would have understood). But eugenics, we should constantly remind ourselves, was a great deal more fashionable not so very long ago – even after the concentration camps and worryingly under alternative names it finds advocates still today (for instance, the Silicon Valley techies gather nowadays for conferences on transhumanism, the artificial ‘enhancement’ of humanity, which is one way in which eugenics has reemerged9).

Today’s progressives (and keep in mind that Wells and Shaw both regarded themselves as progressives of their own times) prefer to adopt a more humanitarian position. Rather than eliminating ‘feeble-mindedness’, the concern is to assist ‘the disadvantaged’. A shift in social attitude that is commendable, but it brings new hazards in its stead. For implicit in the new phraseology is the hope that since disparities stem from disadvantage, all differences between healthy individuals might one day be overcome. That aside from those suffering from disability, everyone has an approximately equivalent capacity when it comes to absorbing knowledge and learning skills of one form or another, and that society alone, to the advantage of some and detriment of others, makes us smart or dim. But this is also false, and cruelly so – though not yet barbarously.

For differences in social class, family life, access to education, and so forth (those things we might choose to distinguish as environment or nurture) are indeed significant indicators of later intellectual prowess (especially when our benchmark is academic performance). So it makes for comfortable presupposition that regarding intelligence (an insanely complex matter to begin with) the inherent difference between individuals is slight, and upbringing is the key determinant, but where’s the proof? And if this isn’t the whole picture – as it very certainly isn’t – then what if, heaven forfend, some people really are (pro)created less cognitively proficient than others? Given that they did indeed receive equivalent support through life, it follows that failure is “their own fault”, is it not?

In any case, intelligence, like attractiveness, must be to some degree a relative trait. During any historical period, particular forms of mental gymnastics are celebrated when others are overlooked, and so instruments to measure intelligence will automatically be culturally biased (there is a norm and there are fashions) to tally with the socially accepted idea of intelligence which varies from place to place and from one era to the next. There can never be an acid test of intelligence in any pure and absolute sense.10

Furthermore, whatever mental abilities happen to confer the mark of intelligence at any given time or place, obviously cannot be equally shared by everyone. As with other human attributes and abilities, there is likely to be a bell curve. It follows, therefore, that whatever braininess is or isn’t (and doubtless it takes many forms), during every age and across all nations, some people will be treated as dimmer, or brighter, than their fellows. And notwithstanding that whatever constitutes intelligence is socially determined to some extent, and that estimates of intelligence involve us in a monumentally complex matter, it remains the case that an individual’s capacity for acquiring skills and knowledge must be in part innate. This admission is both exceedingly facile and exceedingly important, and it is one that brings us right to the crux of meritocracy’s most essential flaw.

For how can those who are thought dim be left in charge of important things? They can’t. Which means that it would be madness to give the dimmest people anything other than the least intellectually demanding jobs. The meritocratic logic then follows, of course, that being less capable (and thus relegated to performing only the most menial tasks) makes you less worthy of an equal share, and yet this cuts tangentially across the very principle of ‘fairness’ which meritocracy is supposed to enshrine. For wherein lies the fairness in the economic exclusion of the dim? To reiterate what I wrote above, our prejudice is so deeply ingrained that to many such exclusion will still appear justified. As if being dim is your own lookout.

For whether or not an individual’s perceived failure to match up to society’s current gauge of intelligence is primarily down to educational ‘disadvantage’ (in the completest sense) or for reasons of an altogether more congenital kind, we may justifiably pass over the comfortable view that equal opportunity (laudable as this is) can entirely save the day. Degrees of intellectual competence – whether this turns out to be more socially or biologically determined – will always be with us, unless that is, like Wells, Shaw and Churchill (together with a many other twentieth century social reformers including Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Alexander Graham Bell, and the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger) we opt instead for the eugenic solution – and I trust we do not. But bear in mind that programmes of forced sterilisation kept running in regions of the western world long after WWII right up to the 1970s.11 Earlier calls to weed out the “feeble-minded” that never fully went away, but instead went underground.

On March 17th 2016, ‘Democracy Now!’ interviewed Adam Cohen, co-editor of TheNationalBookReview.com and author of “Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck”, who explained how:

After World War II, we put the leading Nazis on trial for some of the worst things that the Nazis did. One of those very bad things was they set up a eugenics program where they sterilized as many as 375,000 people. So we put them on trial for that. And lo and behold, as the movie [“Judgment at Nuremberg”] shows, their defense was: “How can you put us on trial for that? Your own U.S. Supreme Court said that sterilization was constitutional, was good. And it was your own Oliver Wendell Holmes, one of your most revered figures, who said that. So, why are we the bad guys in this story?” They had a point.

