9.4.14

Henri Sellier - Blanquiste, friend and hero

It is clear now that the future can rescue the past. Our future will rescue our past. This is an echo of my concept of meaning coming from the future. What seems random to you now will not seem random to those who are capable of looking back.

If you believe in constant cumulative human progress, and I do, then assuredly, if we are lucky enough and sufficiently competent enough to recover enough information, will understand the behaviour and psyches of the people who lived in the past, perhaps better than commentators did at the time. We will understand their societies and the choices they made and the consequences of their actions better than they did.

The age of the Internet, presently hovering on the edge the of a cyberclasm, is an age when we can find out more and more about our families' histories and the people who interacted with them. Thanks to both the work of Wikileaks and Wikipedia and to the work of historians, amateur and professional. The truth is that every family and every organisation and every individual will soon become an historian.

Take power over your own narrative; or read the information in some state data archive maintained by privatised operatives like AQA and Rentokil? It's up to you.

And so the story was in my family that part of the reason why Granny Lisa survived so well during the war was because she went to the mayor of Suresnes and ask for help and got it. She was given a job by this mayor as a French German translator and hospital administrator in the Hospital Foch in Suresnes.

It was my father, the real Tony Hall, who said:

Sellier was obviously reacting partly to granny's beauty and forthrightness and the fact that she had a cute little four year old girl. But he helped her. He was actually quite a well known figure and they said he may had links with the resistance. That would why granny was left alone by the French and why she she was not called a collaborator or treated badly at the end of the war.

I suspect that Dad knew more than I know now - which would disprove my notion, of course.

But who was this mayor and why was he a well know figure and what happened to him and was the relationship with Granny platonic? Dad said there was no inkling of any affair. Knowing Granny it seems unlikely.


But now we are in a position to find out more about Henri Sellier.

20.12.13

Isidore Steinhardt: Neue Freie Presse

This Internet age has give me access to the whole digitised collection of the influential Viennese newspaper the "Neue Freie Presse" N.F.P. 1864-1939.

My great grandfather Isadore Steinhardt was the Foreign editor of the N.F.P. According to one source:
.
"It was considered, by many pundits to be the best newspaper in Europe, on a par with the Times in London and Le Temps in Paris. It may well have had "the highest journalistic standards in the world" being 'the foremost paper in the [Austro-Hungarian] Empire.' "
.
He was also the foreign correspondent of the Daily Mail. His expertise was the Balkan countries. He lived in Sophia in Bulgaria for ten years and was an expert on Bulgarian affairs. Subsequently Isidore was based in Sarajevo in 1918 and he was on the steps along with other dignitaries and members of the press, ready to greet the Archduke Franz Ferdinand shortly before he was assassinated. He died in 1941 in Prague and left a widow, my great grandmother, Regine Steinhardt. I have discovered his obituary. I can understand it partially, because I understand Russian.

5.12.13

Tony Hall: Going underground to meet Nelson Mandela in 1961

Hi Lucy,

Grandpa here - I have just dropped off Frank Hardee and a friend who spent the weekend with us, I will now turn to the interview story:

It was 1961, I was a reporter on the main SA daily newspaper The Star...

The African National Congress had been banned by the white Apartheid government, and its leaders house arrested and not allowed to meet or speak publicly. Nelson Mandela, a Johannesburg lawyer, and one of the top leadership, had gone underground, slipped out of the country. He went to London, where he spoke in Trafalgar Square, to other capitals, and to Algeria, one of the countries which supported the ANC, and he addressed the Organisation of African Unity in Addis Ababa. The tour was to announce to the world that the ANC was alive and carrying on the freedom struggle, and by the end of it, Nelson Mandela was a very well known figure. .

He then slipped back into the country, and in disguise, started on a tour of South African centres to mobilise ANC and support from all races for the calling of a National Convention to demand votes for all and a new constitution for majority rule.

In order to be able to move around the country he disguised himself as a chauffeur, complete with the old fashioned dark blue coat with brass buttons, and a traditional chauffeur's cap. His "employer" grandly sitting in the back of the limousine, was a well known Johannesburg actor named Cecil Williams, who was a secret ANC supporter.

Before they set off on the national tour, I was contacted at my newspaper in Johannesburg by ANC friends and asked to come and interview him , at a secret venue. (They knew that, as a Congress movement member myself, I could be trusted not to reveal his hiding place, or leak it to the police.)

One afternoon, a few blocks from the office, I was picked up in an ordinary car, but with darkened windows, and driven to a small house in what were then the Indian suburbs. I was taken quickly into a very small room where the dignified figure of Nelson Mandela, already becoming known in the media as 'the black pimpernel', sat at a dining table. He nodded a greeting. As I sat down opposite him I pulled out my notebook, I was in awe. His bearing was so erect and commanding - as it is to this day, even in his old age - his coat so brushed and the buttons shining, his hair neatly centre parted as it was in those days. I remember thinking to myself, nobody could be fooled into thinking this man could be anybody's underling.

He spoke of the plan for a three-day nationwide strike, about which the whole country was on tenterhooks, if the demand for a National Convention, and to work out a whole new deal for the people of South Africa, was not met. Johannesburg was tense with expectation.

I went back to the Star newsroom, my stomach turning with excitement at the coming front page story I had. But I promised that, beyond saying that the interview was at 'a secret venue', I would not try to report where it was or how he looked. - nothing that could give him away. I would report in detail only what he had to say.

He went on from there, 'chauffeuring' all round the country, holding one secret meeting after another to mobilise the leading people in the provinces, but making few more, if any public pronouncements direct to journalists...

...until one day, driving on the road near the Howick Falls in Natal, a following car pulled in front of them, armed men got out and arrested both Nelson Mandela and Cecil Williams. An informer had put the secret police on their trail. Cecil Williams ordeal ended in deportation to Britain. For Nelson Mandela, it was the beginning of his decades in jail.

A few months after my secret interview with Mandela, my wife Eve was arrested for promoting the objects of the banned African National Congress, and spent months in jail. She was then fined for 'insulting' the apartheid state president in a protest leaflet which she signed. We were both listed as members of a banned organisation, and could no longer work as journalists. We left as a family, with our three sons, to a life of exile, in UK and around Africa.

The first time I met him again was about thirty years later, at a birthday party in Johannesburg for the famous singer Miriam Makeba, who had become known as 'Mama Africa'. It was one of those many parties for all of us, to celebrate coming back home, after almost three decades of exile.

Grandpa - Dad - Tony Hall

Read the interview here

23.7.12

Be like Bianca - be an activist.

Be like Bianca Jagger Perez Mora; be an activist

After the march against the war in Iraq in 2003 Tony Blair’s government ignored the 2 million protesters and went ahead with the war in Iraq anyway.

Many people concluded there was no point in demonstrating and protesting. Despite the pessimism engendered by Labour’s blindness to popular opposition all those years ago, and subsequent disappointments, there is still room for manoeuvre in a western democracy. It is still possible to be an active citizen here in ways that would land you in prison or on execution row in China or Syria. Be like Bianca Jagger Perez Mora, be an activist.

