Thursday, 17 August 2017

Every Past and Future Achievement

Any two human beings, no matter how divergent their ethnicity, can produce a child. Provided that one of them is a man, and the other is a woman.

All human beings belong, not only to a single species, but to a single subspecies, with less biological difference between any two than there is between a Labrador and a dachshund. The differences that there are, have been changing constantly ever since they first began to emerge, since they have not always been there.

But the difference between the two sexes has always been there, and it is written into the chromosomes of every cell of the body, no matter how the tissue may or may not be cut up.

On the first of these realisations depends every past and future achievement of the anti-racist movement. On the second depends every past and future achievement of the women's movement.

There must be no compromise on either as a matter of political principle. There actually can be no compromise on either as a matter of scientific fact.

Yes, there are people who want to shut me up.

Learn Direct, Indeed

Apprentices and trainees ought to enjoy everything that was enjoyed by their peers in Further and Higher Education, and vice versa.

Public ownership, national and municipal, ought to set the training standards for the private sector to match.

A-levels, as well as GCSEs and so on, ought all to be examined both by coursework and by final exam, with each candidate awarded his or her lower of those marks.

And we either charge fees, even if they are deferred, at every level of Higher Education, or we fund the whole of it, all the way up to doctoral level, at whatever age one might be in a position to enter it or to return to it.

Yes, there are people who want to shut me up.

Party Planner

Someone in a position to have an impact needs to put up a list of all Labour members of both Houses of Parliament, together with Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell and David Miliband.

Seven days from now, it should be said, this list will be published again, but in two parts.

One part will list those who have informed us that they will not be joining any new party, nor advocating support for it.

The other will list those who have imparted no such information.

Once the new party is up and running, which way will the Leadership of Durham County Council jump?

That Leadership is Labour in only the most nominal sense, with so little connection to the wider Labour Movement that it has probably never heard the term.

But it is also greedy and venal, and most unlikely ever to risk the loss of its privileges on a point of principle.

I could pay for my legal representation several times over if I had a thousand pounds for everyone who has told me, "Oh, well, that's the County Council for you," or words to that effect.

A very high proportion of those people have been lifelong members of the Labour Party in County Durham.

There is a shoulder-shrugging acceptance that Durham County Council is, has always been, and will always be by far the most corrupt local authority in Britain, and quite probably the most corrupt local authority in the world.

When it comes to the people who control it, then trying to have their political and journalistic critics unjustly sent to prison, not to mention far worse than that, is just how they behave. It is just what they do. It is just what they are. "Oh, well, that's the County Council for you."

On the upside, it is inconceivable that 10 out of 12 people assembled at random from among the inhabitants of County Durham would ever convict anyone of anything on the say-so of the hated Council, even were there any evidence against me, which there is not.

There is something almost admirable about being able to get out of bed and appear in public while knowing oneself to be quite that despised.

But then, that is just a nice way of saying that the people who run Durham County Council are psychopaths.

In which case, once the new party is up and running, which way will they jump?

Yes, there are people who want to shut me up.

In Order To Invite

What a disappointment Theresa May has been.

Not very long ago at all, hers was a programme of workers' and consumers' representation in corporate governance, of shareholders' control over executive pay, of restrictions on pay differentials within companies, of an investment-based Industrial Strategy and infrastructure programme, of greatly increased housebuilding, of action against tax avoidance, of a ban on public contracts for tax-avoiding companies, of a cap on energy prices, of banning or greatly restricting foreign takeovers, of a ban on unpaid internships, and of an inquiry into Orgreave.

Every point of which she had only ever adopted because Jeremy Corbyn was there. But even so. Oh, well, if you want any of those things, then you are just going to have to vote for him after all.

May could only have got this programme through with the votes of Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the SDLP (which had MPs at the time), the UUP (likewise), Caroline Lucas, Sylvia Hermon, and the DUP on certain points.

But she could have got it through. And it still needs to happen. Labour, in particular, still needs to find ways of proposing each of these measures in order to invite all MPs to vote on them.

My political background is on Lanchester Parish Council, and also around the old Derwentside District Council, which was run by an unofficial, but highly successful, coalition between the sensible wing of the local Labour Party, well to the left of the local government Leadership that we now have, and a body of Independents who were, I suppose, mostly Tories of a fairly generic sort.

No one party or caucus holds the majority of what are now the unitary County Council seats here in North West Durham. Those seats' occupants range across Labour, the Lib Dems, two Groups of Independents, and an Independent Independent who was in fact the Labour Leader of Derwentside District Council for decades.

So it is genuinely lost on me how some people find cross-party co-operation impossible, or even regrettable, and specifically how they claim that that attitude makes them left-wing. Left-wing to what effect, exactly? That is before we even begin about those who seem to pride themselves on their inability to take so much as a cup of tea with their political opponents.

They have obviously never been to North West Durham. They have obviously never been to Derwentside, where it was the Labour Right that took that view, a faction now very close to the similarly minded Leadership at County Hall. And they have obviously never been to Lanchester.

Yes, there are people who want to shut me up.

Comings and Goings

It turns out that EU nationals will have exactly the same ease of entry to the United Kingdom after withdrawal from the European Union (and believe in that when you see it) as they have now.

Not quite that form of words has been used today. But that is clearly what the preferred form of words means.