Click here to watch on the Democracy Now! website.

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Now for those further thoughts from the man we might describe as “the father of meritocracy” – even though he would certainly hate it! This is Michael Young speaking out against about his accidental bastard child and the decisive role it is has played in reshaping our societies:

I expected that the poor and the disadvantaged would be done down, and in fact they have been. If branded at school they are more vulnerable for later unemployment.

They can easily become demoralised by being looked down on so woundingly by people who have done well for themselves.

It is hard indeed in a society that makes so much of merit to be judged as having none. No underclass has ever been left as morally naked as that.12

This meritocracy we live in today, as Michael Young points out, is not just a distant remove from the fairest society imaginable, but in other ways – psychological ones especially – arguably crueller than any older, and less enlightened, -ocracies.

Embedded below is one of a series of lectures “Biology as Ideology” given by distinguished geneticist and evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin in 1990. Lewontin here explaining how erroneous theories of biological determinism have been used to validate and support the dominant sociopolitical theories and vice versa. He also offers his subversive thoughts on meritocracy:

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Inevitably, ‘merit’ is equated with, and thus mistaken for, ‘success’, and this is true not only for our self-declared meritocracy, but universally. Think about it: if millions of people love to read your books, or to listen to your songs, or just to watch your delightful face on their TV screens, then who would not leap to the conclusion that what they do is of the highest ‘merit’? How else did they rise to stand above the billions of ordinary anonymous human drones?

The converse is also true. That those who remain anonymous are often in the habit of regarding themselves as less significant – in fact psychologically less real – than others in the limelight they see and admire: the celebrities and the VIPs. Which brings me to a lesson my father taught me; an observation which reveals in aphoristic form the inbuilt fault with all conceptions of meritocracy: VIP being a term that makes him curse. Why? For the clinching fact that every one of us is a “very important person”. If this sounds corny or trite then ask yourself sincerely, as my father once asked me: “Are you a very important person…?”

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Famously, Van Gogh sold just a single painting in his lifetime13, but then we all know that millions of terrible painters have also sold one (or less than one!) Not so widely known is that a great deal of Schubert’s music was lost when, in the immediate aftermath of his death, it was recycled as waste paper; but then again, thousands of dreadful composers have also had their music posthumously binned. So the odds are that if you can’t sell your music or publish your book, then you’re just another of the billions, rather than an as yet unappreciated master and another Van Gogh or Schubert. For aside from posterity, and no matter how much we might like to conjure one up, there is no established formula for separating ‘merit’ from ‘success’, and no good reason for supposing we will ever discover such a razor.

In reality therefore, any form of meritocracy will only ever be a form of success-ocracy, and in our own system, money is the reification of success. A system in which success and thus money invariably breeds more success and more money because unavoidably it contains positive and negative feedback loops. For this reason the well-established ruling oligarchies will never be unseated by means of any notional meritocracy – evidence of their enduring preeminence being, somewhat ironically, more apparent in the American republic, where dynasties, and especially political ones, are less frowned upon, and in consequence have remained more visible than in the class-ridden island kingdom it abandoned and then defeated. But even if our extant aristocracies were one day uprooted wholesale, then meritocracy simply opens the way for that alternative uber-class founded by the “self-made man”.

Indeed, ‘aristocracy’, deriving from the Greek ἀριστοκρατία (aristokratia) and literally meaning “rule of the best”, sounds a lot like ‘meritocracy’ to me. Whereas governance by those selected as most competent (the other way ‘meritocracy’ is sometimes defined) is better known by an alternative name too – ‘technocracy’ in this case – with the select order of technocrats working to whose betterment we might reasonably ask. Meritocracy of both kinds – and every meritocratic system must combine these twin strands – has fascistic overtones.

The promise of meritocracy has been seductive largely because of its close compatibility with neoliberalism, today’s predominant, in fact unrivalled, politico-economic ideology. Predicated on the realism that humans do indeed have an ingrained predisposition to social hierarchy (something that traditional concepts of egalitarianism sought to abolish), it offers a reconfigured market solution to foster a sort of laissez-faire egalitarianism: the equalisation of wealth and status along lines that are strictly “as nature intended”. Furthermore, it appeals to some on the left by making a persuasive case for “equality of opportunity”, if always to the detriment of the more ambitious goal of “equality of outcome”. A sidelining of “equality of outcome” that has led to a dramatic lowering of the bar with regards to what even qualifies as social justice.