Violence, mob rule and a lack of self-restraint puts people off.  But most activists are not violent. A typical activist is a concerned citizen, not a romantic making violent political gestures to fire up a dormant populace. Punch ups sell stories, so we are presented with the bloody face of a young demonstrator before we see an anodyne poster of ten thousand joyous marching people, we are shown ten people smashing shop windows, dressed in black balaclavas instead of a joyful carnival of students.

Don’t imagine most activism is illegal, it is legal. Yes, at the sharp end, activism takes place on the borders of legality - and sometimes it crosses that border. Occupy Wall street went into the homes of poor people and squatted there to stop these homes from being repossessed; international activists chained themselves to houses on the West Bank to stop them from being bulldozed; eco-warriors have lived in trees to stop them from being cut down; Green Peace has steered its speed boats between the harpoons of  Japanese whalers and the whales. In high dudgeon, animal rights activists have broken into research stations to release vivisected animals.

But not all political action is at the sharp end. Long before windows start being smashed, heads are bloodied, installations are broken into and rubber bullets and tear gas are fired, there are a whole range of actions we are legally permitted to take which may have a big impact. At the softest end of activism buying Fair Trade coffee and chocolate supports free trade, watching certain live music and comedy events results in money going to charity.

Neither does activism have to be overly boring or worthy. A seasoned campaigner and friend told me dourly:  “It’s bloody hard work. You have to do things like stand on street corners for hours giving out leaflets to people, most of whom don’t give a damn and some who are actively rude.” It is true that do-gooding requires a degree of self-sacrifice, but being an activist can also be enjoyable. It doesn’t have to be a grinding path to secular sainthood.

The experience, of raising money for a well in a village in Kenya, of working as a school governor, of fighting for a prisoner’s rights, of campaigning against hospital closures, of lobbying for debt cancellation in less developed countries, of campaigning against privatisation, of arguing for a new form of economics, of defending animals, of demonstrating against tuition fees, of demonstrating against prejudice, of defending equal rights, of defending civil liberties is Exhilarating. Debate and action, the feeling of solidarity and a sense of achievement are deeply rewarding.

 Activism is often the highlight of a life, and it is also plain old civics. Getting involved in the democratic process itself is the essence of activism.

Being a citizen and an activist should not be risky in a democratic society because in a truly democratic society all citizens are should be activists. The last thing anyone wants to get a criminal record and end up on a watch list of subversives. This is the fear that dissuades students burdened with repaying fees, young people looking for jobs, ordinary people burdened with mortgages and debt.  People need to protect their futures, to feed their families and house them and provide them with the essentials. They can’t ‘play’ at activism if that activism will get them blacklisted.

We must work on the assumption that we still live in a representative democracy while we can. Activism is an essential component of civics, and should not result in threats and countermeasures in a democratic state.

12.4.12

Ken Livingstone: the father of multicultural London



Ken Livingstone, the leader of the GLC

"Red" Ken should stand for PM. Ken Livingstone and the GLC turned London into the leading city in the world. London Labour promoted a community spirit and racial and religious harmony and they introduced celebratory multiculturalism into London. They helped the fight against the neo-fascist National Front. The Greater London Council (GLC) supported feminism and gay rights movements in the 80s. They lead the way and catalyzed a cultural revolution, and the world followed.

London Labour did this at at time while creeps like like Kinnock and Blair were crawling and back-stabbing their way to the top of the party. For many years people defended the 'moderates' like Blair and attacked "extremists" like Tony Benn and Ken Livingstone. That is, until we found out Blair and his band of turncoats were actually not moderates at all. They were dangerous, craven, warmongering, right-wing ideologues.

It was London Labour and Ken and the GLC who stood up to Thatcher, the liberals did not. It was not the wankers in their houses in Hampstead saying 'Why can't we all just get along?' that made London into the tolerant and diverse city it became. It wasn't 'The Guardian 'What Won It' for a tolerant multiracial society. It was the Labour left supported by the people of London.

The management of London in the 1970s was all about corrupt Tory politicians making deals with property developers in the Docklands. It was everything for the rich and nothing for the poor. Livingstone and London Labour and his left wing alliance in the 80s actually RE-CREATED a new idea of London from the ashes of the 1970s, in a plangeant counterpoint to the 1980s deregulation of the City. The Labour GLC generated an atmosphere of community solidarity in London

This time, the corrupt deals and property speculation in London have gone global and there is no real labour opposition to the Conservative government.

The only way the Tories could deal with Ken and London Labour and his broad alliance - which cut across, political, class, sexual, religious and racial  boundaries - was to abolish democracy. If you want a litmus test for British politics just just ask someone what they think of the GLC in London in the 80s. Right wing newspapers and journalists were the worst enemies of the people in those days, in particular the journalists of The Standard.

The GLC stood up bravely for the people of London, not the bankers and the establishment, and the GLC buildings stood diametrically opposite the Houses of Parliament. The GLC was a symbol for everyone who hated the selfishness and the mean spiritedness that the Tories unleashed in the 80s.

London is a progressive City, though its people are pushed further and further outside its boundaries. Spitefully, Thatcher and her henchmen sold off the GLC buildings after they abolished local democracy in London. They tried to sow salt into the soil of Carthage in the hope that London will never oppose the Tory government again.

Every time those of us who know see the building that used to house the GLC in London we feel sickened by what the Tories did - by their sarcastic response to the abolition of democracy. They turned the GLC building, London's Parliament, into a luxury hotel.


31.1.12

Austerity is a lie.

There is no profit to be made in taking poor children out of poverty.


Austerity is a lie because it is people's labour and intelligence and work that produce value. If we wanted to live in an abundant economy and distribute food to everyone on the planet and get everyone working productively we could. Instead we sit around waiting for Godot. Godot is the market.


All that productive energy we have, all that power to create and work and improve and build and change - all of it...held in abeyance while we wait for Godot, while we wait for the mysterious market forces to move the right way.


What's stopping us from building things, maintaining things, from growing things and inventing things and looking after people? We could solve all our problems like a shot. We could make sure no child died of hunger. We could get rid of poverty. But there is no fast buck to be made from feeding starving children and that's the problem with capitalism.

In Africa women in the rural areas often have no money at all because they don't enter into the cash economy. All of their backbreaking work is unpaid and unrecognised. They are left in the countryside to grow crops and feed their children and send them to school if they can. They do all this with no money just the power of their labour.


The trick of the Big Society is to take out cash from socially useful work and flow it back into the banks and the City so the whole speculative machine can restart. The Big Society is a way of blowing a big raspberry at those who deserve help, and at those who deserve to get paid for doing socially valuable work.


We don't have to wait for City and corporate starting guns to signal to us when we should work productively. Organised human activity can generate wealth without the need to wait for profit to motivate. Perhaps partial or complete nationalisation of the great corporations and banks would be a solution. The break up of the big monopolies. The reordering of priorities.


 In Britain in the 50s 60s and 70s a fair amount of the wealth of the country was circulated amongst ordinary people because the purpose of nationalised industry was not simply to generate profit. The BBC is not Big Brother, it still produces some of the best TV in the world and it is state owned. It is a nationalised industry. British universities are among the best in the world and they are state owned. The British civil service is the best in the world and it is state owned. British museums and galleries are the best in the world and they are state owned. British research institutes are the best in the world and they are state owned. The National Health Service is better than many private health care systems and it is state owned. A state owned organisation can be a well run organisation and produce quality goods and services.


