Thursday, July 2, 2020

International politics (2011)

Book Review from the July 2011 issue of the Socialist Standard

Marxism and World Politics. Contesting Global Capitalism. Ed by Alexander Anievas. Routledge, 2011

One of the roles of academics is to clarify the concepts used in everyday talk. The trouble is that today they are obliged to come up with something new, so now we have “MIRT” – Marxist International Relations Theory – , though most of those involved seem to be Trotskyist or Trotskyoid.

The basic subject is interesting. Why, when there is only one global economic system, is the world divided into separate states? Is this something capitalism created or did it simply inherit it? Is it intrinsically necessary to capitalism? Could capitalism exist with a single world state? If not, why not?

These are discussed by the different authors in this collection of articles. The clearest and most informative, in terms of setting out the issues simply, is that by Neil Davidson. Most of the others employ an obscure terminology which no-one outside academia, indeed outside the small circle of those discussing MIRT, uses. As one of them revealingly, but apparently unself-consciously, noted:
 “A fellow traveller amongst Marxist circles – though not a Marxist himself – once asked us what was all the fuss about U&CD and ‘the international’. In exasperation with the whole debate, he threw up his hands declaring: ‘This uneven and combined shit is the dog’s whistle that only Marxists can hear’!”
True, very true, as long as you substitute “Trotskyist” for “Marxist”.
Adam Buick

Why a socialist world won’t be paradise (2011)

The Halo Halo! column from the July 2011 issue of the Socialist Standard

“Does Osama Bin Ladin get his 70 virgins now that he’s in paradise?” asked a questioner at the Moslem platform in Speakers’ Corner.

“In heaven you can have whatever you want,” replied the old mullah. “You just imagine it and it’s there. You can have wine and beer and no matter how much you have you never get drunk.”

This will no doubt come as a shock to would-be Islamic martyrs who are hoping for real virgins rather than imaginary ones (although it will be a great relief to the virgins). The quality of the alcohol doesn’t sound too good either. But at least it was some kind of answer to the question of what heaven is all about. Believers, although adamant that they want to go, tend to be rather vague about what you actually do when you get there.

So for any readers of the Socialist Standard, concerned about the next life, here are a few details (courtesy of google) of what to expect.

First a few observations from a Christian website. (Well we want scientific details don’t we?)
  • “The new earth will have no sea. There will be no sun or moon. Gravity will be absent or greatly reduced. No more death, suffering, pain. Believers will receive a new body”.
  • “The laws of thermodynamics seem to be absent from the new creation.”
  • “Contrary to the Mormon view of heaven, it doesn’t seem that people in heaven will be either male or female”.

    Don’t get too excited about going yet though, you may not qualify. There’s a long list of sins to be avoided. And it’s unlikely that many of our readers will not have succumbed to one or two of the following:
“Sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, prostitution, homosexual offences, theft, greed, drunkenness, slander, swindling, impurity, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy, orgies, abomination, lying, cowardice, unbelief, murder, sorcery.”
In case you need more information, Islam, anxious to make clear that Christianity doesn’t have a monopoly of knowledge, also has several websites dealing with the subject. For the following we are indebted to
  • “Allah Almighty created heaven with 500 levels. The highest level will have the prophets, the martyrs, and the most righteous…”
  • “So, let’s say we have a mother and a son. The mother was admitted to level 256, and the son was admitted to level 310. Both the mother and the son can still see each other, but she won’t be able to enjoy the things her son is enjoying, nor will he be able to share them with her.”
  • “No dung, piss, bad body odour, bad breath, or bad sweat smell will exist in heaven. The food and the drinks that we consume into our bodies will turn into great smelling musk. The higher the person’s level in Paradise the better his smell will be.”

So there we have it in excruciating detail. The righteous ones certainly do their homework.

Tiny Tips (2011)

The Tiny Tips column from the July 2011 issue of the Socialist Standard

The United States plans to export $46.1 billion in weapons this year, nearly doubling its 2010 figures, officials said:

About 6.2 million Americans, 45.1 percent of all unemployed workers in this country, have been jobless for more than six months – a higher percentage than during the Great Depression:

Libyan women and girls who become pregnant through rape risk being murdered by their own families in so-called “honour killings”, according to aid workers. Rape is a sensitive topic worldwide, but in this country it is even more of a taboo. “In Libya when rape occurs, it seems to be a whole village or town which is seen to be dishonoured,” says Arafat Jamal of the UN refugee agency, UNHCR. Libyan charities say they are getting reports that in the west of the country, which is particularly conservative, Col Muammar Gaddafi’s forces have tended to rape women and girls in front of their fathers and brothers. “To be seen naked and violated is worse than death for them,” says Hana Elgadi. “This is a region where women will not go out of the house without covering their face with a veil.”

Non-battle Scars: US Military Rape Victim’ Shares Her Pain 1 in 3 Female Soldiers are Raped or Sexually Assaulted by Fellow US Servicemen:
[Dead Link.]