Moreover, the rightward drift to meritocracy involves the downplaying of class politics in favour of today’s more factional and brittle politics of identity. This follows because under meritocracy the rigid class barriers of yesteryear are ostensibly made permeable and in the long run must slowly crumble away altogether. In reality, of course, social mobility is heavily restricted for reasons already discussed at length. But this abandonment of class politics in favour of the divisiveness of identity politics is greatly to the benefit of the ruling establishment of course. Divide and conquer has been their oldest maxim.

Interestingly, of the many advocates of meritocracy – from Thatcher to Reagan; Brown to Blair; Cameron to Obama; Merkel to May – none have bothered to very precisely define their terms. What do they mean to imply by ‘merit’ and its innately slippery counterpart ‘fairness’? And whilst they talk of ‘fairness’ over and over again – ‘fairness’ purportedly underlying every policy decision they have ever taken – the actual direction all this ‘fairness’ was leading caused a few to wonder whether ‘fairness’ might be wrong in principle! Like other grossly misappropriated abstract nouns – ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ spring instantly to mind – the difficulty here is that ‘fairness’ is a handy fig-leaf.

Instead, and if we genuinely wish to live in a society striving for greater equality, then the political emphasis ought not to be placed too heavily on wooly notions like ‘merit’ or ‘fairness’ but upon enabling democracy in the fullest sense. The voice of the people may not be the voice of God, but it is, to paraphrase Churchill (who mostly hated it), the least worst system.14 One person, one vote, if not quite the bare essence of egalitarianism, serves both as a fail-safe and a necessary foundation.

Of course, we must always guard against the “tyranny of the majority” by means of a constitutional framework that ensures basic rights and freedoms for all. For democracy offers an imperfect solution, but cleverly conceived and justly organised neither is it, as so many right-wing libertarians are quick to tell you: “two wolves and a sheep deciding what to have for dinner”. This sideswipe is not just glib, but a better description by far of the extreme right-wing anarchy they advocate. In reality, it is their beloved ‘invisible hand’ that better ensures rampant inequality and social division, and for so long as its influence remains unseen and unfettered, will continue to do so, by rigging elections and tipping the scales of justice.

Democracy – from its own etymology: rule by the people – is equality in its most settled form. Yet if such real democracy is ever to arise and flourish then we must have a free-thinking people. So the prerequisite for real democracy is real education – sadly we are a long way short of this goal too and once again heading off in the wrong direction. But that’s for a later chapter.

Next chapter…

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Addendum: our stakeholder society and the tyranny of choice

Prior to the rise of Jeremy Corbyn and to a lesser extent Bernie Sanders (for further thoughts on Sanders read my earlier posts), mainstream politics in Britain and America, as more widely, were converged to such a high degree that opposition parties were broadly in conjunction. Left and right had collapsed to form a single “centrist” amalgam in agreement across a wide range of diverse issues spanning race relations, gender equality, immigration, environmentalism, to foreign policy, and most remarkably, economics. In Britain, as in America, the two major parties ceased even to disagree over the defining issue of nationalisation versus privatisation because both sides now approved of the incorporation of private sector involvement into every area of our lives. “Big government”, our politicians echoed in unison, is neither desirable nor any longer possible. Instead, we shall step aside for big business, and limit ourselves to resolving “the real issues”.

The real issues? Why yes, with the business sector running all the fiddly stuff, governments pivoted to address the expansion of individual opportunity and choice. Especially choice. Choice now became the paramount concern.

Even the delivery of essential public services, once the duty of every government (Tory and Labour alike), began to be outsourced. No holy cows. It became the common doctrine that waste and inefficiency in our public services would be abolished by competition including the introduction of internal markets and public-private partnerships, which aside from helping to foster efficiency, would, importantly, diversify customer choice once again.

Under the new social arrangement, we, the people, became “stakeholders” in an altogether more meritocratic venture. Here is Tony Blair outlining his case for our progressive common cause:

“We need a country in which we acknowledge an obligation collectively to ensure each citizen gets a stake in it. One Nation politics is not some expression of sentiment, or even of justifiable concern for the less well off. It is an active politics, the bringing of a country together, a sharing of the possibility of power, wealth and opportunity…. If people feel they have no stake in society, they feel little responsibility towards it, and little inclination to work for its success. ….”15

Fine aspirations, you may think. But wait, and let’s remember that Blair was trained as a lawyer, so every word here counts. “Sharing in the possibility of power…” Does this actually mean anything at all? Or his first sentence which ends: “…to ensure each citizen gets a stake in it” – “it” in this context presumably meaning “the country” (his subject at the beginning). But every citizen already has a stake in the country, doesn’t s/he? Isn’t that what being a citizen means: to be a member of a nation state with an interest, or ‘stake’ (if we insist) in what goes on. However, according to Blair’s “One Nation” vision, members of the public (as we were formerly known) are seemingly required to become fully paid-up “stakeholders”. But how…?