The point about a nationalised industry is that its purpose is to serve the people. The point about a private monopoly is that its purpose is to make a profit.


The whole austerity debt hoax is a just a way of manipulating and controlling people. We don't have to wait for Godot, or wait for market forces to move us.





27.9.11

Generous responses to the discussion on the rights and duties of ownership


Bryan G.


Dear Phil,

Thanks for the article and I’m sorry to have taken so long to get back
to you. As I read it I heard my own voice echoing the same or similar
arguments some years ago when I wrote a series of articles on
political, economic and ethical issues for a European journal.

The points you make about rights having their complement in
responsibilities is a point that needs to made with increasing
emphasis. In his famous book, The World we have Lost, a book about the
early modern period in English history, Peter Laslet describes how
employers in the sixteenth century employed apprentices in just the
way you suggest: they accepted all of their broader responsibilities.
In effect, the apprentice would become a full member of the family,
not just a ‘hand’, to use that most revealing of all metaphors that
arose in the early stages of the Industrial Revolution.

They accepted that when they employed someone they were employing the
complete person, not just one aspect of his complex personality. They
had responsibility for his emotional, moral and physical well being.
This strikes a sharp contrast with modern capitalism and liberal
democracy with their innate reductionist logic that sees society as
just a loose collection of isolated individuals and individuals as
just an abstraction, a ‘hand’.

It’s the logic of the free market to emphasise rights in isolation,
but it brings with it huge problems that we are ill-equipped to tackle
as long as we are in thrall to the nineteenth century ideology of the
free market. We have come to believe that this elegant
all-encompassing concept is nature’s ultimate self-righting mechanism,
that, if left to itself, will bring about the best of all worlds.
Unfortunately, politicians’ myopic gaze is so distorted by this
ideology that they fail to see the empirical evidence that shows not
only that free markets are an ideal concept rarely found in the real
world, but that they are driven more often that not by emotion, herd
instinct and panic. So, their blind acceptance of it as a regulatory
device is an abdication of reason.

More important, markets concentrate power into the hands of a few,
leaving societies riven by unsustainable social inequality. At
beginning of the twenty-first century we are left with problems that
were clearly foreseen in the nineteenth century and by many
commentators in the twentieth: an unsustainable passion for growth as
the natural world struggles to replenish itself (it takes the Earth
almost 15 months to regenerate what we use up in 12 months), global
warming, which is almost beyond our means to rein in, and rapidly
developing social injustice on a global scale, the threat of which can
only be held in check with ever greater concentrations of power in the
hands of leaders whose instincts are far from democratic.

I’m sorry to rant, but you have got me going. Like you, I suspect, I
would love to be able to contribute in some way to a movement that
raises consciousness of these issues in much the same way that the
Arab Spring was brought about. It has to be a bottom-up movement. Only
in this way can creative thinking break through the conventional
thinking of established ideologies.

Thank you for letting me read this. Keep in touch.

Best wishes,

Bryan G.



_____________________________________________________


Juan Carlos Chirgwin

Philip,

querido amigo,

Thank you for your letter and for your invitation to comment on your document.

But first of all let me apologise for my silence and lack of communication, but I do not have any longer the amount of energy and drive which I used spill daily during my younger days. Fortunately family obligations now take most of my productive time, and with Ximena we are always busy with the grandchildren.

Let me add though that I did read and much enjoyed documents you sent me months ago about Eve and Tony’s lives and their experiences. Thank you for sharing them.

Let me turn to your document concerning “property” and to protection values that by “natural law” are attached to such concept, although these have suffered pretty badly from man-made “legal erosion”.  And therefore nowadays most of the “social obligations” connected with property appear to be hidden behind imposing walls of legal-paperwork that are in essence “illegitimate”.

But, the system that presently controls power in all the important political decision making centres, is well pleased with such arrangements and the only changes that might be tolerated are those that will add another turn of the screw of the “garrote vil” choking “public well-being”.

I feel just like you that our behaviour must we guided by both our individual needs and our responsibilities to other people and to our environment. The delicate balance between them is essential to ensure a stable relationship that allows the strengthening of the bonds among the different participants (beings and non-beings). Thus, from the very beginning we must strive to appreciate cooperation and respect – values that are totally lacking in today’s globalised world of domination and disdain for others.

In your document you analyse the problem of property from several angles. They include the meaning of property, and here we stumble with the first problem: it appears to have different meanings, and these changes are linked to categories both of people and of type of property.
The confusion of having different meanings for the same “word” is made worse when we learn that “the law” – an institution created by the people to ensure just treatment among them – has produced legal tools which justify some people to enjoy less obligations which are linked to their rights of property.

Finally confusion is turned to despair when this duplicity becomes the very essence of production and trading system, thus ensuring an economy that leads to concentration of riches and power in the hand of few people while the vast majority becomes responsible for all physical efforts and most of the intellectual input but with very meagre participation in the benefits which are obtained. 

This overall look at the specific problem of property shows us that it is a complex problem. We humans have an uncanny twist to make our own life more difficult. And this is made worse the moment selfish interests creep into the fray. So I believe that we have to study “property” in terms of an idea (its conceptual meaning; its relationship with human values), in terms of its legitimate legal definition, and also as a factor of production and trade. Perhaps other aspects could be added, making it even more complex. But even if we just consider these three, we must be aware that although we might try to be as impartial and scientific as possible, we are –each one of us-  in certain ways a product of a system made up not only of knowledge but of feelings.

As individuals, whether we like it or not, we have been for many years conditioned by “a life system” in which we were born, brought-up, educated and where we have preformed some kind of work and many other activities. Our language, our values, our traditions come as a special imprinting linked to some special culture; and there is no certainty this whole set of tools, that shape our social behaviour, does not have inclinations that play against the common good. Therefore, now that we are old enough to look back and analyse the ups-and-down of our lives, it is not difficult to feel that although each one of us is unique (a very promising trait), it is also true that most likely we could have been better. So most surely we all have a challenge ahead of us, and that is to strive for improvement. In order to strive in this direction we must verify each and every factor that guide our decisions and that condition our feelings, so that we can check all those factors which could affect negatively initiatives that search for the common good. We must be always alert and permanently striving to improve our social behaviour.

Human groups, throughout history, have shown brave attempts to question “systems of life” in which they lived. And some individuals even organised rebellions against “norms of behaviour” that had been imposed by force through organised structures of power which showed no respect for the common good of the vast majority of peoples. The most important modern political challenges to power structures, with worldwide repercussions, are those of the French Revolution and Bolshevik Revolution. In spite that these “ideas for social change” actually had a terrible cost in human lives, the mass of common people in countries that lived through it never had much opportunity to participate intellectually as individuals, to improve their social behaviour and contribute directly in better ways of government.  Similar social tragedies followed independence efforts that eventually overthrew colonial empires during the 19th century and wars of liberation during the 20th century. History shows how, each and every successful uprising, was unable to deal with the legacy of the previous power system which through their ideas, institutions and manpower (their Status Quo), surreptitiously infiltrated the “new power system”.