After all, any other meaning would require the introduction of identity cards. By David Davis. Who has resigned from Parliament in the past over civil liberties.

Then again, did the vote to Leave have anything to do with the logically absurd desire for an unrestricted flow of goods, services and capital, but a greatly restricted flow of people?

Leave won in the wrong places for that to have been so.

Rather, the referendum result was the demand for a reversion to the British economic order that obtained before accession to the EU.

That is to say, before New Labour and before Thatcherism, both of which happened after that accession.

It is time for a Government that has ever really wanted to withdraw from the EU, and which has any coherent idea either how to do it or why to wish to do it.

It is time for a Prime Minister has ever really wanted to withdraw from the EU, and who has any coherent idea either how to do it or why to wish to do it.

It is time for Jeremy Corbyn.

Yes, there are people who want to shut me up.

As Those Who Will Not Sea

When it comes to relations with the United Kingdom, then whatever the Irish Republic wants, the United States has always wanted it to have, and the same is also now true of the European Union.

Therefore, since the Irish Republic wants there to be a sea border, the US wants there to be a sea border, and the EU wants there to be a sea border.

So there is going to be a sea border, behind which a United Ireland, or at least a British withdrawal from Northern Ireland, will be inevitable.

The American Republic's relationship with the Irish Republic is even more special than its relationship with Saudi Arabia or with Israel.

Those are at least partially strategic, and thus potentially open to modification.

But the Irish Republic is not even officially an American ally at all. It does not need to be. Uniquely in the world, what it has with America is unconditional.

So there is going to be a sea border, behind which a United Ireland, or at least a British withdrawal from Northern Ireland, will be inevitable.

Yes, there are people who want to shut me up.

The Issue Is Not Slavery, But Treason

There are many statues of slave-owners and slave-traders in Britain.

But unless I am very much mistaken, there is none of either George Washington or Thomas Jefferson. Nor is any park in this country named after either of them.

The issue is not slavery, but treason.

By all means, let notable examples of the sculptor's art be displayed in museums, even if they do depict Robert E. Lee.

But it is astonishing that such a statue ever stood in the public square of a part of the American Republic, or that any park there was ever named either after him or after Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson.

The issue is not slavery, but treason.

Yes, there are people who want to shut me up.

The Real Taboo

It is not race or immigration. Nor is it Islam.

We have talked about race and immigration in this country for as long I can remember. For the last 15 years, at least, we have talked about almost nothing but race, immigration, and Islam.

Pakistani taxi drivers have lately joined Catholic priests as the only people who can expect any media disapproval if they have sex with 13 and 14-year-olds, and sometimes with children even younger than that.

Even in the case of teachers, that disapproval is extended only if the perpetrators are male and the victims are female.

Sex between men and teenage boys, especially, is otherwise the stuff of acclaimed television drama and of the novels of a National Treasure.

Sex between women and teenage boys is treated as a joke even when it goes to court, as it almost never does.

From Rotherham to Newcastle, this is not about "Pakis" (a word that Sarah Champion as good as used) or what have you, but about middle-class white neglect of working-class white girls.

Apologies "for any offence caused" are always worthless. And Labour continues to extend its whip to its very own Anne Marie Morris. Why are avowed anti-racists prepared to take that whip while Champion is in receipt of it?

The point is not race. Nor is it Islam. It is class.

And the taboo is not against mentioning race. Nor is the taboo against mentioning Islam. The taboo is against mentioning class.

The 11 or 12-year-old daughter, indeed the daughter several years older than that, of a Councillor, a social worker or a Police Officer would not be allowed by such figures to stay out all night with older men.

But the attitude of those white stalwarts to these white girls was, "You came from the gutter, anyway." 

This was, and throughout the country tonight it still will be, an internal white thing. And that thing is class.

He may not thank me for saying this, but if I were George Galloway, then I would be preparing to contest the Rotherham by-election.

Yes, there are people who want to shut me up.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The Beam In Our Own Woodpile

Has a member of either House of the United States Congress been recorded within the last two months using the n-word?

The test of the sincerity and credibility of avowed anti-racists in our own House of Commons, and not least in their condemnation of the events at Charlottesville, will be whether or not they table and pass a motion to expel Anne Marie Morris from that House when next it reassembles.

Fly Emirates?


And people wonder why I do not want to re-join the Labour Party.

It would never take me, anyway. But even so.

All this, and Blair has been trying to raise funds for a new party. Raise them from the UAE, perhaps?

What does he have to do in order to be expelled from Labour? That is not a rhetorical question.

At Issue

If politicians with children really do care more about the future, then you should vote for Jeremy Corbyn rather than for Theresa May.

But the whole thesis is drivel.

Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and David Cameron all had children.

Still The Eldest Daughter

Today is a public holiday in France, because, in his famous Vow, Louis XIII consecrated France to Our Lady on the Feast of her Assumption.

Assumpta est Maria in cælum!

Gaude, Maria Virgo, cunctas hæreses sola interemisti in universo mundo!

"O Tempora O Mores"

Mores is usually translated as "customs". So, as near as hardly matters, Cicero was saying something about a temporary customs union.

We have all known her, the temp who came for a week and stayed forever. The latest such is the Custom Maid, Mrs Liam Werritty.

This customs union with the EU would be no more temporary than income tax has ever turned out to have been.

