My December reads

27 Dec
this post also features in offguardian

And so this is Christmas, what have you done? The old year is over, a new one just begun.

Well, almost. I can’t alas, offer much in the bliss department this year. I leave for others the glad tidings of great joy. As my flawed but brilliant teacher was wont to say: any fool can be happy; more important by far is being real.

No shortage of reality in these reads. We start with as venomous a piece of anti-semitism (the real McCoy) as ever was penned, packing into its mercifully short length a mix of hatred, non sequitur and – more widespread, this – confusion as to the true nature of capitalism.

We proceed to analysis of the election – yes, that one – and thence to heartfelt indictment of our rulers’ criminality in Syria. For afters we get a first hand account of what happens when an honest journalist working in mainstream media tries to tell the truth on matters critical to the interests and agendas of those same rulers.

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Vulture Capitalism is Jewish Capitalism.

This being the nastiest of my December reads I’ll get it out of the way first. Written by Andrew Joyce on the far right Occidental Observer site, what it says on the tin is a reliable guide to the poison within.

First a little basic logic. These things are broadly true: organised crime in Prohibition America was dominated by Irish and Sicilian gangs; Jews are overrepresented in finance capitalism.

But then, Irish and Sicilian Americans had the advantage that they could if so minded draw on covert traditions and organisational forms forged in resistance to colonial rule in Europe, and now eminently suited for the opportunities opened up by Prohibition and the American Dream.

For their part, Ashkenazi Jews are overrepresented in many areas favouring intelligence: finance capital, yes, but also media, science, arts and the Left (Marx, Trotsky and Luxemburg exemplify a wider trend). The mean IQ of Ashkenazis is 107-15 against 90-110 in the population at large.

So when we’re invited to conclude that Irish/Sicilian Americans are likely to be racketeers, Jews financiers, truth is being twisted by knaves to lay traps for fools. Even without those empirical explanations just given, if Group A is significantly overrepresented in a much smaller group, B, we may not (validly!) infer that B is significantly overrepresented in A.1

That said, this piece unwittingly gives a decent summary of capitalism, albeit one suffused with a second confusion: failure to grasp that ‘vulture capitalism’, far from describing some deviant form of an otherwise sane and sensible organising of social relations for the purpose of wealth creation, is a tautology akin to ‘carnivorous tigers’ or ‘antisemitic nazis’.

What Jewish vultures engage in is not productive [but] greed-motivated parasitism on a perversely extravagant and highly nepotistic scale.2 Jewish enterprise — exploitative, inorganic, and attached to socio-political goals that have nothing to do with individual freedom and private property [is] the free enterprise Jews learn about — as illustrated in their extraordinary over-representation in all forms of financial exploitation and white collar crime. … Vulture capitalism is Jewish capitalism.

No, Mr Joyce. Vulture capitalism is determined not by peculiarities in the Jewish psyche but by capital’s intrinsic tendencies to monopoly, to imperialism and to the triumph of rentier (‘casino’) over industrial (‘productive’) capital. Vulture capitalism is advanced capitalism pure and simple.

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Why Labour Lost.

My second read, by Alexander Mercouris in Consortium News, isn’t a barrel of laughs either. To those like me who argued that four years of vile slurs on Corbyn played a huge part in Labour’s defeat in the most important election since 1945, it says ‘yes, but this was not the sole cause’.

To those who blame the Brexit fudge, citing the facts that almost all English seats lost were in Leave voting Northern and Midlands towns (Scotland was lost long before Corbyn) it says ‘yes, but Labour’s youth and metropolitan Remainer vote was equally vital, and could equally have jumped ship had Labour ignored its cries of alarm’.

(All the same, Mercouris points to Corbyn’s underestimation of the EU issue, compounded both by lack of political capital and of political nous. A cannier operator, he insists – Harold Wilson is his comparator – might have managed better the challenges of that perilous faultline on Brexit.)

To those who’ll brook no criticism of Corbyn it offers a defence of his integrity. Further, it notes an absolute and relative vote greater than Brown’s (2010) and Milliband’s (2015) while equalling Blair’s (2005). Most important of all, it pays homage to Corbyn’s throwing down the gauntlet to decades of tory-lite Labour, in which cynicism, demoralisation and impotent fury had been read by the Westminster Village as consent.

And with those who say the scale of defeat has been exaggerated by those desiring a swerve to the right, it concurs.3 Likewise with those who insist that political realities underpinning Blair’s successively shrinking majorities are gone forever. The heartland vote can no longer be taken for granted, the way Blair and Campbell did when wooing the middle classes. As Brexit has at one and the same time reflected and exacerbated, Britain is a nation grievously divided.

The perspective is parliamentarian while mine is not. Yet of all the analyses I’ve read, and that’s a good many, this is the most thorough, nuanced, insightful and fair-minded.

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Western moral decay: Syria – the war, the loss and the silence

Of the hundreds of pieces I’ve read, and scores I’ve written, on the West’s criminality in Syria – its scale matched by that of a propaganda blitzkreig that has painted black white and deceived millions labouring under the delusion they live in sound democracies underwritten by free, fair and honest media – this piece from Jan Oberg comes closest to capturing my sense of fear and outrage on what has been done to that country in the risible name of humanitarianism.