From these rebellious efforts we can conclude that “ideas for social change” apparently need a prolonged period to organise masses of people to define by themselves and to practice new form of government; and, another indispensable condition, is that no external interference should occur threatening the good progress of the process of social change.

And all this longwinded chain of ideas leads me to uncomfortable conclusions. Our historical record seems to show that important events linked to “ideas for social change” have never been accepted by existing power systems. So perhaps the first conclusion is that authentic participation of the people has never come to fruition, at best ignored and most likely repressed. Democracy has never been truly present.

The second conclusion is that finally injustice can reach limits that are no longer tolerated and out of despair the suffering masses of people have no other way out but to turn to violence.
And an important remark to these conclusions: Up to now social upheaval has never expanded far enough and fast enough – important centres representing the interest of the “old regimes” remained sufficiently intact to pose a threat to the places where “ideas for social change” were in progress.

Thus it seems to me that the stuff that we are made of – our cultural legacy – is an important factor that plays against the “ideas for social change”. Most people are not willing to question the “system of power” in which they live. And the basic structures of modern social communities are conditioned by values, concepts and institutions that induce and control our thinking, feeling and actions in such a way that each individual “conforms to such norms”. Each individual is well aware of the risks implied by deviations from such norms.

We are at present living inside a complex system of power that is under the control of institutions
(multinational corporations) and in which virtual economic activities predominate. Furthermore countries and their governments, international institutions and world trade are all, directly or indirectly under their grip. Individuals and well meaning groups with alternative ways of thinking are thus faced with an enormous challenge. But even though they have been traditionally few in number and have limited tools to defend their ideas, they have always been present throughout history. I am sure that this is true today and that this will continue in the future until we change this world for the better.

Please forgive me for this untidy and obscure contribution but I hope that you might grasp that I am
very sympathetic to your assessment of the problem posed to us by “property”.
Best regards to you and your family. Lots of luck in all your endeavours.

Un gran abrazo

Juan Carlos
______________________________________________

Dominic Tweedie

Hello Phil,

Why are you stressing about the rich, qua rich? The act of exploitation happens in the workplace, not on the yacht.

The new relations of production that will supercede the sale and purchase of commodity labour-power and the consequent extraction of surplus value have to be visualised.

The new relations of production will equally as much as today be "collaborative projects" insofar as they conform to the basic human social pattern of two or more individuals mediated by a human artefact.

The problem today is not so much that the mediating social artefacts are property, but rather that they are in the first place commodity, and that for as much as we are in a world of commodities, human beings have been reduced to commodity labour-power.

The capitalist, acting as a capitalist, must throw his money back into the market, time and again. The capitalist's yacht, on the other hand, is not principally a circulating commodity, but is rather an enormous piece of consumption, and it is in this aspect of consumption that the yacht appears repulsive to you.

The essence of your criticism is not democracy or socialism. The essence of your criticism is bourgeois puritanism. You do not criticise commodity here. You criticise the rich when they attempt to escape from the world of commodity.

You criticise the rich when they try to cease behaving as bourgeois, and begin to behave as aristocrats. Of course to move from capitalism to feudalism is a step back. But your remedy is only to call, in effect, for the restoration of the (fantasy) bourgeois values of liberty, fraternity and equality. Such a "revolution" could only achieve the same result as before: the confirmation of bourgeois class rule.

May I offer you an alternative consolation? Consider that human beings do in fact behave in a largely communistic manner, even in the most bourgeois of societies. Language, the Internet, and daily life are all in practice carried on in the way of ancient society - interaction mediated by artefacts. Human relations are not entirely but only partially regimented by class-division and class domination.

I wish you would put http://domza.blogspot.com/ (Communist University) on your blogroll. It would give you support to the extent that you are not the only one kvetching, even if our conclusions may from time to time be different.
_________________________________________

C.A.B.

Phil, last week, I met someone helping to push democracy down to the smallest units of society by developing software tools that make collaborative decision-making as easy as possible. There is a small community in Australia -- Greater Geraldton -- already using these tools.

So you, for instance, would be shown how to make a specific proposal to do something about your fully justified outrage -- and put it up for debate by your community.

This is the way I lean -- towards action. I am tired of rhetoric, even of arguments as well thought-out as yours. I want to see more specific outlines of reform that other people help to improve.

Here's a clip from the website of the organisation CivicEvolution.org ... if the links don't go through, please would you re-post them:

"Think together to act together

We believe that meaningful change comes from the grassroots in the form of community written and supported plans to solve community problems.

How we do it

We complement traditional face-to-face citizen engagement with the scalability and access of social media and collaborative production. Our goal is to maximize everyone's ability to participate in creative community problem solving by giving them a platform where they can "Think together to act together."

Anyone can float ideas and aggregate clicks–meaningful change comes from a community written and supported plan to put an idea into action.

http://2029.civicevolution.org/
http://civicevolution.org/ ..."

24.9.11

The ultra rich imitate Captain Nemo, not Citizen Kane.


Rather than imagining they are powerful citizens, the ultra rich prefer to believe that they are naturally unconstrained and owe little to individual states. They fantasise that they roam the world like Captain Nemo, and assume they have far more rights than duties.

At the root of the problem of modern capitalist societies are the concepts governing property rights and duties. There should be limits set to what can be owned and what cannot be owned. Effectively, nothing is ever really fully privately owned, all property is a lease from the state.  You may buy your island from a country, but you are not buying a country.

Instead of simply re-nationalisating, though a few re-nationalisations wouldn't go amiss, we should reformulate property law. The problem with nationalisation is the problem of the Tragedy of the Commons. In other words, if no one owns something - fishing areas in international waters, for example - then that resource is exploited and exhausted. On a collectivised farm everything goes to pot and no one takes full responsibility for maintenance.

What is the value of property ownership itself? Pierre-Joseph Proudhon was wrong when he said 'Property is theft.' Property is not just theft. Clearly there is some value to it. Property owners look after their property. Property ownership generates value; call it the value of good husbandry. When you complete a transaction, the good husbandry of property has a price tag. It is called Goodwill and people will pay well over the odds for it. Good ownership creates identity, cohesiveness and permanence. It is worthwhile.

But ultimately, all property is merely leasehold from a legitimate national democratic state. At a deep level property is is not an inalienable right, it is a right that depends on the agreement of others. Ownership is tolerated and the only full ownership - in the people's name - can be by a democratic state so long as that state lasts. Property changes hands when the state changes hands. From a constitutional monarchy to a republic, for example.

The public highway, the coastline, beaches, land held in trust. These are examples of things whose ownership should be by the state and not by individuals or corporations. Individuals and corporate ownership would create privileged access and bottlenecks.

I would like to suggest a new approach.

 We need to extend the notion of property duties fully. It seems to me that the duties of property owners have somehow been scaled back and in many cases rescinded. There are effective ways of doing this.

Essentially property ownership is a civil right, like other civil rights. However, contrast the way the rights and duties of property holders are handled with the way other civil rights and duties are handled. The duties of property owners seem far too 'negotiable' and flexible.