Nor is it intended to be.

Over, then, to a veteran opponent of the EU, unlike Theresa May, who is surrounded by people who probably or certainly voted Leave, which Theresa May is not.

Over to Jeremy Corbyn.

Prelapsarian, Postdiluvian

So, "race" is immutable, but "gender" is fluid?

That is almost literally bollocks.

To which the solution is an almost literal reading of something else: the Book of Genesis.

Human beings have always had the same two sexes, and they always will have.

But they are in fact all members of the same race, and time was when even the distinctions within that did not exist.

Ever since they have emerged, then those distinctions (not only the cultural responses to them, but the biological distinctions themselves) have been changing all the time.

Whereas the biological distinction between the two sexes, in itself and not only in terms of the cultural responses to it, has never changed, and it never will.

This is the basis, both of consolidating the gains of women in the face of their increasing erasure, and of consolidating the anti-racist movement in the face of the rise of the Alt Right.

That basis is an almost literal reading of the Book of Genesis.

Handcuffed To History

A Very Happy Seventieth Birthday to Saleem Sinai.

Appropriately enough, I am loaded with cold. Is the whole world? I could believe that.

Monday, 14 August 2017

What I Did On My Holidays, By Theresa May

She's back, apparently.

But who cares?

Who even noticed that she ever went away?

There have never been a more inconsequential Prime Minister than this one. Never.

Marine Offences

At midnight tonight, it will be 50 years since the Marine Offences Act outlawed broadcasting from a boat off the British mainland.

The Minister responsible was Tony Benn. Well, of course it was.

For all its alleged left-wingery, and its ability to annoy the forces of conservatism no end, rock’n’roll was made up of common or garden proto-Thatcherites, often tax exiles.

The only exceptions were David Bowie and Eric Clapton, way out on the Far Right.

The Sixties Swingers hated with a burning passion the Labour Government of 1964 to 1970.

The pirate radio stations were their revolt against its and the BBC’s deal with the Musicians’ Union to protect the livelihoods of that union’s members.

Behind this union-busting criminality was Oliver Smedley, who was later to be a key figure behind the proto-Thatcherite Institute of Economic Affairs.

Viewers of The Boat That Rocked, which is now a mainstay of late night television, should consider that the Postmaster General so mercilessly ridiculed in it was in fact Tony Benn, and that the Prime Minister who legislated against pirate radio was Harold Wilson.

Those Swingers used the lowering of the voting age to put what they thought were the Selsdon Tories into office in 1970.

They then went on to entrench their own moral, social and cultural decadence and libertinism, first in the economic sphere during the 1980s, and then also in the constitutional sphere under Tony Blair. 

David Cameron accepted uncritically the whole package: moral, social, cultural, economic, and constitutional. Indeed, he embodied it.

The apparently coming Boris Johnson accepts uncritically the whole package: moral, social, cultural, economic, and constitutional. Indeed, he embodies it.

When is this country going to wake up to what has really been happening over the last 50 years?

The Mad Dimension

Look it up on Twitter.

It tickles me that "Unite The Right" was Toby Young's slogan when he was trying to persuade UKIP to contest only safe Labour seats and give the Conservatives a free run everywhere else.

He was aghast at the impertinence of the common little people who failed to obey him.

But I digress.

Call it a midlife crisis, but the events in Charlottesville have made me rather pro-American. By all means, fight for the American heritage.

That heritage is that the bearers of Confederate flags and of swastikas are, if they are lucky, shot dead on the spot.

I am not a big fan of taking down statues and what have you.

But even the vilest of slave traders, of colonial mass murderers, and of oppressors of the working class at home, are not commemorated in the public squares of the United Kingdom for having taken up arms against the United Kingdom.

Under the aegis of Conservative-led councils in the South of England, there are still two streets named after Stalin, because he, too, never did that. Quite the reverse, in fact.

There is no more or less of a case for renaming those streets than there would be for renaming any number of others that bore witness to figures with oceans of blood on their hands.

None of that blood, however, was drawn from those who were fighting for this country.

The issue is not slavery, or the fact that Abraham Lincoln was also a racist. The issue is that the Confederates waged war upon the United States.

It is sincerely baffling that there are statues of them, and parks named after them, on the soil of the American Republic.

Those who are still waving their flag, like those still waving the flag of the Third Reich, need to be told, "You lost, get over it."

Although even the Nazis did not lose as long ago as 1865. Get over it, indeed.

Notice that swastika-wielding torch marches in Ukraine, of which we are all supposed to approve, are indistinguishable from this one in Virginia, other than being even more violent.

But in spite of everything, God Bless America.

Public Protection

The scandal of "Imprisonment for Public Protection" sentences serves as a reminder that the Lib Dems were really quite aggressive opponents of the Blair Government, especially on civil liberties, and at least initially on Iraq.

They ought to say that that they would not take, nor would they do any any deal with, Tony Blair and the remains of his mob.

Also strongly opposed to the Blair Government, both on civil liberties and from start to finish on Iraq, was Jeremy Corbyn.

Everyone knows that he was right all along about Iraq.

The electorate needs and deserves to know that he was also right all along about civil liberties.

Idle Sons of The Bourgeoisie

As in:

IMG, IMG,
Idle sons of the bourgeoisie.

