Saturday, 14 December 2013

European Outlook #1 January 2014

 

This blog is the successor to Nation Revisited. It is dedicated to social justice and European solidarity.

Doctrinaire Policies
Many of the formerly state-owned industries in the UK are no better for being sold off. The railways and the bus companies are massively subsidized and the power companies are operating as a cartel. British Telecom is one of the few success stories. The old British Telecom was an overmanned and inefficient monopoly that was contemptuous of its customers but the new BT is a very good company.

There are good private companies and there are bad state-owned companies. The answer lies in good management; not in the ownership of the company. Most pensioners have got a state pension and an annuity bought from a commercial provider. But there is nothing to choose between them; unless you live to be a hundred years old you will not get your money back.

The state-run National Health Service in the UK is excellent. But so is the private health care industry in the United States - if you can afford it. We all want efficient and affordable public services however they are provided. The socialists argue that publicly owned services are cheaper to run because they don’t have to pay dividends to shareholders. But we all remember the dark days of the 1980s when British industry was dominated by bloated bureaucrats and trade union officials who were just as greedy as shareholders.
Between the Clause Four thinking of the old Labour Party and the free for all of the Thatcher era lies the sensible compromise of a mixed economy. The railways will always have to be subsidized so they might as well be state-owned. But the motor companies are foreign-owned and it would cost a fortune to nationalize them. Our industry should consist of a mixture of state-owned and private companies that treat their workers fairly and contribute to the national economy.

Socialist ideals are commendable but wholesale nationalization can be as misguided as laisez faire capitalism. Workers must be protected by law but bosses should be entitled to make a reasonable profit. Thatcherism is as bad as socialism when it comes to pursuing doctrinaire policies. The answer is workers partnership. Some of our best companies – like the John Lewis Partnership – seek the active participation of their workers and reward them with a share of the profits. Workers for progressive employers are happy at work and unlikely to go on strike. Industrial partnership is an old idea but militant trade unionism and hard-nosed capitalism have both failed to promote good industrial relations; it’s time for a change.



Social Responsibility
The rise of China and India as industrial nations and the decline of British industry have transformed our economy. Sixty years ago most people worked in manufacturing industry but today we are overwhelming a service economy. We still make high quality products like cars, machine tools, aerospace equipment and pharmaceuticals. But the old heavy industries are in terminal decline.

The cyclical nature of the capitalist system is now generally accepted. Industry provides goods and services to a receptive market until its customers run out of money and credit. Then boom is followed by bust until they pay off their debts and accumulate enough money for another bout of spending. This cycle is repeated over and over again. Each financial collapse wipes out aspirant capitalists but the established ones just sit on their money and wait for the next boom. Thus the rich really do get richer and the poor get poorer.

National revolutions fail because the capitalists insure themselves against revolution in any particular country by spreading their assets around the world. When slavery was abolished throughout the British Empire in 1833 the slaves who built Bristol Cathedral were sold to plantation owners in Virginia. As the Emancipation Act came into force at midnight the ships carrying them to America were outside British territorial waters and beyond the authority of the Royal Navy.
In the 20th century employers were forced to pay decent wages in order to compete for labour. But the unscrupulous amongst them got over the problem by importing millions of unskilled workers from all over the world. The conditions won by generations of workers were eroded and people are working on temporary contracts with no provision for holidays or sickness.

But there are good as well as bad capitalists. Some of the giant global corporations have become so efficient and productive that their wealth has found its way into the pockets of the hungry. Ingvan Kamprad the IKEA billionaire is giving 100 million euros a year to UNICEF and Save the Children. And the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are not far behind. This level of philanthropy was pioneered by Andrew Carnegie the Scottish steel magnate who gave away millions and advocated social responsibility in his 1900 book The Gospel of Wealth.

At its best socialism provided work, housing, education and social security for all. But at its worse it descended into state brutality. Capitalism has raised living standards throughout the world but whole sections of humanity have been neglected. The wealth of nations depends on their talents and resources. But money and people need to be employed. People are wasted on the dole and money is useless sitting in a bank. Both should be put to work for the good of all mankind.

                                     Andrew Carnegie
United People’s Party
Andrew Stott is a twenty something former Conservative who started out in the Green Party. He is a parish councilor for Bucklebury in Berkshire and leader of the United People’s Party. The UPP was founded in 2009 and describes itself thus:

“The United People’s Party is a party that promotes liberal nationalism, a non-xenophobic form of nationalism which is compatible with the liberal values of equality and individual rights. It is the belief that the promotion of national identity is paramount in creating a strong, prosperous and united nation which anyone can belong to, irrespective of someone’s ethnicity, religion, sexuality, age, disability, gender or origin.”