Parliament should have more to say on your property duties. Property ownership should be treated as other citizens' rights and duties are treated. In other words, the way the government upholds property duties is more like one of the foundation stones of a society and less like an economic lever to be manipulated as an incentive.

There are limits to ownership. Ownership carries with it solemn duties so long as the owner is part of a nation state and not outside it like Captain Nemo. If you are going to have a state which permits the ownership of private property, then you had better sort out property rights and make sure the property owners meet their obligations and that, for example, they pay all their taxes and do not pollute.

The reality of ownership should be more like a software license. For example. If you own a certain number of shares in a company then you you should be licensed to use those shares in a defined set of circumstances, just as a software license holder would be.

Use this concept of extending a license, for example, in order to limit and regulate speculative activity in the financial and commodity markets. Curtail property rights that are overextended. Link property ownership closely to civic responsibility.This would change perceptions. Extending the idea of the duties of property owners changes our perception of someone like Branson, for example, from a mild mannered philanthropist to a marginally responsible corporate citizen. Branson may support charities and use fuel that is less damaging to the environment, but he also supported Thatcher and got the tax breaks.

Institute a Buffet - Gates Law

The Warren Buffet Pledge and the Tobin Tax, are a start. But they lack a systematic underpinning and so they lack force. When the income of an individual has exceeded a certain amount then that individual should not only be taxed to the same extent or more than an ordinary person, but that that individual be required to reinvest an increasing proportion of that income socially productive capital. For example 30% of 10 million. 50% of 50 million. 80% of 100 million. Why? Because property ownership is a civil right and a civil duty.

Without doubt property ownership raises moral questions, just as many other civil rights and duties raise moral questions.

Certain levels of ownership cannot be licensed. Capital accumulation should be licensed and paid for through sufficiently high levels of income tax and more, paid for by the active civic participation of property owners.

Use the concept of leasehold. Make all property leasehold (including shares) with an option for renewal for inheritance purposes. This way accumulation can be controlled.

I am not surprised that bankers do not understand the limits of property ownership rights or, indeed, that bankers do not understand what constitutes property owning duties: to reinvest, to pay taxes properly, to avoid risk.

So, in essence, democratically elected governments should adopt a new approach to the rights and duties of property ownership. Treat property ownership more like other citizens’ rights and duties and reformulate them in terms of licenses and leases. After all any property that is owned in Britain is only owned within the laws of a democratic state as a state given right.

8.9.11

Are we living in the New Dark Ages?

Philip Blond explaining the Big Society

The answer is that we ARE living in a new Dark Ages. What makes this time a new dark age is that the light of reason is being snuffed out. We have people here who claim to be children of the enlightenment, but they are philosophers and thinkers who actually do not believe in the power of philosophy, in the power of rational thought, or in the ability of humans to act forcefully and rationally upon their environment.

The philosophers began by imagining what a good society would be like. The 'Good Society' is the objective of most decent political philosophy. The Good Society can make rational decisions about the way society should be run, which is why capitalism opposes it.

How on Earth can we live in a society that does not believe in the intelligence and capacity of human beings and human societies to solve the problems that confront it?

In the New Dark Ages theorists are forced to use a religious language of the market, they are forced to accept the basic premise that humans cannot directly govern their own society, that they have to defer to a deity, in this case the market. How can we be said to be living in an age of enlightenment when our rulers abdicate moral responsibility and relegate human welfare  in preference to the workings and processes of wealth accumulation?

It becomes clear in our New Dark Ages our governments are not capable of taking rational and enlightened decisions and seeing them through. They do not have the power to do so. They do not have the power to decide:

- whether to go to war,
- whether to regulate the banking system,
- whether to mitigate the effects of climate change,

Our governments are so manipulated and corrupt, so in hoc to the real economic powers in our countries, for example to the Murdochs, to  BP, to the Barclay Brothers and to  BAE Systems,  that they suffer extreme paralysis of the will - aboulia. Obama promised to get the US out of Afghanistan and Iraq - not going to happen. Obama promised to regulate the banking system - not going to happen - Obama promised to take measures to prevent global warming - not going to happen. Obama promised to change the nature of alliances in the Middle East - not going to happen.

In the dangerous New Dark Ages we abdicate will and reason and decision making, the people are marginalised and ignored and kept in the dark and fed shit. Our governments  abdicate reason and instead listen to the soothsayers who speak of market forces. These market forces are up, they are down. The market feels buoyant, it is worried, it is cautious it is positive.

This weakness of mind is revolting. It is disgusting. It shows a lack of virility of fertility of thought and a lack of intellectual energy.

The social sciences are corrupt to the core. Successful social scientists are all nearly all co-opted. They work in the ideological skunk works of Capitalism. They produce their own versions of the Kubark Manual. The academic nomenclature have no shame in the pursuit of personal gain and influence.  Ideologues are paid directly and indirectly in all the social sciences from Economics, Politics, History, Sociology, Art and Psychology, to help reproduce the conditions to help the money river continue to flow asymmetrically in the direction of the powerful.

The Nobel Prize giving in Stockholm, for example,  has been an embarrassment. Ridiculous ideology disguised as theory is dished out to left wing and right wing governments alike and they swallow it all up..

There has been a generational failure of the will. A generational failure of western human beings to resist the powerful and use the intellect and act reasonably and forcefully in favour of rational governance.

We are not the same people who warred against fascism in Europe, we are merely their dumb, philistine children, and grandchildren. Our parents and grandparents were, in the main, capable of confronting fascism and the holocaust and Stalinism and dealing with the bastards who wanted to destroy the world. They could face up to their death properly and use their lives to some purpose. Not my generation. Not the generation that preceded it or the one that followed it.

We should remember the writing on the wall:

Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin You have been weighed and found wanting.

I have more hope in the current generation, the people in their teens and 20s who can see the problem of the New Dark Ages laid bare in 2011, yes, even the looters.

1.9.11

Whistling in the wind: a response to Polly Toynbee on the question of class.

Our grand liberal, Polly Toynbee

Polly, I am a fan and you have my qualified support for most of the things you say. But let me ask you this. Micheal Rosen said that you, Polly, talk about class at length without once mentioning the word capitalism. Michael Rosen is right. It doesn't make sense to speak of class without understanding it in terms of the economic system we exist in. If class is a product of capitalism, just as serfdom was a product of feudalism, then can we ameliorate its negative effects in some way?

Can you stop people accumulating power and wealth? How can you stop them if they are the ones with all the wealth and influence? Isn't it really a win for some, do well for a few others and then a lose, lose, lose, lose, lose, lose, lose, lose, lose situation for the rest?

You could legislate of course. But the legislators are not unbiased, they favour the powerful, the ones who can pay good money to work the angles in the legal system in their favour. The ones who can buy out the media that would otherwise investigate them for their underhand dealing with the police and politicians. The ones who can spend money to lobby politicians and offer inducements and directorships to those who play ball.  You could always vote. But what good does that do, speaking honestly?

In the time of Wilson when the government persued a mild social democratic policy and refused to join the US in its war in Vietnam there was a plot to overthrow Wilson. The Prime Minister of Australia, who was left leaning, was actually fired by the governor of Australia. The Queen's representative.