Do we have to do something extra, or are our “stakeholder” voices to be heard simply by virtue of the choices we make? Is this the big idea? The hows and wheres of earning a salary, and then of spending or else investing it; is this to be the main measure of our “stakeholder” participation? In fact, is “stakeholder” anything different than “stockholder” in UK plc? Or is it less than this? Is “stakeholder” substantially different from “consumer”? According to the Financial Times lexicon’s definition, a stakeholder society is:

“A society in which companies and their employees share economic successes.”16

Well, I certainly don’t recall voting for that.

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We are increasingly boggled by choice. Once there was a single electricity supply and a single gas supply – one price fitting all. Now we have literally dozens of companies offering different deals – yet all these deals finally deliver an entirely identical supply of electricity and gas. The single difference is the price, but still you have to choose. So precious moments of our once around the sun existence are devoted to worrying about which power company is charging the least amount. And the companies know all this, of course, so they make their deals as complicated as possible. Perhaps you’ll give up and choose the worst of options – for the companies concerned, this is a winning strategy – thinking about it, this is their only winning strategy! Or, if you are of a mind to waste a few more of your precious never to be returned moments of existence, you may decide to check one of the many comparison websites – but again, which one? Just one inane and frustrating choice after another. And more of those tiresome tickboxes to navigate.

But choice is everything. So we also need to worry more about the latest school and hospital league tables. It is vital to exercise our right to choose in case an actual ambulance arrives with its siren already blaring. In these circumstances we need to be sure that the ambulance outside is bound for a hospital near to the top of the league, because it is in the nature of leagues that there is always bottom – league tables giving a relative assessment, and ensuring both winners and losers.

And provided, an entirely free choice – and not one based on catchment areas – what parent in their right mind elects to send their offspring to a worse school over a better one? So are we just to hope our nearest school and/or hospital is not ranked bottom? Thankfully, house prices save much of the time in helping to make these determinations.

Meantime I struggle to understand what our politicians and civil servants get up to in Whitehall these days. Precisely what do those who walk the corridors of power find to do each day? Reduced to the role of managers, what is finally left for them manage?

And where is all of this choice finally leading? In the future, perhaps, in place of elections, we will be able to voice our approval/dissatisfaction by way of customer surveys. With this in mind, please take a moment to select the response that best reflects your own feelings:

Given the choice, would you say you prefer to live in a society that is:

 More fair

Less fair

Not sure

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Please note that for the purposes of ‘publishing’ here I have taken advantage of the option to incorporate hypertext links and embed videos – in order to distinguish additional commentary from the original text all newly incorporated text has been italised.

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1 Quote taken from Chapter 10 of George Orwell’s satirical fairytale Animal Farm published in 1945. After the animals have ceased power at the farm they formulate “a complete system of thought” which is designed to unite the animals as well as preventing them from returning to the evil ways of the humans. The seventh and last of these original commandments of ‘Animalism’ is straightforwardly that “All animals are equal”, however, after the pigs have risen to dominance again, the sign is revised and so this last commandment reads “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”.

2 From an article entitled “Down with meritocracy: The man who coined the term four decades ago wishes Tony Blair would stop using it” written by Michael Young, published in the Guardian on June 29, 2001. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2001/jun/29/comment

3 Quote taken from a sermon by Martin Luther King Jr. delivered at Temple Israel of Hollywood delivered on February 25, 1965. In fuller context, he said:

“And I believe it because somehow the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice. We shall overcome because Carlyle is right: “No lie can live forever.” We shall overcome because William Cullen Bryant is right: “Truth crushed to earth will rise again.” We shall overcome because James Russell Lowell is right: “Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne. Yet, that scaffold sways the future and behind the dim unknown standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.”

An audio recording of King’s speech and a full transcript is available here: http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlktempleisraelhollywood.htm

4 Quote taken from a meeting on April 22nd, 2000 with American white supremacist and former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, that was recorded as “American Friends of the British National Party” video.