It opens like this …

The liberation of Eastern Aleppo took place 3 years and a few days ago – December 12, 2016. On December 12, 2012, Western countries and allies, perversely calling themselves ‘Friends of Syria’ , carried through a regime change by statement and set up a Syrian National Council of people never elected by anyone in Syria and told the world that it was, from now on, the only ‘legitimate representative of the Syrian people!’

During the 4 years, Western, Saudi, Turkish and the Gulf States supported innumerable illegal, destructive and mainly foreign terrorist groups with the goal to undermine the legitimate Syrian government and destabilise the country – as had been recommended by US ambassador William Roebuck in Damascus as far back as in 2006.

December 12, 2016, marked a fundamental turning point. Aleppo did not “fall to the dictator/butcher/mass murderer” aka President Bashar al-Assad – no, it was liberated and the occupation by terrorist groups such as ISIS and al-Nusra during 4,5 years ended.

NATO Turkey had been singularly active in pillaging everything of value in Aleppo and its huge industrial zone, bringing it over to Turkey and converting money to weapons and training facilities for terror groups – a quite peculiar way to contribute to the US Global War on Terror: Like the US itself, Turkey did its utmost to support terrorism in Syria.

Also, Assad’s predicted genocide on his own people there and then – well, just didn’t happen.

I documented this historic moment of change and liberation of Syrians from occupation because I was there, one of the extremely few Westerners, and the only one from Scandinavia:

Six series with strong text and documentary photography – now seen by over 170,000 on the Internet – and lots of articles on The Transnational.

Regrettably, not one Western media wanted, or dared, publish any of it.

Aleppo was said to fall by the Western press. But what fell in Aleppo in December 2016 was: a) the regime change policy; b) the inter-national war on Syria which is still, mostly and falsely, called a basically civil/domestic war, and c) the constructed Western media narrative filled with fiction, fake and – not the least, omission – omitted facts, history, complexities and perspectives including that of international law, voices, experts and argument.

… and goes on in the same vein.

Incidentally, as a keen photographer I can vouch for Jan Oberg’s splendid images of Syria. It was these – reminiscent of Steve McCurry’s iconic work from India, Iran, Cambodia and above all Afghanistan – that first caught my eye three years ago. Jan kindly allowed me to reproduce two of his photos from Aleppo in this post on the liberation of that city.

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Lies, Newsweek and Control of the Media Narrative

Here’s a bonus read. I’d had it down for my third and final choice before Jan Oberg came in, a week later, with his post of December 20. As it happens, Oberg cites in that piece the author – former Newsweek journalist Tareq Haddad – of this my fourth recommend.

The corruption of mainstream media4 informs both my second read (subverting meaningful democracy at home) and my third (abetting what Nuremberg declared the supreme war crime: the waging of aggressive war). It is a theme Mr Haddad is unusually well placed to illustrate from his own experience.

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  1. On this logical error the sixties propaganda war on cannabis is also instructive. Most heroin users, we were told, start on cannabis. Does this mean cannabis users turn sooner or later to heroin? It might help to note that most heroin users also dabbled with milk before graduating to the hard stuff. (And that prohibition puts cannabis and heroin users in close proximity.)
  2. Joyce’s invoking of Jewish nepotism is laughable given the other clubs – Freemasons and Ivy League Frat Soc, Whites and Rotary Club, Eton and Bullingdon – in which the wheels of ‘free enterprise’ are greased.
  3. As I write this on Boxing Day, a bog-standard call for a return by Labour to ‘sensible’ policies appears in the Independent. I say, and not for the first time, there’s nothing sensible about trying to turn back the clock to an era whose defining psephological features have been swept aside by empirical refutation of ‘trickledown’ economics, and by the acceleration of neoliberal policies post 2008.
  4. I also recommend in this regard a Media Lens piece of December 19, The Arrogance of BBC News.

4 Replies to “My December reads

  1. One of the problematic issues which receives insufficient attention when considering voting patterns is the distribution of votes and voters across different constituencies in a First Past the Post (FPTP) system.

    Taking a stance on an issue which picks up a lot of votes and gives thumping majorities in a few seats or which narrows a majority in seats you have little chance of winning whilst overturning your majority in more seats you need to retain results in overall failure. Seat demographics plays a big part here and, in the case of Brexit, recent historical choices.

    In terms of demographics many electoral agents and tacticians tend to utilise tools such as Electoral Calculus: https://www.electoralcalculus.co.uk/

    The models this uses and it’s inbuilt assumptions may not be as robust as they could or should be. However, in terms of straightforward win or lose the only local seat it got wrong was Hallam. The broad categorisations of blocks of voters is not as sophisticated as the marketing model of Experian, which many parties used in recent times (and I found that model somewhat problematic for reasons which are best left to another time). However, the demographic information is useful when combined with other relevant information.