The International Marxist Group was unique in being entirely middle-class, and it ended up making no bones about the fact that it had chosen to dissolve itself into the Labour Party with a view to a takeover.

Of course Tony Blair was in it, if never exactly in the intellectual vanguard of it. I do not know how I had never worked that one out before, especially since everyone has always known about Geoff Gallop.

Not that Blair has ever read one word of Trotsky's own writings. At most, he has read a biography. Blair, if he has ever read anything, only ever claims to have read biographies. He has no interest in ideas, but only in personalities.

It makes perfect sense that he should have been moderated by his then-Bennite wife. The IMG hated Tony Benn so bitterly that it used its influence in one or two Constituency Labour Parties to secure support for Denis Healey.

Benn was not the unifying figure across almost the entire Left that Jeremy Corbyn now is. For such a figure to emerge, the Left first needed to have gone through the Blair years.

Mogged By Reality

In what way is Jacob Rees-Mogg "authentic"?

There are more than enough Old Etonians in public life for it to be clear that he is utterly unlike any of them.

His "upper-class accent" is no more reminiscent of any other upper-class person's than that of Lady Colin Campbell, who also insists that she has one.

As with Boris Johnson, heavily contrived eccentricity is always a sign of being a boring person, and often also a sign of being a nasty one.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Party Cards

Chris Williamson did well on Any Questions? this week.

Next week, Jess Phillips. And Matt Zarb-Cousin.

That's right. If they have Phillips on, then they also have to have someone from the Labour Party.

As far as the BBC is concerned, its own new party already exists. In all essentials, that is correct.

Now, is Labour going to wait for Tony Blair to resign his membership? Or is it going to do what it would do to anyone else, and expel him?

For the latter to happen, does another member of the Labour Party have to make a formal complaint? Come on, members of the Labour Party. What are you waiting for?

Two Swords

Guam is 85 per cent Catholic.

The Holy Father should move there until the threat from Kim Jong-un, incited by Donald Trump, has been lifted.

And after that, Venezuela is 71 per cent Catholic.

Venezuela, into which the United States pours millions of dollars to exactly the same people that are now rioting in Charlottesville.

Seoul Survival

A nuclear attack on North Korea would be bound to irradiate South Korea, and especially Seoul, which is right on the border.

Whether in relation to North Korea, or in relation to Venezuela, if America had wanted this, then it would have voted for Killary.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Greatly Strengthen The Hand

I cannot imagine any two people more guaranteed to ensure the failure of a new party than Tony Blair and George Osborne.

Notice that no one thinks that it would be incongruous for them to launch this joint venture.

What a pitch: make Blair Prime Minister again, and make Osborne Chancellor of the Exchequer again. Who could resist such temptation?

As for my own life in electoral politics, it is like Star Wars, which has definitively ended twice, but which is still going strong.

After a good run, I gave it all up in 2013.

But I stood for the County and Parish Councils after all in 2017, and I would have stood for Parliament if I could have raised £10,000 in well under a month.

And then I gave it all up again, all of three months ago.

Yet here I am, a candidate for Police, Crime and Victims' Commissioner for County Durham and Darlington in 2020.

At the next General Election, vote Labour in every constituency. No exceptions. No excuses. Everything else can be ironed out once we have won.

But what of parliamentary by-elections in the meantime?

There is a case for the organisation and election of candidates, not from fringe Marxist parties, who were opposed to neoliberal austerity and to neoconservative wars without being encumbered by the need to make the Labour Party's internal compromises.

If such candidates were to be elected, while those of Blair and Osborne were not, then that would greatly strengthen the hand of Jeremy Corbyn both within the Labour Party and in the country at large.

And that, in turn, would be to the benefit of everyone who wished to keep the debate open to alternatives to neoliberal economic policy and to neoconservative foreign policy.

There was no such openness before Corbyn. Nor would there be any without him.

To Concentrate American Minds Wonderfully

Patrick J. Buchanan, no less, writes: 

“When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight,” Samuel Johnson observed, “it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” 

And the prospect of a future where Kim Jong Un can put a nuclear weapon on a U.S. city is going to cause this nation to reassess the risks and rewards of the American Imperium. 

First, some history. 

“Why should Americans be first to die in any second Korean war?” this writer asked in 1999 in “A Republic, Not an Empire.” 

“With twice the population of the North and twenty times its economic power, South Korea … is capable of manning its own defense. American troops on the DMZ should be replaced by South Koreans.” 

This was denounced as neo-isolationism. 

And, in 2002, George W. Bush declared the U.S. “will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.”

Bluster and bluff. 

In 2006, Pyongyang called and raised and tested an atom bomb. Now Kim Jong Un is close to an ICBM. 

Our options? 

As Kim believes the ability to hit America with a nuclear weapon is the only certain way he has of deterring us from killing his regime and him, he will not be talked out of his ICBM. 

Nor, short of an embargo-blockade by China, will sanctions keep him from his goal, to which he inches closer with each missile test. 

As for the “military option,” U.S. strikes on Kim’s missile sites could cause him to unleash his artillery on Seoul, 35 miles south.

In the first week of a second Korean war, scores of thousands could be dead.

If North Korea’s artillery opened up, says Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the U.S. would be forced to use tactical atomic weapons to stop the carnage.

Kim could then give the suicidal order to launch his nukes. 