In fuller context Griffin says:

“Perhaps one day, once by being rather more subtle we got ourselves in a position where we control the British Broadcasting media and then we tell ’em really how serious the immigration problem was, and we tell them the truth about a lot of the crime that’s been going on, if we tell ’em really what multiracialism has meant and means for the future, then perhaps one day the British people might change their mind and say yes every last one must go.  Perhaps they will one day.  But if you hold that out as your sole aim to start with, you’re going to get absolutely nowhere. So instead of talking about racial purity, you talk about identity, and about the needs and the rights and the duty to preserve and enhance the identity of our own people.  My primary identity quite simply is there (points to veins in wrist). That’s the thing that counts.”

The clip was shown in BBC1’s Panorama: Under the Skin first broadcast on November 25, 2001.

The transcript is available here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/static/audio_video/programmes/panorama/transcripts/transcript_25_11_01.txt

5 Although these words are frequently attributed to Wilde himself, they actually belong to one of his characters. To Lord Henry Wotton who says “To me, beauty is the wonder of wonders. It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.” Taken from Chapter 2 of Wilde’s once scandalous novel The Picture of Dorian Gray.

6 The “Class Sketch” was first broadcast on April 7, 1966 in an episode of David Frost’s satirical BBC show The Frost Report. It was written by Marty Feldman and John Law, and performed by John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett in descending order of height!

7 Anticipations of the Reaction of Mechanical and Scientific Progress upon Human Life and Thought (1901), is one of H.G.Wells’ earliest blueprints for the future. Set in 2000, a youthful Wells (aged 34) suggested an altogether more matter of fact solution to the problem of what he then called “the People of the Abyss” than a promise of education, education, education (the commentary is my own of course):

“It has become apparent that whole masses of human population are, as a whole, inferior in their claim upon the future, to other masses, that they cannot be given opportunities or trusted with power as superior peoples are trusted, that their characteristic weaknesses are contagious and detrimental in the civilizing fabric, and that their range of incapacity tempts and demoralises the strong. To give them equality is to sink to their level, to protect and cherish them is to be swamped in their fecundity…”

Which is putting it most politely! Oh dear, oh dear! What has happened to the clarion call for freedom and equality (and here I mean equality of opportunity, since to be fair Wells was ever the egalitarian, consistently keener on meritocracy than any of the more radical ideals of wealth redistribution). Might it be that the young Mr Wells was showing off his truer colours? Let us go on a little:

“The new ethics will hold life to be a privilege and a responsibility, not a sort of night refuge for base spirits out of the void; and the alternative in right conduct between living fully, beautifully, and efficiently will be to die.”

Just who are the hideous hoards who Wells so pities and despises (in roughly equal measures)? Let us read on:

“…the small minority, for example, afflicted with indisputably transmissible diseases, with transmissible mental disorders, with such hideous incurable habits of the mind as the craving for intoxication…”

But he’s jesting… isn’t he?

“And I imagine also the plea and proof that a grave criminal is also insane will be regarded by them [the men of the New Republic] not as a reason for mercy, but as an added reason for death…”

Death? Why not prison and rehabilitation…?

“The men of the New Republic will not be squeamish either, in facing or inflicting death, because they will have a fuller sense of the possibilities of life than we possess…”

Ah, I see, yes since put like that… yes, yes, death and more death, splendid!

“All such killing will be done with an opiate, for death is too grave a thing to be made painful or dreadful, and used as a deterrent for crime. If deterrent punishments are to be used at all in the code of the future, the deterrent will neither be death, nor mutilation of the body, nor mutilation of the life by imprisonment, nor any horrible things like that, but good scientifically caused pain, that will leave nothing but memory…”

An avoidance of nasty old pain… that’s good I suppose.

“…The conscious infliction of pain for the sake of pain is against the better nature of man, and it is unsafe and demoralising for anyone to undertake this duty. To kill under the seemly conditions of science will afford is a far less offensive thing.”

Death, yes, a more final solution, of course, of course…

This is horrifying, of couse, especially in light of what followed historically.

Deep down Wells was an unabashed snob, though hardly exceptional for his time. Less forgivably, Wells was a foaming misanthropist (especially so when sneering down on the hoi polloi). But mostly he longed to perfect the human species, and as a young man had unflinchingly advocated interventions no less surgical than those needed to cure any other cancerous organ. But then of course, it was once fashionable for intellectual types to seek scientific answers to social problems: programmes of mass-sterilisation and selective reproduction.

