Category Archives: Politics


Flamenco Flashmob in Spanish Bank
George Osborne’s full-blown attack on the countryside will delight rentiers
Karl Marx, part 1: Religion, the wrong answer to the right question
Obama abroad
Bristol Stokes Croft Riot
MEP calls for Nuclear Free Europe
Thousands march in London against spending cuts

Flamenco Flashmob in Spanish Bank

“Encouraged by the recent events surrounding Bankia, into whom the government is injecting billions of euros while the Spanish population is plunged into misery, we wanted to join the many criticisms against this theft.”

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George Osborne’s full-blown attack on the countryside will delight rentiers

The Conservative Party hate everything about Britain and are busy dismantling it.

Now the coalition government intends to strip away protection from our most treasured places, as the chancellor establishes his Republic of Gideon, finally big landowners have their champion of slash and burn capitalism

Powered by article titled “George Osborne’s full-blown attack on the countryside will delight rentiers” was written by George Monbiot, for on Thursday 1st December 2011 14.26 UTC

What sort of a world would George Osborne like to live in? I imagine him fantasising about the Republic of Gilead in Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale. Unprotected workers, assigned their places in a fixed social system, crawl over toxic waste dumps, while the upper castes, though rendered sterile by unregulated pollution, live without fear of democracy, trade unions or the minimum wage.

The Republic of Gideon began to take shape on Tuesday, when the chancellor launched a full-spectrum assault on both workers and the environment. In his autumn statement, he curtailed public sector pay and, once again, hammered the tax credits and benefits upon which the poorest people depend. At the same time he gave away £250m in yet another bailout for big business: in this case the UK’s most polluting industries. Read Damian Carrington’s withering exposure of this exercise in crony capitalism, and you will rage and gnash your teeth.

He also snuffed out the government’s attempts to limit the amount of transport fuel the UK consumes, announced the construction of new roads, airports and power stations and reneged on the promise the energy secretary made just a month ago, that there would be “absolutely no backsliding” on carbon capture and storage at the UK’s power stations. Now the £1bn set aside for CCS will be given (in the Treasury secretary’s words) to “different sorts of projects”. Another corporate tax break perhaps?

But perhaps the worst of Osborne’s environmentally destructive proposals was his attack on the laws protecting England’s wildlife and places of natural beauty. These were first introduced in 1994 by the previous Conservative government. He claimed that they are “gold-plating” European rules and “placing ridiculous costs on British businesses”.

He is wrong on both counts. The Davidson report in 2006 found that the European rules had not been gold-plated. The laws defending our special areas of conservation and special protection areas impose costs on business only if business wants to trash the few corners of England which have been placed off-limits. That means spots such as Lyme Bay, the New Forest, Epping Forest, the Norfolk Broads and Flamborough Head.

Why should corporations be allowed to do to these treasured places what they can do anywhere else? Osborne might as well complain that the rules forbidding developers to knock down St Paul’s cathedral and build a new bank there place “ridiculous costs on British business”.

His intentions are spelled out in more detail in the Treasury’s national infrastructure plan 2011. To prevent the protection of our natural heritage from imposing “unnecessary costs and delays” on money-making projects, the Treasury will “give industry representation on a group chaired by ministers so it can raise concerns … at the top of government”.

This, remember, is a government umbilically connected to big business, which has so thoroughly infiltrated Westminster and Whitehall that government and corporations are almost indistinguishable. Now the Treasury claims that business needs even more access?

Worse still, bodies such as Natural England and the Environment Agency, which are supposed to defend our treasured wild places, will now “have a remit to promote sustainable development.” This is a complete inversion of their purpose – from restraint to promotion.

The Country Land and Business Association, representing the class of rentier capitalists whom Osborne appears to see as his natural constituency, professes itself “delighted” with these proposals. I bet it is. The big landowners it represents have been pressing for slash and burn capitalism for years, while simultaneously insisting that the taxpayer stocks their wine cellars and cleans out their moats through farm subsidies. Now they have a government which gives them everything they ask for.