    Which brings us onto the recent historical factors in play. I cannot vouch to the same degree for other seats in the so called ‘Red Wall’ but the Tory Party had been steadily gaining votes in Penistone and Stocksbridge in recent elections from 2015. It was significant to those who bothered to look that the LP majority in 2017 (in a campaign run by Smith and Wilson which was unashamedly telling the electorate they expected the Party to lose heavily at national level and which they were personally telling voters returning Smith locally would result in the Party ditching Corbyn) was LESS than twice the local CLP membership. Go figure as the Americans say.

    It would come as no surprise to see similar age demographics to this seat (average age 51.6) across many “traditional” seats lost this time around. Looking at places like Rother Valley, Don Valley, Bassetlaw, Mansfield (which fell in recent times) and other similar seats which went one thing stands out. Many of these seats contained “traditional” mining, steel and other heavy industry communities which, since the time of Kinnock have been abandoned and left behind by the self labelled great and the good in the Labour Party.

    Firstly in terms of the, at best, lukewarm support during the Thatcher years as those communities fought to save their livelihoods and those on which those communities depends and subsequently the gutting out of those communities which occurred during the Blair years in which regeneration funding for those communities was siphoned off for corporate benefit and subsidies for pet projects (remember Sheffield Airport and the ‘Business Parks’) with little, if any, in terms of benefits trickling down to where that money was needed.

    Indeed, of the £1billion in Objective One funding from the EU around the turn of the Century I recall (being on the initial Community Sector Steering Group) an initial allocation to that sector of a mere £15 million across the SY sub- region. With everything tightly controlled financially by the Regional Development Agencies like Yorkshire Forward (and the City wide sub agencies such as Sheffield First); and politically by the local political establishments working together across Party’s.

    Where local community groups set up to democratically determine priorities and projects run by those communities were systematically undermined and destroyed by those local cross party establishments setting up their own ‘community groups’ controlled by local membership cadres to channel the money through in a deliberate policy of producing control, rather than democracy, down to the lowest level for the benefit of Blairism’s corporate priorities.

    The result, similar in other parts of the Country such as the West Midlands, was a sub- regional GDP below that of Greece for ten years despite the notional sum of £1billion being injected into the local economy which mainly went back up the corporate hierarchy in yet another classic example of rent seeking (another debqte which requires further elaboration for another time). The sub- region of SY GDP only went above that of Greece following the Greek crisis which saw the Greek GDP dropping faster.

    The point being, this was all in the context of the official openly stated attitude of those in the LP who now want to regain control (via Peter Mandleson) that those Labour voters in those traditional, Red Wall, seats “had nowhere else to go” (except New Labour).

    Well they found somewhere else to go. Having regularly seen the BNP with regular Saturday morning stalls in the pedestrian precinct at Barnsley less than ten years ago the Brexit referendum result’s from those former mining and communities came as no surprise. Neither did the second place of the Brexit Party in both Barnsley seats this time around.

    This has been a long time in the making and that section of the Party responsible for producing this outcome need to be given ownership of it. The cause has also not been helped by local housing policies from Labour Controlled Councils which serve only to increase rather than decrease that average age demographic.

    Whether they realise or understand it or not, allowing private developers to buy off their allocation of social housing in places like the Upper Don (Oughtibridge Mill for one) to enable social/affordable housing to be built in places like Parson Cross and Southey Green, Park and Arbourthorne etc certainly shores up the younger Labour vote in Brightside & Hillsborough, Central, Heeley etc but it merely results in no affordable housing for the young in P & S. Driving up the average age demographic and the Tory vote in a repeat of the kind of social engineering once associated with Dame Shirley Porter in the borough of Westminster, with the same end result.

    Playing a blinder for the Tory vote. Regardless of who leads the Party those places will be difficult to win back in less then a generation because the factors which have produced those outcome have been at least two generations in the making.

    • A fascinating glimpse, Dave, of how policies writ large across the Extreme Centre have played out at local level. Many thanks for this.

  2. Re: your first read, yes – familiar detours, or if you prefer, red herrings. Ethnicity, race, psychobabble. It reminds me of this from Trotsky:

    “…in their search for avenues of escape, bourgeois economists have exhumed from the archives the most reactionary theories from the epoch of primitive accumulation. They see remedies for unemployment in Malthusianism and emigration. During the period of its expansion, triumphant capitalism had no need for these theories. But now that it has reached decay, senility and arterio-sclerosis, it becomes childish in the realm of ideas and returns to the old witch-doctor remedies.”

    I predict that by the end of the year, some will be turning to sunspot patterns for guidance.

    “Vulture capitalism” is like “crony capitalism” i.e. an obviously attempt to raise the notion of some pure untrammelled capitalism that would work if only we left it alone! (Note how capitalist apologists were always the first to ridicule those who said that communism hasn’t worked because we haven’t had real communism yet!)

    • Ted Heath, rocked by scandal after scandal by such predators as Tiny Rowland of Lonrho, would refer to the “unacceptable face of capitalism”.

      Decades earlier, long established antisemitism had provided fertile soil as Western capitalism sought scapegoats for its deep and systemic crises, and a response to the ideological gauntlet thrown down by the planned economy of the USSR. Nazi Germany offered both and that’s why the British and American ruling classes, Windsors included, was so sharply divided over Hitler.

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