A third option is to accept and live with a North Korean ICBM, as we have lived for decades with the vast nuclear arsenals of Russia and China. 

Now, assume the best: We get through this crisis without a war, and Kim agrees to stop testing ICBMs and nuclear warheads. 

Does anyone believe that, given his youth, his determination to drive us off the peninsula, and his belief that only an ICBM can deter us, this deal will last and he will abandon his nuclear program? 

Given concessions, Kim might suspend missile and nuclear tests. 

But again, we deceive ourselves if we believe he will give up the idea of acquiring the one weapon that might ensure regime survival. 

Hence, assuming this crisis is resolved, what does the future of U.S.-North Korean relations look like? 

To answer that question, consider the past.

In 1968, North Korea hijacked the USS Pueblo on the high seas and interned its crew. LBJ did nothing. 

In April 1969, North Korea shot down an EC-121, 100 miles of its coast, killing the crew. Nixon did nothing.

Under Jimmy Carter, North Koreans axe-murdered U.S. soldiers at Panmunjom. We defiantly cut down a nearby tree. 

Among the atrocities the North has perpetrated are plots to assassinate President Park Chung-hee in the 1960s and ’70s, the Rangoon bombing that wiped out much of the cabinet of Chun Doo-hwan in 1983, and the bombing of Korean Air Flight 858, killing all on board in 1987. 

And Kim Jong Un has murdered his uncle and brother.

If the past is prologue, and it has proven to be, the future holds this.

A renewal of ICBM tests until a missile is perfected. Occasional atrocities creating crises between the U.S. and North Korea. America being repeatedly dragged to the brink of a war we do not want to fight. 

As Secretary of Defense James Mattis said Sunday, such a war would be “catastrophic. … A conflict in North Korea … would be probably the worst kind of fighting in most people’s lifetimes.” 

When the lesson sinks in that a war on the peninsula would be a catastrophe, and a growing arsenal of North Korean ICBMs targeted on America is intolerable, the question must arise:

Why not move U.S. forces off the peninsula, let South Korean troops replace them, sell Seoul all the modern weapons it needs, and let Seoul build its own nuclear arsenal to deter the North? 

Remove any incentive for Kim to attack us, except to invite his own suicide. 

And tell China: Halt Kim’s ICBM program, or we will help South Korea and Japan become nuclear powers like Britain and France. 

Given the rising risk of our war guarantees, from the eastern Baltic to the Korean DMZ — and the paltry rewards of the American Imperium — we are being bled from Libya to Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen — a true America First foreign policy is going to become increasingly attractive. 

Kim’s credible threat to one day be able to nuke a U.S. city is going to concentrate American minds wonderfully.

To Choose Between Chaos And Community


Martin Luther King Jr once said, “When scientific power outruns moral power, we end up with guided missiles and misguided men.” 

Now, it appears Donald Trump might be the man who makes us pay for our country’s moral gap. 

Trump has rekindled fears of war and nuclear strikes by threatening North Korea, saying: “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” 

True to form, Trump’s words flew out of his mouth without much thought or preparation.

In turn, the North Korean government has threatened to fire missiles near the American territory of Guam.

It’s easy to understand why Trump is potentially one of the worst people to be in charge of our nation’s nuclear codes. 

Yet, the problem runs much deeper. 

Trump’s apocalyptic threat is a reminder that we need to revive the moral argument for disarmament and against militarism.

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, then the road to this moment has been paved with the consensus of the foreign policy establishment.

Both neocons and hawkish Democrats have pushed for an aggressive posture that has US Special Operations forces operating in 137 countries. 

US defense spending consistently dwarfs the rest of the world. 

King said, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

Based on our record, it looks like this nation has been beyond spiritually dead for some time.

Before Trump, the Obama administration brokered more weapons sales than any other administration since World War II. 

Although Hillary Clinton campaigned on strong gun control, the State Department under her leadership exhibited little restraint when it came to selling arms. 

In this environment, it’s not surprising that efforts for nuclear disarmament have largely been abandoned. 

Former US Secretary of Defense William Perry describes the ways in which progress in this area has been lost. 

Now he, and many others, argue that the risk of nuclear catastrophe is greater today than during the Cold War.

King was someone who acutely understood the danger of American militarism and nuclear weapons.

In his 1967 Christmas Sermon on Peace, he said:

“If somebody doesn’t bring an end to this suicidal thrust that we see in the world today, none of us are going to be around, because somebody’s going to make the mistake through our senseless blundering of dropping a nuclear bomb somewhere…” 

Recovering King’s political vision can help us today.

He prophetically warned that there would be consequences for our country’s “moral and spiritual lag” behind its material power. 

He saw all life as interrelated and caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. 

King’s moral framework understood that the stability of our “world house” required a revolution of values. 

The triplet and intersecting evils of racism, capitalism, and militarism would not be dismantled if profit motives and property rights were considered more important than people and the planet. 

Trump’s xenophobic policies, giveaways for the wealthy, and belligerent temperament exemplify this. 

As long as war remains a business profiting a few, peace will remain a low priority. 

The problem is not simply Trump or the preceding presidential administrations, but an entire system that profits from violent conflicts and war.

Former President Dwight D Eisenhower understood this when he described the grave implications of the “military-industrial complex” in his 1961 farewell address

According to him, “The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – [of an immense military establishment and arms industry] is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government.” 