These people will never be satisfied. No ancient woodland, no Bronze Age burial mound is safe: unless it is protected by the kind of rules Osborne now wants to dismantle.

As for stimulating the economy, it’s hard to see how the UK can win the race to the bottom to which he appears to have committed us. If this country tries to compete by tearing up the rules protecting workers, the unemployed, the environment and our quality of life, it will be worsted by China and 100 other nations with cheaper labour and laxer regulation than ours.

This seems obvious to everyone except ministers and officials. UK Trade and Investment, the government body which promotes this country to foreign investors, boasts that “compensation costs [ie wages] in the UK are less than most of the western European countries.” It has “one of the lowest main corporate tax rates in the EU, generous tax allowances and … low social welfare contributions.” And “the UK’s labour market is one of the world’s most flexible.” Come to Britain, where you can treat your workers like dirt.

In the wake of this autumn statement, perhaps UK Trade and Investment will now seek to entice investors away from Guangdong with the promise that there are tax breaks for the biggest polluters, no planning laws worth their name, and special access to ministers if you want to trash England’s beauty spots.

Even if foreign investors can be persuaded that the rules are slacker in the Republic of Gideon than in the grimmest export-processing zones of the developing world, what does “winning” look like in these circumstances? A bit like winning a nuclear war? “Yes, our nation has been reduced to a charred desert. But we’ve come out on top*. Rejoice, just rejoice!

“*Customers should be aware that when, in the previous clause, the government states that “we” have come out on top, it is in fact referring to a subset of the population: namely those possessed of sufficient means to have invested in underground bunkers. The government cannot be held liable if the rest of the population experiences alternative results. If you are not fully satisfied with this outcome, please contact your nearest mortuary assistant.”

In reality, the autumn statement, like much else that Osborne has delivered, has little to do with stimulating economic growth. It’s about transferring even greater powers and resources from the rest of us to an economic elite, the kind of people Osborne hangs out with on Nat Rothschild’s yacht. They are the only winners of the Chancellor’s pyrrhic victories. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Karl Marx, part 1: Religion, the wrong answer to the right question

With the current phase of capitalist crisis posing extremely stark questions about the fundamental nature of the system, you would think all the mainstream media would be falling over each other to wheel out academics and reformed revolutionaries to explain in simple terms “Why Marx was right after all” or “We’re all dialectical materialists now” but apparently not. Earlier this year, 2011, The Guardian published a series of articles about Karl Marx. This is part 1, on the subject of religion.

Powered by article titled “Karl Marx, part 1: Religion, the wrong answer to the right question” was written by Peter Thompson, for on Monday 4th April 2011 15.34 UTC

Marx famously said that all criticism begins with the criticism of religion. This is often taken to be the starting point of a position that ends with the slogan that “religion is the opium of the people”. However, as with most thinkers, this reduction to slogans does not do the ideas behind them justice. The critique of religion as a social phenomenon did not connote a dismissal of the issues behind it. Marx precedes the famous line in his Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right with the contention that religion was the “sigh of the oppressed creature in a hostile world, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions” and that an understanding of religion has to go hand in hand with an understanding of the social conditions that gave rise to it.

The description of religion as the heart of a heartless world thus becomes a critique not of religion per se but of the world as it exists. What this shows is that his consideration of religion, politics, economics and society as a whole was not merely a philosophical exercise, but an active attempt to change the world, to help it find a new heart. “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it,” he wrote in his famous 11th thesis on Feuerbach, the phrase carved on his gravestone in Highgate cemetery.

Even though understanding and action were tightly linked in Marx, we can trace his understanding back separately, through two German earlier philosophers, Hegel and Feuerbach.

In Hegel he finds the concept of the idealistic dialectic as a means of understanding historical change but he uses Feuerbach’s materialism as a tool for understanding it correctly. That’s why he called his system dialectical materialism.

