Thursday, 24 November 2011

St.Vincent of the Emasculate Conception : government plans to chop workers' rights

The saint formerly known as St Vincent of Our Two Ladies now claims the title St.Vincent of the "Emasculate" Conception. You'll remember him. He's the Adonis who boasted of his prowess to two attractive incognito newspaper reporters. He's the prophet who two years ago told the then New Labour government (oh! Fates! can you ever explain these latter day sinners because its difficult for us to forgive them?) that it could "cut" bankers' bonuses at a stroke. Now that St Vincent has governmental responsibility for this particular kind of snipping we still await its enactment with bated breath. To be sure, given the determination of our coalition government to make certain the wealthy as well as the reasonably well off are looked after,  there will be no such hesitation over St. Vincent's plans to chop the rights of less well paid workers. Yesterday, November 23rd, 2011, St. Vincent announced his intention to increase employers' powers by making the process for getting rid of staff "simpler and quicker " and without risk of the employer being taken to a tribunal.

No doubt supporters of his own party are impressed by the way St.Vincent has emasculated the concept of what it means to be "liberal" and democratic.

Reference :

Friday, 18 November 2011

Keep on warring for the free world : the fate of Libya and Gaddafi

Anyone seeking the truth about what exactly happened in Libya this year may well wish to read Hugh Roberts' essay "Who said Gaddafi had to go? " published in a recent issue of The London Review of Books.
It's a long read but it offers an opportunity to reflect on the history that lay behind the soundbites emanating from the  mouths of the democratically elected leaders of the free world about the events leading to the regime change in Libya during 2011.

In the following brief excerpt Roberts considers the UK'S, the USA's and France's statements in February 2011  about Gaddafi's acts of "genocide". Some may find it uncomfortable, as I do,  since I can't accept  the concept of any state being  able to "legitimately" kill its own people but there is another point here and it is that powerful states arrogate the power to decide arbitrarily that the people of other states  are expendable and may be slaughtered. 
(The full text of the essay can be found here : Hugh Roberts: Who said Gaddafi had to go? ).

‘Killing his own people’ is a hand-me-down line from the previous regime change war against Saddam Hussein. In both cases it suggested two things: that the despot was a monster and that he represented nothing in the society he ruled. It is tendentious and dishonest to say simply that Gaddafi was ‘killing his own people’; he was killing those of his people who were rebelling. He was doing in this respect what every government in history has done when faced with a rebellion. We are all free to prefer the rebels to the government in any given case. But the relative merits of the two sides aren’t the issue in such situations: the issue is the right of a state to defend itself against violent subversion. That right, once taken for granted as the corollary of sovereignty, is now compromised. Theoretically, it is qualified by certain rules. But, as we have seen, the invocation of rules (e.g. no genocide) can go together with a cynical exaggeration and distortion of the facts by other states. There are in fact no reliable rules. A state may repress a revolt if the permanent veto-holding powers on the Security Council allow it to (e.g. Bahrain, but also Sri Lanka) and not otherwise. And if a state thinks it can take this informal authorisation to defend itself as read because it is on good terms with London, Paris and Washington and is honouring all its agreements with them, as Libya was, it had better beware. Terms can change without warning from one day to the next. The matter is now arbitrary, and arbitrariness is the opposite of law.'

Hugh Roberts, London Review of Books, November 17, 2011

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Freedom's dead on Ludgate Hill

Riot cops and the Lord Mayor's calling
For a show where he'll get his fill
Of folks being jailed as  tents are falling
Freedom's dead on Ludgate Hill.

Acknowledgement to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.  "Four Dead in Ohio"
Lyrics and melody by Neil Young, 1970

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Democracy and Marketocracy

When we see two western democracies like Greece and Italy forced to appoint unelected national leaders because the international trading markets have demanded it we may begin to be anxious for democracy. When we see our elected leaders running up and down ever faster while shouting ever louder at financial problems they are powerless to influence, our fears for democracy are further confirmed. Yet the kind of democracy which we have seen develop in Europe and North America over the few centuries when capitalism has grown to predominance has never been an idealistic journey towards the freedom and enfranchisement of humankind. The wealthy and powerful have tried to persuade us that it has, and, by manipulating the media, they have largely succeeded. No, the democracy we have now is a servant of capitalism. This democracy, we are persuaded, is underscored by the 'principle',  "that whatever befalls, it is the market that rules." Democracy of this kind, that is, marketocracy, is intended to achieve the acquiescence of the poor and not quite so poor by keeping them in the thrall of an illusion, or more accurately a delusion, that the vote and its concomitant  'freedom of speech'  has somehow empowered them.  What this does is leave a space for those with power and wealth to continue to become more powerful and more wealthy. 

Received wisdom advises that though there is indeed an unfair distribution of the earth's gifts, we just have to accept it. This argument goes on to say that we are too enmeshed in capitalism to unravel it.  At the same time it is noted that socialism was tried and it failed. It is puzzling for those who have the temerity to suggest that capitalism  has also failed the vast majority of people on our planet to find that their view is considered naive. 

Finding other fairer ways for humankind to live will not be easy but it is not naive to suggest there may be an alternative and surely the gap in the life experiences between rich and poor has become too much for any pure democrat to bear. There is a need to return to purchasing only those things which our labour has earned for us.

So three cheers for those Greek protesters who continue to eschew marketocracy and who would wish to unpick the damage that it has done. These Greeks are bearing gifts which we should on this occasion trust and accept.

© 2011 Charles Sharpe