As a “politically correct” populist party they are bound to be overshadowed by Ukip but they may appeal to younger supporters who are put off by the middle aged, middle class, middle England image of Nigel Farage.

“The United People’s Party believes that there are positive aspects to the EU but the negatives far outweigh them. The free movement of people makes properly controlling immigration levels all but impossible. Long-standing EU laws that effect Britain directly did not, and will never, take into account the wishes of the British people: corrupt and greedy MEPs, both pro and anti-EU, sponging hundreds of thousands of pounds every year on salaries and expenses. Our only choice is withdrawal. The United People’s Party will withdraw from the EU; propose either negotiating our own free trade agreement with the EU or joining EFTA to ensure that we have free movement of capital, goods and services but not people.”

Andrew Stott’s concept of Britain as an EFTA state is more or less what we’ve got. We are not in the eurozone, we are not in Shengen, and we have negotiated so many opt-outs and exclusions that we hardly belong to the EU at all. His website is thankfully free of pictures of Winston Churchill or spitfires and his arguments spare us the nostalgic nonsense of lost imperialism. In time he may accept that trade between neighbouring states often leads to political and economic union; just as it did when England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales came together to form the United Kingdom. With separate governments for Europe, the UK and the regions, there is no reason why liberal nationalism should not embrace European solidarity.

Following their disappointing results in the 2010 general election the parties of the far-right have retreated into a fantasy of economic nationalism based on a revived British Commonwealth. At first glance the UPP appears to be just another reactionary party. But at least they accept the idea of the European Free Trade Association and they might be young enough to embrace policies that were not cast in stone in 1967 when the National Front was formed. They can be contacted at: http://www.unitedpeoplesparty.org.uk/

                                                        Andrew Stott
Mandela in Perspective
The death of Nelson Mandela at the age of 95 resulted in an outbreak of hysteria from the mass media. There is no doubt that he helped the transition to majority-rule. If he had called for revenge against the whites things could have been a lot worse. But all is not well in South Africa. A survey for the period 1998-2000 compiled by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime rated South Africa second for assault and murder (by all means) per capita and first for rapes, per capita in a data set of 60 countries. Total crime was 10th out of 60 countries in the data set.

Apartheid was a cruel deception. It pretended to be a system of separate development designed to give equality to all races on the basis of territory. But throughout the period of National Party government the country depended on black labour and never actively promoted white immigration for fear of losing its Afrikaner identity. In the sixties there were 300,000 whites in Rhodesia, over a million Portuguese in Angola and Mozambique, and almost five million Europeans in South West Africa (Namibia) and South Africa. But instead of standing together each white tribe clung to its individuality and let the blacks take over the whole sub-continent.
To the English-speaking South Africans the Afrikaners were “bloody Boers”, the Germans in South West were “damned Huns”, the Portuguese were “dagoes” and the white Rhodesians were working class “Brits” who would not be welcome at the golf club.

Without the support of the United States, or a major European power, it’s doubtful that a white-ruled state could have been maintained in Africa but the suicidal petty nationalism of the whites played into the hands of the African National Congress.
Nelson Mandela supported the armed struggle during the Apartheid era. But history is littered with politicians who supported violent revolution from George Washington to Gerry Adams and Robert Mugabe. It is the first rule of diplomacy that terrorist turn into democrats when they come to power. And we all know that regimes that denounce terrorism, like that of Margaret Thatcher, are frequently engaged in murder and sabotage.

Mandela worked closely with the SA Communist Party but the far-right has devalued the term “Marxist” by so labeling everyone from Angela Merkel to the Pope. Some of them even accuse Dave Cameron; a nice young man who is sprung from the loins of the nobility and entirely devoid of political intelligence.
Nelson Mandela was a gifted and determined man but he was not a saint. At his treason trial in 1965 he made an inspirational three hour speech to the court before being sentenced to life imprisonment. The moral of this story is, if you are charged with treason do not antagonize the judge with a three hour speech - keep your mouth shut.