Hegel’s dialectic is not at all materialistic. It is based on the existence and importance of ideas, which are conceived of as almost independent of the people who have them. We are merely their puppets. It was essentially an attempt to explain change in history during the period of revolutionary upheaval around the French revolution. Why do revolutions happen, he asks, and what happens to them? Why do things not stay the same and why is some world spirit (Weltgeist) constantly changing its mind about the way it wants the world to be and introducing a new “spirit of the age” (Zeitgeist)? Taking his cue from Kant, adding in some Spinoza and a dash of neo-Platonism, Hegel maintained that change happened in the world because it was immanent in a growing development towards something as yet incomplete but which had at its core the unfolding of the idea of human freedom. History thus became simply a vessel for this unfolding, a totality which was constantly changing and completing itself through a series of constructive negations.

The dialectic is a theory of motion which posits that within every given situation there exists its own negation. The tension and interplay between the situation and its negation, produce constantly new and emergent forms of social existence. Of course there are difficulties in deciding what exactly is the negation of any particular situation. I will deal with those later.

Marx took this Hegelian and idealistic dialectical approach and added in a materialist grounding from Feuerbach who was in many ways a sort of political Ditchkins of his day. For him religion “poisons, nay destroys, the most divine feeling in man, the sense of truth”. His insight was that all forms of religious expression were merely the abstracted vague longings of the human species translated into deities and their hangers-on, or in other words a god delusion.

Marx’s real synthesis of the debate between Hegel and Feuerbach is to agree with both of them but to turn them both upside down (or back on their feet as he would have it) and locate their ideas in concrete historical situations. Hegel’s idealism and Feuerbach’s materialism had one thing in common and that was their abstraction from real concrete conditions. Hegel’s dialectic was indeed a way of understanding change in the world but it failed to recognise that change emanated from prevailing material conditions rather than from the workings of the Weltgeist. On the other hand Feuerbach’s materialism dealt only in abstract form with the way people perceived religion and did not locate the form that abstraction took in the way that people, above all classes, interacted with each other historically.

By 1848 Marx was thus able to open the Communist Manifesto with the contention that “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles”. This, for Marx, was the real motor of history; real struggles between real classes which produced real historical outcomes which in turn went on to become new struggles as the process of the negation of the negation – “the old mole” as Marx called it – carried on burrowing away, all the time throwing up new ways of thinking which themselves went on to negate and change the world.

What I shall do in coming weeks is to look at how all of this actually works, how Marxists took up the baton and what the consequences of it all were. I shall also ask whether Marxism still has any explanatory power today, in a new age of revolutionary upheaval, or whether we have, in Hegel’s and Fukuyama’s terms, reached The End of History. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Obama abroad

The economic driving imperative is fundamental. Eveything else is just words and fluff.

Obama abroad |

Crucially, Obama insists that democracy must be accompanied by what he calls “economic reform”, the neo-liberal prescriptions that have already exacerbated poverty, inequality and corruption in many west Asian and north African states and against which the Arab Spring was in part a revolt. He wants the new democracies to prove their credentials by opening their doors to predatory multi-nationals and exposing themselves to destructive international competition. All of his proposals for debt relief and aid are tied to this model, which Obama identified with the free-booting capitalism that wrought havoc in Russia and Eastern Europe.

(via Instapaper)

Andy Roberts

via posterous

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Bristol Stokes Croft Riot

What’s happening in Bristol’s Stokes Croft area this weekend as young people seemed to want to take over part of the high street late on Thursday night early Good Friday morning. The long hot summer comes early in April this year, and with the provocation of a Royal Wedding coming up, the looters get their retaliation in first. In 2011. the year of the Arab Spring revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, nothing will be the same anywhere again.

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MEP calls for Nuclear Free Europe

Paul Murphy, Socialist Party MEP for Dublin speaks at a plenary session of the European Parliament in favour of a nuclear-free future for Europe in light of the catastrophe in Fukushima and calls for the nationalisation of the energy industry and real investment in renewable energy technologies.

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Thousands march in London against spending cuts

Turnout for the anti-cuts demo and march to Trafalgar Square has been revised upwards to around  400,000 as people take to the streets in London to protest against the government’s planned public service cuts.

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Thanks for reading Andy Roberts articles about Politics on the DARnet Blog