We see this structure at work as defense corporations profit every time that Trump launches missiles.

The recently overturned Blackwater conviction of a private security involved in the deaths of 14 unarmed Iraqis serves as a reminder of this sector’s power. 

You don’t have to be an absolute pacifist in order see that King’s moral perspective can incisively diagnose our political situation and prescribe much-needed alternative routes. 

As Trump’s evangelical advisers tell him that God has given him authority to take out Kim Jong Un of North Korea, a radical redirection of our foreign policy might just save us. 

Nevertheless, one obstacle to reviving a moral argument for disarmament and against militarism is that the majority of religious liberals never truly followed King in this area.

Instead, they opted for the realism and liberal internationalism of the Democratic establishment. 

Even today, many liberal Christian leaders are too busy writing hagiographies for Obama and Clinton to put critical pressure on Democrats on the issue of peace.

If King’s vision is to be revitalized, it will probably take a pluralistic and interfaith coalition. 

This coalition will have to be familiar with the late King who denounced imperialism and pushed for disarmament.

Far from being idealistic, it is King’s framework which has regained relevance in the Trump era. 

As he wrote towards the very end of his life:

“We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. This may well be mankind’s last chance to choose between chaos and community.”

Another Looming Disaster

Laura Pidcock writes: 

Like any northern community which has been hit by the double whammy of long term deindustrialisation and lack of investment, my constituency of North West Durham has its fair share of problems with unemployment, low pay and mental health issues. 

A lot of people here are struggling to pay rent, fuel bills and buy the basics of food and clothing, not through any fault of their own, but because for far too long, our part of the country has been neglected by a distant, and at times, callous, government. 

It’s a familiar story. 

Sensationalist TV programmes like Benefits Street love to individualise these problems, to make them the fault of the person in receipt of benefits. 

But talking to people during my MPs surgeries, on the doorstep and in meetings, it’s noticeable most have a common thread: that people have been left behind by a government that is becoming increasingly uncaring and often shuts off support to those who’ve fallen on hard times, been trapped in poorly paid work or had bad luck in their lives.

The safety net which was once provided by the State is now falling to voluntary organisations, trade union branches, religious groups and dedicated volunteers who won’t stand by and watch people in hardship.

When the state fails, the people organise. 

When I was a small child, my parents used to push me along in a buggy at anti-Thatcher marches, so I know none of this is new, but the 2017 version of the Tories have almost seemed to revel in that uncaring attitude.

Instead of taking an evidence-based view of why people are in poverty, distress, unable to work or struggling to fulfil their potential, the Conservatives come out with mantras such as “employment is the best route out of poverty”. 

In fact this is a direct quote from a reply I received from the Minister for Employment when I first asked to pause the roll-out of Universal Credit. 

Anyone who has spent any time in constituencies like North West Durham know that it is more complicated than this – but this has been a pattern since 2010: a sound-bite politics with little or no regard for long-term solutions. 

If your wages are so low, or your terms and conditions so insecure that your employment entrenches your conditions of poverty, you can see why such a patronising mantra seems so out of touch. 

Talk to any care worker who is not paid for their time in-between visits, not paid mileage for the extensive journeys between patients, and on a minimum wage and ask them how easy it is live a comfortable life. 

Irrespective of the important detail of the complexities of modern life, like debt repayments, exploitative pre-payment energy meters, the rising prices of food, petrol and rents. 

Work in 2017 does not always help alleviate financial worries.

Over the last few months, I’ve picked up on another looming disaster for people in my constituency: the rollout of Universal Credit right in the middle of Christmas, traditionally the most difficult time for working class families financially. 

Despite the joy Christmas can bring, there is hypermaterialism, the normalisation of overconsumption and the social expectation to purchase the latest goods, especially for the Instagram generation, which makes this is an extremely pressured time. 

Many people feel guilt and shame at their inability to provide any ‘extras’ when they are already struggling to tread water. 

I couldn’t think of a worse time to be introducing a shake-up to benefits that, when introduced in other parts of the country, has left many claimants without payments for up to seven weeks.

I've discussed the issue with constituents, and read evidence in a report by Citizens Advice, who – as the experts in the field – dealt with the fall-out from the initial rollout of Universal Credit.

They reported a series of issues, including delays to payments, the removal of the severe disability premium, and problems with the Universal Helpline. which you have to pay to call.

People also struggled to pay back crisis loans of £150 in lump sums of £50 at a time. 

The way that Universal Credit has been introduced is a clear sign of how out of touch the Government are with the lives of many people who are struggling.

Who would introduce this at Christmas? Only people that know nothing about the nature of poverty.

My background is in campaigning: when I see a problem, my first instinct is to ask how we solve it, and the answer is normally, collectively. 

So my office staff and I got to work, emailing colleagues right across the political spectrum, following up with phone calls and eventually, collecting signatures from 30 other MPs, all of whom had constituencies that were going to be hit by the aggressive rollout of Universal Credit in November and December this year. 

My office also received many messages of support from MPs whose constituencies were in line for Universal Credit later, but were equally concerned about its impact. 

What we are asking is not unreasonable. The government already recognises that there are many difficulties with the system. 

So why don’t they do the decent thing and pause the rollout until they have sorted out these issues?