Objective Reporting
Accounts of political meetings are seldom unbiased. Michael Billig’s 1978 book “Fascists” is a blatant hatchet job on the National Front but it gives an interesting account of an early Nazi meeting:

There are sound historical reasons for rejecting the fascists’ own account of their propagandizing. One incident from the German National Socialist party illustrates this well. The first volume of Mein Kampf ends with an account of a public meeting held by the newly formed party in Munich in 1920. According to Hitler this was the party’s first mass meeting and was a significant turning point. From Mein Kampf one gathers that over half the audience comprised communists and socialists intent only on disruption. There was general disorder, at least until Hitler took the floor. His speech won over the whole audience completely. The party’s programme was “accepted with steadily mounting joy, unanimously and again unanimously, and when the last thesis had found its way to the hearts of the masses, there stood before me a hall full of people united by a new conviction, a new faith, a new will.”
Hitler’s account suggests that the orator had once more tapped the unconscious forces of the mass, who gave themselves up, unwillingly at first, to his superior will. The truth is less heroic. Phelps has compared Hitler’s account of the meeting with that in the press. No newspaper carried a story even remotely similar to Hitler’s account. Even the sympathetic Volkischer Beobachter, which was soon to become the official newspaper of the NSDAP, gave the meeting small coverage. Their story contained only one sentence referring to Hitler; this merely mentions the opposition he provoked from the communists. All the newspapers gave Hitler far less prominence than they gave the other National Socialist speakers at the meeting. They all agreed that, far from being the triumph described by Hitler, the meeting closed with the communists singing “Down with Hindenburg, Ludendorff and the German nationalists!”

Nearly a hundred years later meetings and demonstrations are still being misreported. The 2002 Countryside Alliance march through London was accurately counted using electronic equipment. The organizers counted 407,791 marchers but the police estimated half that number. A year later London saw the biggest political demonstration since the Chartists meetings of the 19th century. The BBC estimated that well over a million people protested against the Iraq war but the police only admitted to 750,000.
Patriotic parties have always been misrepresented by the popular press. They reported the Battle of Cable Street in 1936 as a confrontation between Mosley’s BUF and the anti-fascist mob. In fact it was a battle between the mob and the police. The Blackshirts obeyed police orders and only defended themselves when attacked. But the myth of a great anti-fascist victory took root and set the pattern for future reporting.

Hitler’s Fatal Gamble


Bill White’s letter published in last month’s NR was typical of the response from readers who have convinced themselves that National Socialism was a heroic crusade against communism and capitalism. But the facts do not bear this out.
Hjalmar Schacht, the German Minister of Economics from 1934 to 1937, used a shell company called Metallurgische Forschungsgesellschaft, or Mefo for short, to issue bonds. By 1939 there were 12 billion Reichmarks worth of Mefo bills in circulation compared to 19 billion Reichmarks in government bonds. The German economy was backed by industrialists and international financiers including Warburgs. The Nazis bartered with the Soviets during their brief alliance but they paid most of their bills with Reichmarks. By April 1945 the Red Army was fighting for Berlin and the Allies were swarming across the Rhine. But the final blow came when the Americans captured 100 tonnes of gold in a salt-mine in Thuringia. This represented Germany’s entire reserves except for $440 million deposited in the Swiss National Bank.

The Nazis totally underestimated their enemies. They believed their own propaganda about the Russians being incapable of making modern weapons or fighting a mechanized war. They also alienated entire nations, like the Ukraine, that might have supported them against the communists. David Irving was given access to the Goebbels’ Diaries which reveal the Minister of Enlightenment and Propaganda's regrets. He quotes the good doctor in his book Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich.
“If only we had proceeded more shrewdly in the east. And if only we had made clear to the peoples there that we were coming not as conquers but as liberators from bolshevism, the decisive blow against the Soviet Union might have met with success.”

National Socialists insist that the Japanese let down the Third Reich by not invading the Soviet Union from the east. Or that the Italians, Hungarians and Romanians were poor allies. But the fact is that Germany was comprehensively beaten by the British Army at El Alemein, the RAF in the Battle of Britain, the Red Army at Stalingrad, and by the Allied landings at Normandy. Hitler gambled on Britain making a separate peace and America staying out of the war. But he was wrong on both counts.
When Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 Joseph Stalin ordered his economists to calculate how much materiel was necessary to sustain the Nazi war effort. He then got them to work out at what point they would run out of supplies. The forecast was that German resources would be exhausted by the winter of 1944. Hitler’s supporters must accept that the Soviet data was more reliable than Nazi propaganda. German soldiers were brave, loyal and motivated by patriotism but they couldn’t fight without food, fuel and ammunition. Like Napoleon Bonaparte before him Adolf Hitler made the fatal mistake of marching east.