In 1976 the CIA and their allies were tasked with making sure that the Italian government didn't have a coalition with the Italian Communists. The CIA financed a coup d'etat in Greece that overthrew the socialist government there. The British and the Americans supported the dictatorships in Spain and Portugal to the bitter end. The idea of social democracy is too dangerous for them not in the abstract, but in reality. We don't have the option.

The truth is you can't change the state through a democracy. If you start to do so the real vested interests in society will oppose you tooth and nail. The police will mount baton charges on horseback against 'the enemy within.'

____________________________________________________________________
Unless you can address the ... question [of class] properly, Polly, I think you are whistling in the wind. What can we replace capitalism with? I hear you ask. Well I don't know. But by failing to oppose it we condemn ourselves and billions of others to exploitation, poverty and enslavement.
_____________________________________________________________________________

The only reason they caved in in 1945 to the building of the welfare state was because there were nearly three million men with military training in the British Army in 1945 and most of them were working class. When they voted Labour the capitalist state jus rolled over. That's partly why our establishment opted for a professional army, so they could never be held to ransom like that again.

The only reason the establishment has to keep the welfare state and to ensure the rights of working people and its citizens is if there is some opposing power. Now that opposing power, with all due respect, is not a journalist with a conscience and strong arguments. It is a trade union movement and organised civil society. Not David Cameron's vigilante neighbourhood watch but joined up civil society capable of really opposing government when it serves the banks.

Ask yourself this. If democracy is no use and no government is capable of withstanding the demands of bankers and if the bankers can guarantee they will be bailed out then what force can oppose them? Who can really stand up to the search of the powerful for profit and super-profit? Certainly not a group of concerned middle class and upper middle class liberals.

The problem is this Polly: you liberals present no alternative to capitalism and class difference and allowing the powerful to rule is the very essence of capitalism. But you don't oppose the essence of capitalism. Why do you think companies end up relocating to China? Simply because they can pay people less, they have a dictatorship that will guarantee no organised protest and they can make more money. You know this. I know this. We all know this. Why get involved in a discourse about 'class' if you can never face up to the real cause of the problem of unfairness in society?

Benevolent capitalism is a myth. When Britain had an empire conditions were atrocious in the factory but they gradually improved. There were reforms. When there were no reforms there was repression, there were Peterloos. Our rich were so rich from exploiting the poor people of the colonies in India and Africa and around the world that they could afford to buy a little security by paying key sections of the British working class a little more money. As you might pay a maid a little more so that she doesn't steal. Or as you pay a security guard to protect your wealth.

The liberal reforms were the result of the successful endeavours of men and women of conscience, but of the fact that men and women of conscience were allowed to implement reform, for example to the labour laws, because the establishment was investing in its security. It was paying people off. It didn't want revolution.

But our government in the UK now seems to have made a conscious decision. It seems to believe that, because it has a huge and quite effective security apparatus with CCTV cameras trained on people living in every estate, and data bases and a professional army and practice at repressing populations at home in Northern Ireland and abroad it can use the security apparatus for its political agenda and squeeze a little more out of the British people.

It can dismantle the welfare state. It can charge us much more for basic services. It can lower the taxes on the rich and allow companies to stay off shore and only pay 20% tax or less because there is nothing we can do about it. The Cameron Clegg coalition is betting on the effectiveness of repression. They have the security service the monitoring and the professional army and the trade unions are weak and all the newspapers back their ideology and so they will do it.

Your liberalism will always fall on deaf ears. It will do so because the establishment no longer want to or need to buy the consent of the British people. They govern through ideological hegemony, through force. Instead what we should be talking about is getting mass movements organised. Powerful mass movements, just as the Arabs have done. Because we are fooling ourselves if we imagine that there is any morality in the way the real world works. money and power talk. That's it. The rest is window dressing, a smear of icing.

Who was it who said that the only way out of the Labyrinth is rationality? Well it is irrational to look at the small picture. It is rational to recognize that class is the product of an economic system and that that system is capitalism. It is irrational to discuss class without discussing the nature of capitalism.

By fooling oneself that we are dealing with moral beings who can act independently and not a group of people acting mainly in their self interest and with nothing to oppose them but the beration of liberals we get absolutely no where. All we do is create the illusion of opposition and salvage our consciences. Isn't that what you are doing Polly - in the end? You appeal to the better instincts of the middle class, of educated people. These people, to the extent that they are in difficult circumstances at the moment, might agree with you. But most of them know what side their bread is buttered on. They serve and are servile. Call hem 'professionals' if you like.

Now you are probably on the editorial board of the Guardian. You should be. And if you are the you see the assumptions that the Guardian makes about British society. Let's be honest here. What are those assumptions? Let's be truthful.

1. Does the Guardian support capitalism?
2. Does the Guardian believe that class difference can be overcome?
3. Does the Guardian believe that class differences can be overcome in capitalism?
4. Does the Guardian hold to Blair's endorsement of the Third Way?

The third question is probably a non sequiitor for you. and I hope the answer to the fourth is not yes because the Third Way has been discredited as capitalism by stealth and ideological entrapment.

Unless you can address the third question properly, Polly, grand as you are, a modern H. L Menken, I think you are whistling in the wind. What can we replace capitalism with? I hear you ask. Well I don't know. But by failing to oppose it we condemn ourselves and billions of others to exploitation, poverty and enslavement.

21.5.11

Obituary of Isidor Steinhardt - in Bulgarian


8/ ?/1941

A Good Friend of Bulgaria

Obituary for I. Steinhardt


I do not speak Bulgarian. I speak Russian so this translation may not be completely accurate; it is based on my knowledge of Russian. I would love someone to help me translate it.

On the 8th of this month in Prague the famous Czech journalist I. Steinhardt passed  away. He was born in Pol Moravsko in 1873.

I Steinhardt completed his education in journalism in Prague and Vienna. Around 1890 I. Steinhardt went to Sophia where he became the editor of the German language paper Bulgarski Trgovski Vestnik (Bulgarian Evening Trader) where he gained a reputation as an excellent journalist and cultural figure.

He made a particularly strong impression with his  brilliant reviews of the National Theatre. His articles in the Bulgarian Evening Trader on national and cultural questions were widely read.

As the correspondent of the English Daily Mail and the Viennese De Zeit, I Steinhardt discoursed on the Bulgarian question to different people in the world perceptively and with deep understanding.

I. Steinhardt lived in Bulgaria for approximately 10 years. Following his work in our country he then became an editor of the Bosnian Post and the Neue Freie Presse. There he was well known for his articles on Bulgaria and the Bulgarian Question, and closely associated with Bulgarian matters. – Isidor Steinhard should always inspired respect and good will towards Bulgaria, and reported on it with obvious sympathy
I. Steinhardt deserves the goodwill and respect of every Bulgarian in Vienna in return for the care he took when reporting on Bulgaria and in response to the careful consideration he gave to the Bulgarian Question.

May he Rest in Peace

I translated this from the Bulgarian. Though I only speak Russian. If anyone who speaks Bulgarian has any comments to make on my translation go ahead.

Remembering Isidor and Regina 

It's hard to explain just what this means, but I will.