This is what the Citizens Advice, many campaigning groups and a large group of the MPs whose constituents are affected are saying. 

My constituents should not have to pay the price of this inadequate system at this special, but expensive time of the year. 

To push them into further debt and more misery would be entirely consistent of this government, such is their record, but disgraceful nevertheless.

A New Party Would Split The Conservatives, Not Labour

Paul Mason writes:

One Thursday night in the next couple of years we could go to sleep knowing that, by Friday morning, neoliberalism in Britain will be over. 

If a left-led Labour party comes to power, leading a coalition [why so?] determined to scrap free market economics, that will be a good day for working people.

It will be a bad day for Virgin CarePortland Communications and Saudi Arabia.

If this prospect appals you, there is now a clear course of action.

James Chapman, a former Daily Mail journalist and former spin doctor for George Osborne and David Davis, who now works for the PR firm Bell Pottinger, wants to launch a new centrist party called the Democrats, consisting of diehard anti-Brexiters from all parties.

He claims that two cabinet ministers, several former Tory frontbenchers and even members of the Labour shadow cabinet have been “in touch”.

Chapman’s gambit is welcome because it comes after the early summer promise of a Tony Blair-led move to create a new centre party (emulating Emmanuel Macron’s) fizzled out.

Private Eye claims that Blair asked Labour donor and Brexiteer John Mills for money, to no avail.

At the annual conference of Progress there were few takers for my suggestion that they “do a Macron”; in fact, Progress itself is a shrunken force inside the Labour movement and does not look capable of launching anything in the near future.

The fact remains, however, that a constituency of voters exists who are so emotionally wedded to Britain’s European Union membership that the issue obliterates all others – and that they are poorly represented in English electoral politics.

I do not share their objectives, but I welcome the re-emergence of the “new party” debate.

Because Chapman’s move illustrates where the real centre of gravity of a new centrist party would have to lie: it would be a liberal Tory party.

The party of Notting Hill and Canary Wharf; the party of free market economics, globalised finance and social liberalism.

And its major impact on British politics would be to split the Conservative party, not Labour.

These political forces, though I oppose them all, are not the worst enemy we face.

The main enemies are economic nationalism, racism, xenophobia and the underlying project of those who promote it.

The project of the rightwing Tory Brexiteers and the Trump faction within the US elite is to save their own national forms of neoliberal economics by breaking with the global institutional form – global trade and climate treaties in the case of Trump, the EU in the case of the Brexit right.

Their project is iniquitous not just because it seeks to create the conditions for further wage stagnation, further deregulation and more austerity; but because the only way it can do so is via a period of chaos.

The chaos fantasies of the American right are luridly spelled out in the works of Neil Howe and William Strauss: the US will have to undergo a “reset” as traumatic as the civil war and reconstruction era in their historic scheme.

The British equivalent consists of genteel bumbling into chaos: walk off the edge of an economic cliff and close your eyes; something will come up.

So it is logical for the forces that believe the global free market system can be rescued to look for a political home.

If they manage to create it, it may look a lot like it did when Nick Clegg and David Cameron stood together in the rose garden of Downing Street in May 2010, though less naive – and would have to espouse the same project: austerity at home, and a more gradual divestment of trade links with Europe in favour of links with the Hindu chauvinist regime in Delhi and the dictator in Beijing.

But I want to suggest to those contemplating a new party a different course of action.

The global system is in trouble because it does not work. The European Union likewise.

$12tn worth of unconventional monetary policy by central banks has bought time, and filled the cities of the world with speculative apartment blocks and shopping malls, but it has not restored dynamism to the world economy.

That is because the model is broken.

A model based on wage stagnation, excess financial profit, relentless privatisation and stagnant productivity was always going to blow up – and that’s what happened in 2008.

The decade since has been wasted because, among the wider elite that now fantasises about a new party, there was actually no new thinking.

It is not just political careers at stake: if neoliberalism is dying, thousands of PhDs are worthless; entire legal codes will evaporate; career paths will have to be rethought.

Easier to blame the electorate for their stupidity in reaching for the gun of national-centric solutions than re-examine your own flawed assumptions.

Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on Brexit is the only one a consistent social democrat could take: to attempt the softest possible break with Europe commensurate with ditching the free movement of workers, replacing it with a generous and humane migration regime and a trade relationship with the EU maintaining the benefits of the current position.

It is a compromise not just with the 52% who voted for Brexit, but with a new global fact: Britain has a new and unstable relationship with Europe, in which the EU27 will always have the upper hand, and the resulting frictions will always threaten a repeat of June 2016.

And the difference between Corbyn and the Tory right is clear: under no circumstances could Labour present to parliament a deal worse than the present situation, let alone vote for it.

For people who really cannot live with that, who would rather idealise the Europe that smashed Greece while tolerating racists and antisemites in power across eastern Europe, maybe a new party is the only place they’re going to be happy.

But the world has still changed.

The global system is fragmenting and demands radical answers that neither Blairism nor Coalition-era Conservatism can offer.

A new party would form an emotional comfort blanket: braver to expose yourself to the strategic problem of the age – to ditch the economic strategies of the past 30 years and rethink.

But Venezuela Is Not Britain

Mary Dejevsky writes: 

No one – I think – would dispute that Venezuela is an almighty mess. 