His Fabian rival George Bernard Shaw had likewise talked of selective breeding in his own quest to develop a race of supermen, whilst Julian Huxley, Aldous’s big brother, was perhaps the foremost and pioneering advocate of eugenics, later coining the less soiled term ‘transhumanism’ to lessen the post-Nazi stigma. Judged in the broader historical context therefore, Wells was simply another such dreaming ideologue.

That Wells was also one of the first to use the term “new world order” maybe of little lasting significance, however totalitarian his visions for World Socialism, but importantly Wells was never in the position to realise his grander visions, in spite of being sufficiently well-connected to arrange private meetings with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who entertained him over dinner, and with Joseph Stalin at the Kremlin. Finally, he was unable to inspire enough significant others to engage in his “open conspiracy”.

All extracts below are taken from Anticipation of the Reaction of Mechanical and Scientific Progress upon Human Life and Thought, Chapman & Hall, 1901

8

Like most of his contemporaries, family and friends, he regarded races as different, racial characteristics as signs of the maturity of a society, and racial purity as endangered not only by other races but by mental weaknesses within a race. As a young politician in Britain entering Parliament in 1901, Churchill saw what were then known as the “feeble-minded” and the “insane” as a threat to the prosperity, vigour and virility of British society.

The phrase “feeble-minded” was to be defined as part of the Mental Deficiency Act 1913, of which Churchill had been one of the early drafters. The Act defined four grades of “Mental Defective” who could be confined for life, whose symptoms had to be present “from birth or from an early age.” “Idiots” were defined as people “so deeply defective in mind as to be unable to guard against common physical dangers.” “Imbeciles” were not idiots, but were “incapable of managing themselves or their affairs, or, in the case of children, of being taught to do so.” The “feeble-minded” were neither idiots nor imbeciles, but, if adults, their condition was “so pronounced that they require care, supervision, and control for their own protection or the protection of others.”

Extract taken from a short essay called “Churchill and Eugenics” written by Sir Martin Gilbert, published on May 31, 2009 on the Churchill Centre website. http://www.winstonchurchill.org/support/the-churchill-centre/publications/finest-hour-online/594-churchill-and-eugenics

9 “Population reduction” is another leftover residue of the old eugenics programme but freshly justified on purportedly scientific and seemingly less terrible neo-Malthusian grounds – when previous “population reduction” was unashamedly justified and executed on the basis of the pseudoscience of eugenics, the pruning was always done from the bottom up, of course.

10 Aside from being the invention of pioneering eugenicist Francis Galton, the IQ test was an pseudo-scientific approach that first appeared to be validated thanks to the research of Cyril Burt who had devised ‘twin studies’ to prove the heritability of IQ. However, those studies turned out to be fraudulent:

“After Burt’s death, striking anomalies in some of his test data led some scientists to reexamine his statistical methods. They concluded that Burt manipulated and probably falsified those IQ test results that most convincingly supported his theories on transmitted intelligence and social class. The debate over his conduct continued, but all sides agreed that his later research was at least highly flawed, and many accepted that he fabricated some data.”

From the current entry in Encyclopaedia Britannica. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/85886/Sir-Cyril-Burt

11

Eugenics is now rightly abjured, and if only for its abominable record for cruelty. But the cruelty of the many twentieth century programmes of eugenics was hardly incidental. Any attempt to alter human populations to make them fit an imposed social structure by means of the calculated elimination and deliberate manipulation of genetic stock automatically reduces people to the same level as farm animals.

It should be remembered too that what the Nazis had tried to achieve by mass murder across Europe was only novel in terms of its extremely barbarous method. Eugenics programmes to get rid of “inferior” populations by forced sterilisation having been introduced earlier in America and surreptitiously continuing into the 1970s. For instance, there was a secret programme for the involuntary sterilisation of Native American women long after the World War II.

http://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/american_indian_quarterly/v024/24.3lawrence.html

12 From the same Guardian article entitled “Down with meritocracy” written by Michael Young, published in June, 2001.

13 Van Gogh famously sold one painting during his lifetime, Red Vineyard at Arles. A painting that now resides at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. The rest of Van Gogh’s more than 900 paintings were not sold nor came to public attention until after his death.

14

“Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

— Winston Churchill in a speech to the House of Commons, November 11, 1947.

15 Tony Blair speaking in Singapore on January 7, 1996.

16 The source for this definition is given as the Longman Business English Dictionary (although the link is lost). http://lexicon.ft.com/Term?term=stakeholder-society

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