On this blog I have discussed the life of my grandfather Isidor Steinhardt. Let me put this into context. The Neue Freie Presse was probably the most prestigious newspaper in Europe. Herzl, the founder of Zionism worked as the literary editor of the Neue Freie Presse. My great grandfather became the foreign editor of the paper because he was a very good writer. He wrote in extraordinarily elegant German. He was a product of the Viennese Gymnasia.

He was considered a reactionary in our family and we would mention him in embarrassment in family discussions because he was loyal to the Austrian empire, but his reaction was progressive in its day. The emperor was the tolerant head of a multi-cultural empire and a bulwark against anti-semitism. His son Artur fought in the Jewish regiment out of loyalty to this cosmopolitan empire when he was only a teenager.

Isidor was instrumental in the Austrian annexation of Bosnia. He and Ernst Mandl worked with Count Aerenthal to find an excuse for the annexation of Bosnia. At the same time, as it is in evidence in the obituary above, Isidor was a friend of Bulgaria. The independence of Bulgaria was declared a few days after the annexation of Bosnia and it was no coincidence. My great grandfather was the expert on Bulgarian affairs in the Austrian Empire. His son, Arthur Steinhardt, also became known as an expert on Bulgarian affairs.

There is plenty of proof that Isidor was involved in the annexation of Bosnia, but there is no proof that he was involved in the timing of the declaration of Bulgarian independence. Clearly he was. It will become clearer as time passes.

Isidor also became the expert on Serbian affairs, and I am sorry to say that he was an arch enemy of Serbian expansionist ambitions. In helping to orchestrate the annexation of Bosnia isidor helped Count Aerenthal block Serbia's outlet to the sea. The intention of Serbia was to create a greater Serbia and appeal over the heads of the King of Montenegro and unify Serbia with Montenegro. The annexation of Bosnia put a stop to this. In doing so Isidor helped frustrate the British design to support the creation of a nation called Yugoslavia. In return he received personal approbium from the British representatives in Bosnia and Serbia who reported negatively on Steinhardt in insulting and anti-semitic terms to Lord Gray the British foreign minister which I will not dignify with a mention.

Learning what happened required a lot of research and reading a number of out of print books, piecing together fragments of family history and asking friends to translate passages of text for me.

Suffice it to say that in 1938 my great grandparents and their family were forced to leave Vienna and return to Czechoslovakia. To live destitute in the Prague ghetto. In 1938 my grandfather, married to a German woman, Lisa my grandmother, dropped everything and went to see his parents in Prague doing what he could for them. My great grandfather had managed to save a few items but one that was of particular importance to him was his gold plated Doxa watch, probably manufactured in Italy, but the factory where it was produced was destroyed in the war.

Now this watch was the present of the King of Montenegro to my Grandfather. One day, highly emotional, in Munich in 1972 , my grandfatehr took out this gold watch and said, one day my boys, one day, if you are very good, if you are not bad, one of you will get this gold watch that used to belong to my father. I understand why he said that. What he couldn't say. His guilt. A bad son leaving his father to die in the Ghetto. He wept. Of course we didn't understand because I was 12 and my brothers were 10.

Well I was the lucky boy who got the watch in its soft black leather pouch and I wondered about it, but before I could find out about it it was stolen by two employees of DirectTV in Mexico City. They stole it, and my wifes river pearls, while I went to make tea for them. I wish them the very worst of luck.

But the value of that watch, as valuable an object as it might have been, was really in the story of my grandfather. And so I have been the grandson and great grandson who has been able to, without too much pain, because I am more removed than my mother or Grandfather from what happened, to tell the story.

I was that lucky boy. I got the watch that was in Grandpa's pocket as he came back from Prague tortured by worry.

The annexation of Bosnia was one of the causes of the First World War and my grandfather, based in Sarajevo, Foreign editor of the Neue Freie Presse is in the picture of the Archduke Ferdinand just before he was assasinated. He is standing on the steps. I have two photos of his he preserved from the occasion. They are not from the Internet. They must be historic documents.

He died in extreme poverty in the ghetto of throat cancer untreated. He left his wife Regina to fend for herself. Regina was rounded up and sent to Terezin. Theresenstadt. I have described how this happened. My uncle was there and witnessed it.

I understand that the murder of 6 million people, more will affect countless millions. That the history of the war and persecution affects the lives of the whole of Europe and that WW2 is both a personal and world tragedy. But today I was listening to the History of World in a Hundred objects, the final object and the one that stands out and it was a picture painted by a Jewish artist in Teresenstadt, in Terezin. Where my great grandmother was before she was sent on to die in Treblinka. Again I have discussed this and documented it.

I read and looked into Terezin and what it was. I contacted the head of the Jewish Museum in Prague. I bought old out of print books about the Jewish Ghetto and its life and culture and read memoirs of survivors and found the paintings of Bedrich Fritta in one of the books published by the Jewish Museum. It tears at your heart. A series of pictures drawn by an artist for their little son and hidden behind bricks in a Terezin and in one of the pictures it tells his son: This is not a dream, and it shows pictures of flowers and meadows and a strong son. Both the painter and his wife died, the wife died of starvation. She is short and has large glasses in the picture.

And so, friends. It struck me that though all our families suffered, probably, during WW1 and 2, by family history seems to bracket it.

Isidor Steinhardt was erased from history by the Nazis and he had no obituary in any European newspaper because he was a Jew. But in 1941 a Bulgrian newspaper, in recognition perhaps of his services to Bulgaria published his obituary despite the fact that he was turned by the Nazis into an obscure old man in the Prague Ghetto.

The writing on the side Papa Steinhardt, is that of my Great Grandmother who perished in Treblinka. Her daughter my Great Aunt Else died  in Auschwitz, I have written about this elsewhere.

I would like to honour the memory of our great grandfather and great grandmother. My brothers Andy Hall and Chris Hall join me in this as do the whole Hall family. Of course I do so in the name of my mother Eve Hall and my Father Tony Hall and Lisa and Richard and Arthur Steinhardt. I have been expressly deputised by all of them to do so at one point or another.You will find quite a few pictures of them on this blog.

Phil Hall




16.5.11

Statue of the Finger by Maurizio Cattelan outside the Italian Stock exchange



Maurizio Cattalan donated this sculpture only on condition that the Milan authorities displayed it pointing directly at the office of the head of the stock eschange.

In fact I am not representing the people giving the finger to the stockmarket speculators so much as representing the financial speculators giving the finger to us, said the artist.

How many of you would sign a petition to have one of the these put up in front of the London Stock Exchange?

By Mark in History

9.5.11

Is the United States a failed Narco State?

Drugs confiscated in Mexico, some of it was destined for the appreciative nostrils of the chattering classes.

There are demonstrations by political opportunists on the left and drug baron-financed protesters against the war on the drugs trade in Mexico, and suddenly articles pop up in western newspapers in support of these demonstrations. Predictably, they criticise Mexico's failure to tackle the drug trade.

One could legitimately ask if these western journalists and their proxies have not actually been paid off. A bank transfer would do it, taking a few seconds. The drug traffickers don't just buy off locals. They buy off officials and journalists and politicians in any country where it suits them to do so. Applying 'international pressure' in the media would be one effective tactic drug traffickers could use against the measures being taken against them. They could plant stories.