And it is a mess that is largely, though not entirely – think longtime US meddling – of its own making. 

But there are plenty of basketcases around the world today, some of them a lot closer to the UK or a lot more threatening to world peace. 

So how come the disaster that is Venezuela has occupied so much political space since our MPs went on holiday? 

Why all the verbal flagellation? Let me hazard a few guesses.

Could it be a) that politicians and journalists are genuinely concerned about the plight of Venezuela or fear the wider fall out from its instability?

Could it be b) that without Parliament, the political class is bored and casting around for things to do? 

Or might it be, given that right and left have both deplored what is going on in Venezuela c) that it diverts attention from the two main parties’ divisions over Brexit?

Well, it could be all three.

But there is no way to make complete sense of this Venezuela fixation, without d) and here is a clue: no sooner had Parliament risen for the summer recess than the anti-Corbyn attack dogs – restrained for a spell by the election result – were off their leash and back on the scent.

Come on, Jeremy, they taunted, what are you waiting for?

Go on, condemn what is going on in Venezuela. Where’s the problem, Jeremy? Just do it!

And when answer came there none – they paraded his silence as “proof” of his unsuitability for office. 

Here was Venezuela, a state whose late populist leader had driven its development along Marxist lines; a state Corbyn had lauded well after its Chavez heyday; a state now bankrupt, repressive, and teetering on the brink of civil war. 

And here was Jeremy refusing to recant. Well, what had Jeremy been waiting for? 

One thing, it turned out, not unreasonably, was to get back to the UK from his holiday in Croatia. (Thank goodness, nothing too contentious about that these days, the newest EU member and all that.) 

But the sole purpose of the pressure was to trap him. 

He would be damned if he said something – whatever it was – and damned if he didn’t. 

Needless to say, the statement Corbyn eventually produced pleased no one, least of all his many critics on both sides of the political divide. 

It contained an expression of sadness at the loss of life, condemnation of violence committed “by any side”, and a call for dialogue. 

The nearest he came to criticism of the President, Nicolas Maduro, was his appeal for “a process that respects the independence of the judiciary and respects the human rights of all.” 

Compare the words of the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, who accused Maduro of behaving like the “dictator of an evil regime”.

In response to which you have to ask, what had all those pressing Corbyn to speak really wanted? 

Some doubtless wanted him to be his own stubborn self and say nothing.

In that event they would be able to tar him as a hypocrite who would condemn incompetence and excess from the right, but not from the left. 

Mostly, though – I suspect – they just wanted to see him to squirm in the contradictions between idealism and harsh reality.

And if he stuck to his socialist guns, as in effect he did?

He could then be exposed as a leader whose template for the UK, if he ever won power, would be the Marxist vision for Venezuela that had gone so badly wrong.

This is the new theme song of the Conservatives, and it remains so today.

Over the past couple of weeks a veritable torrent of statements and commentaries and quips on social media has combined to present Corbyn as the Chavez-Maduro of the UK, who would speed our green and pleasant land to Venezuelan ruin.

How far such an argument will stick, let alone prove effective in an election, however, is another matter. I, for one, doubt that it could be.

The plight of Venezuela is not in question

Here is a country that should be among the richest in Latin America, given its oil and other mineral reserves.

Yet its people find themselves instead on the brink of destitution and civil war.

There are chronic shortages of vital goods; inflation is running at 700 per cent; an elected parliament is disputing power with a new constitutional assembly; street protests regularly escalate into violence; police tactics are brutal.

The beleaguered regime has resorted to night time arrests of opponents. Sections of the army would appear to be on the prowl.

But Venezuela is not Britain, and the reasons why Chavez won power and retained it, and why Venezuela is now in the perilous state it is, cannot be ascribed only, or even largely, to dogma-Marxist, socialist, populist or whatever. 

The dominance of one charismatic leader always carries dangers; corruption, incompetence, the decline in global oil market, the country’s social structures all played their part.

Similarly, the reasons why Corbyn – and others – were so taken with what was happening in Venezuela under Chavez have less to do with ideology than the simplistic labels suggest.

It was not only on the far left in the UK and Europe that Venezuela was lionised: remember all the plaudits for the Simon Bolivar Orchestra; all the calls for highly drilled music-making that would “lift” poor children out of their disadvantage?

Where is the left or right in that?

The point is that, for a time, in a country that was underdeveloped, but resource-rich, the politics of redistribution, with investment in health and education, worked. 

At a time when the free market and globalisation reigned supreme, Venezuela took another way.

It is not unreasonable to ask how well either model has fared, really, two decades on.

The fact is that many of those now decrying the crisis in Venezuela across the UK media are doing so less out of concern for that country and its people than because it provides them with a new stick to beat Jeremy Corbyn with.

The Labour leader, for his part, has said and done nothing that suggests any ambition to resurrect Chavez-ism here.

In essence, all that he has done is to stand by his ideals and argue that there were some aspects of the Chavez experiment that worked – and there were.

You should know that I am no Corbynite. His politics are quite a way from mine.

I’ve seen the iniquities of Soviet communism and where Marxism can lead.

But after the Iraq war and the financial crisis, Corbyn has a lot of right on his side, and there is good reason to consider other ways of doing things.

To suggest anyone now sees Venezuela as a model, however, is absurd – and I bet Corbyn knows that, too.