UKIP
Ukip did well in English council elections and they are expected to do well in the EU parliamentary election. But they haven’t got any MPs at Westminster and their policies will not stand scrutiny. Their opposition to immigration and the EU is popular and so is their straight-talking leader Nigel Farage who enjoys a pint of beer and a cigarette. His appetites and his old fashioned wardrobe are designed to appeal to Daily Mail readers. But when it comes to the crunch generations of political conditioning will kick-in and the South will vote Tory and the North will vote Labour.

The far-right parties have been eclipsed by Ukip. The BNP were doing well before the 2010 general election; they boasted two MEPs, a member of the Greater London Authority and scores of local councilors. But following their poor performance at the 2010 general election they are now back where they started. Despite their protests there isn’t much difference between Ukip and its rivals. They all deny being anti-European but their deeply ingrained xenophobia is never far from the surface.
The post-war migration of Third World workers to Europe and North America fed an insatiable demand for cheap labour. But industry has moved to China and India and the high-tech industries that survive in the West need skilled workers. There are still thousands of refugees fleeing from war and poverty in Africa and Asia but legislators from Lisbon to Moscow are starting to close the doors.
The alarmist predictions of the Daily Telegraph and the doom-mongers have all been wrong. Ireland did not quit the euro, and nor did Portugal, Greece or Cyprus. Spain’s economy has started to grow again and unemployment is falling. Italy has ridden the storm and is restructuring her economy and in Germany Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats won a landslide election and have formed a coalition with the pro-European Social Democrats.

The financial meltdown of 2008 affected all the economies of the world including the US, Japan and Europe, but five years later they are all recovering. Unemployment is starting to fall and the UK housing market is recovering. The Confederation of British Industry is confident about Britain’s future and we are on-target to balance the books within five years. If this progress is maintained UKIP will lose the protest vote and Nigel Farage will join Enoch Powell and James Goldsmith as another voice crying in the wilderness.
In contrast to the UK where people are uncertain about the EU, the people of the Ukraine are demonstrating in their hundreds of thousands for closer ties with Europe. Their choice is between east and west but eventually the EU and the Russian Federation will resolve their differences. The cultural divisions of the Ukraine are no greater than those between France and Germany. They will be overcome.

Ideas and Tactics
In last month’s Nation Revisited I suggested that we infiltrate the existing parties. I wrote:

“You will not bring down the capitalist system or wipe out two centuries of liberalism but you might help to frame a sensible immigration policy.”
I have since discovered that this proposal was dismissed way back in 1984 by Jeffrey Hamm writing in Action No 319.

“What is the point in trying to infiltrate the major political parties, riddled with corruption and clinging to obsolete economic policies which have now created an unemployment figure equal to that of the thirties when I entered politics as a boy?
Young men and women may find the Young Conservatives a pleasant matrimonial agency, while their elders think it greatly daring to pass an anti-immigration motion at a conference of the Monday Club or Tory Action.

But the hard-faced men of Tory Central Office will continue to advise the Iron Lady to woo the white electorate with vague murmurings about Britain being “swamped”, before donning her sari to court the Asian vote.
The Labour Party will continue to strive to make work that capitalist system its founders denounced with such vehemence, joining the Tories in a plea to make Britain more competitive on world markets.

Stripped of Kinnock rhetoric; this means urging the British worker to try to undercut his international socialist comrade in Korea or Taiwan, so that Britain might enjoy a favourable trade balance and maintain the Welfare State.
Our attitude has been clearly defined on many occasions, but here it is once more: a plague on both their houses.”

Ideas expressed in European Outlook are not sacrosanct. I believe in European solidarity and social justice but I welcome sensible debate on all subjects. I agree with the BNP about stopping Third World immigration. I agree with the Tories and the Liberal Democrats about fiscal responsibility. I agree with UKIP about scrapping wind turbines and with the Green Party on nuclear power. Oswald Mosley had the right idea when he called for a Government of National Unity. Not just a coalition of parties but a congress of industrialists, scientists and administrators who would put country before party and work in the national interest. We have started to recover from the financial meltdown of 2008 but the underlying economic problems have not gone away. There is no party advocating sensible policies at the moment but our time will come.