Again and again it needs to be reiterated. Mexico's war against the drug traffickers is the US's war. If Mexico has failed to defeat the drug traffickers on one side of the border then the US has failed to defeat it on the other side of the border. The head honchos of the drugs cartel are US citizens, not Colombians or Mexicans.

It is excruciatingly Orwellian to read the British press, and in particular the articles commissioned by the intellectual managers at the Guardian - whether or not the individuals in question have been paid off in some way - where an international drugs trade generated by consumers in the richest country in the world suddenly becomes a national problem. The problem of Mexico.

Is this some form of weird displacement activity or is it the failure of journalists to follow the arrow of cause and effect in the right direction? What's going on - assuming no money has changed hands?

I personally have never taken any hard drug. The joke is that I act and look so square that no one has ever offered any to me. And yet I know that using cocaine and a wide variety of recreational drugs in the UK, for example, is considered - especially by people in the creative industries - to be life enhancing. According to the current conventional wisdom,  to be psychically healthy, far from the perversity engendered by puritanical living and different varieties of fundamentalism, a 'normal' person needs to loosen up and take some drugs occasionally.

The modern ethos suggests that taking drugs can help turn you into a more mature, well rounded and tolerant person. Certainly in the case of Acid this seems to be the case. Though I have not had the urge to apply a chemical peel to my brain as others have.

Here's the deal. Many journalists take drugs. No shit Sherlock, they do. Many journalists' friends also take drugs. Drug taking is a criminal activity. Therefore many journalists are - by current law - criminals. Of course they harm no one but themselves - if they harm themselves at all. The crime is one of self harm. Unless the experience is shared, (which, in fact, it usually is).

And so we have people who actually use the substances that cause the deaths in Mexico (the 85,000 drug related deaths) labeling the drug war a 'Mexican problem'. This is an example of absolute and unadulterated hypocrisy. This is an example of perfect double speak. Journalists doing lines or popping pills, condemning the Mexican government for 'failing' in a drug war.

Of course there is another reason why the British journalist will ascribe 'failure' to a nation state desperately trying to confront one strand of the supply side of an international trade and that is that some journalists know which side their bread is buttered on. In the Guardian, when I mentioned that the DEA was a corrupt organisation - yes folks, a corrupt organisation - I was immediately censored.

Any attack by any British citizen in the British press on any US institution will be censored not only in the right wing newspapers, but also in the left leaning liberal ones when the suggestion is that the criticism is unreasonable and anti-American. Any journalist who is seen to be 'anti-American' in his reporting or any publisher who publishes articles that may be interpreted as being anti-American - without being stuffed to the gills with caveats and simpering self contradiction - runs the risk of being boycotted in the US. Moreover, the journalist who wrote the offending article may even run the risk of being put onto a no fly list.

To be more honest, therefore, about the international drugs trade in the British press, let alone the US press is simply beyond the possibility of a mainstream journalist. The US is primarily responsible for the trade, it is the centre of the trade and compared to Mexico it does little or nothing to combat the drugs trade within its own borders. In almost every school and workplace in the whole of that country a variety of drugs are available for distribution to every student or employee. Reflect on that. A nation of over 350 million people where most of those people can get access to illegal drugs if they want to get access to them.

Think of the massive and undisturbed distribution network that must exist in a country like the US for almost every US citizen to have access to drugs. Think of the vast numbers of policemen and officials that must be on the take for that distribution network to operate. And then understand: on the other side of the Mexican border, in the USA, almost no one is really fighting the drugs mafia. If they were fighting the drug mafia it would be an all out war and instead of the 85,000 you see dead in Mexico there would be 200,000 - 400,000 dead. The numbers would be proportionate to the extent of the operation. Three times, ten times the size of the Mexican mafia.

The supply side, very often, doesn't even begin in Mexico. Mexico is a conduit. The conduit passes across the border and continues to operate in the US. But what happens when it is in the US? By racialising the drug business and saying that it is black people and Latinos that distribute it you cover up the reality. It's a relay race and the baton is passed across the border to US citizens and officials involved in the drugs trade. In fact, it would not be a mistake to call the US a failed narco-state, if it were not for the fact that the country is so huge and rich that not even the drug business is big enough to define it.

But one things for sure. When it comes to reporting on the drug war in Mexico many of our our British journalists, together with the people they comission to speak on their behalf, behave like creeps. They are creeps because they are apologists for the drug trade, because they lie when they pretend that it is a problem to be tackled in national sized units, and because they are protecting their careers when they fail to criticise the US police forces.

30.4.11

Do the Liberal Democrats have any red lines?

 Ed Davey held to task


Ed Davey, LibDem MP and Undersecretary of State for Business

In a conversation an hour ago, Ed Davey insisted that if it wasn't for their participation in the government then things would have been much worse. We act as a brake on the Tories and are able to introduce a lot of policies that we are proud of.

Look, I said. I voted against the Tories, but thanks to you, I've got a Tory government.

No, you got a LibDem MP and we've done a lot to look after people. He gave me some examples. We've helped disadvantaged children...He continued.

Blunket, and Reed and others came on TV and ruled out the possibility of a  coalition with the Labour government anyway. And it would have been a minority government.

What we see, I said, the people on the left who supported the LibDems because  of their green policies and tuition fees and so on, is that  you are all like Nick Clegg. You  have no red Lines. There are no deal breakers for you. Look at the reform of the NHS. Look at your policy on tuition fees.

I can only apologise for tuition fees he said, but on the matter of the NHS we are the ones who are making Andrew Lansley stop  and pause for reflection and consultation. That's us.We don't think it's a good idea to concentrate all the power in the hands of a few stakeholders.

What about privatisation? Are you happy with that.

He looked away and avoided answering the question.

I said, Vince Cable scuttles around Twickenham nowadays, he's too afraid to face his own voters. A friend of mine usually greets him, but Vince Cable, knowing what the friend would say  to him, almost ran into his house before  the friend could say a word.

Well Vince and I both use public transport, Said Ed Davey, unlike other MPs.

That's good, I said, but let me give you some advice. I think you are a good politician, effective and moral. Stand up to the Tories. You need red lines. We need to know what the deal breakers are for the LibDems in the coalition.

Well when you are in government you can't go around announcing these things he says, but it's on the record. The Telegraph entrapped Vincent, but they entrapped me too into saying I disagreed with  the Tory policy on housing benefit. 

Look, save your career, I suggested. Join up with Kennedy and Vince Cable and Simon Hughes and stand up to the Tories and show some backbone because you have lost the left who voted for you. Show us you  have a spine and the Tories can't do just anything they like with you.

Read the coalition agreement, he said. It's a comprehensive document. An achievement. A lot of our policies are in there. We are introducing a lot of good policies.

But they are just sops, I said, not substantive. Essentially, this is a reactionary government making unnecessarily radical and unfair cuts that reflect their in-egalitarian priorities, and you are propping it up. You should leave  the coalition and form a new coalition with Labour.

Ed Davey, didn't sound convinced  and said. The cuts would have happened anyway.

Show us your red lines, show us your deal breakers. I repeated.

And with that Ed Davey left.