Last time Beisner was on Fischer’s program, Beisner said that the deadly tornadoes in the American South were “little tastes” of God’s judgment. Yesterday, the two discussed how they believe environmentalists are earth-worshippers who are deliberately destroying the economy and that climate change is a myth. Fischer asked Beisner if the environmental movement wanted a return “into dark paganism” and Beisner agreed, saying that the end-game of environmentalism “would require the disappearance of about 95% of the human race.”

Older adults who say they’ve had a life-changing religious experience are more likely to have a greater decrease in size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain critical to learning and memory, new research finds:
[Dead Link.]

China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei claim parts or all of the South China Sea, a territory believed to be sitting on rich deposits of oil, gas and minerals, as well as being a major shipping lane:

Vietnam said on Saturday live-fire naval drills scheduled for Monday were “routine” and said it would welcome efforts by the international community, including the United States, to help resolve disputes in the South China Sea:

Greasy Pole: Calm down and listen (2011)

The Greasy Pole column from the July 2011 issue of the Socialist Standard

David Cameron … serving at a barbecue alongside the Most Powerful Man In The World … striding through a hospital with Nick Clegg and Andrew Lansley telling everyone in earshot how much he loves the NHS … walking hand in hand with his wife on a Balearic island with not a Russian oligarch’s yacht in sight. David Cameron taking time in Prime Minister’s Questions to admonish Labour MP Angela Eagle to “… calm down dear and listen to the doctor”. All in a day’s work for a Prime Minister lording it over his contemporaries but nevertheless not secure enough to dispense with the need to assert his standing with regular, frequent publicity stunts – even when, strictly speaking, they are surplus to his requirements. Like slapping Eagle down when she was only protesting that he was mistaken in saying that the former Labour MP Howard Stoate had been defeated by a Tory when in fact he had stood down at the election. Surplus because in 2005 Cameron pledged to do away with that kind of misuse of Parliament’s time: “… the shouting, finger-pointing back biting and point-scoring in the House of Commons. That’s all got to go”. Surplus because in the event he had nothing to lose by a soothing apology for his insignificant error before resuming shouting and point-scoring. Perhaps he was too arrogant to realise that this was just the kind of triviality to get both sides in the Commons blowing up a storm, as part of their unrelenting efforts to conceal the fact that there is no considerable difference between them.

Spinning somewhere towards the edges of the storm of bogus protest was the figure of Michael Winner, who is not a favourite of feminists but is famous as the director of what should rightly be known as some of the most tawdry of films and for flaunting his riches with excruciating conceit. Although the phrase “calm down dear” has been in common usage for a very long time Winner claimed to have originated it for use in a TV insurance advertisement and said for good measure that “… the Prime Minister has used it before which shows he’s in touch with the British public…” It is not known whether the ex-Etonian Cameron was happy to be exposed to so warm an embrace by so nauseating a personification of capitalism’s ugliness. In any case Angela Eagle (“… frighteningly feminist…” – Daily Telegraph) is not known for modestly declining an opportunity to attract attention to herself. She won Wallasey from the Tories in the 1992 election and has held it since – the first time that constituency has had a Labour MP. She has recently been engaged in a Canute-like struggle to prevent to closure of a local biscuit factory – the largest private sector employer in an area where, she says, there are 16 people known to be chasing every vacant job. In 1997 she declared herself to be lesbian, the first MP to do so; this was soon after her twin sister Maria had become an MP, making them to the first set of twins in the Commons. To those who associate with them they are known as a formidable pair.

Until Labour were wangled out of power in May 2010 Angela Eagle held a number of governmental jobs and had a spell as a backbencher after being sacked by Tony Blair – perhaps as punishment for her being mutedly rebellious over the Iraq war and describing him as “fatally damaged” by it. In 2007 she was brought back by Gordon Brown and is now Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, squaring up to the Coalition’s Danny Alexander over which party offers the most effective disguise of their hopeless floundering amid the maladjustment of world capitalism 2011. Eagle’s claim in this contest is likely to be based on her being of the common salt – her father was a printworker – who clawed her way to university, fearlessly declared her sexuality in the cause of freedom and equality and then progressed to the base of the Greasy Pole. The facts, however, are not so promising for her. When she was a minor minister at the Treasury under Chancellor Alistair Darling there was no evidence of economic policy being influenced by any searchingly innovative contribution from her. In Labour’s final spell of power, when Eagle was in charge at the then Ministry of Pensions, it was made clear that if Labour were returned at the election they would implement policies as harsh as anything planned by George Osborne. In March 2010 Darling conceded under questioning that in fact Labour’s expenditure cuts would be “deeper and tougher” than those imposed under the Thatcher government in the 1980s, when Eagle was at Oxford studying for a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics which, she may well have hoped, would turn her out as a new style of political leader. She gives no reason to believe that she is disappointed to be as unoriginal and futile as all the others.

So what now of David Cameron and his slick wise-cracking appropriation of a sneer trade-marked by the execrable Michael Winner who had himself appropriated it? Ruling class demands on us are unrelenting, if variable. We experience episodes when we are disciplined to stay calm, for example when the country to which we are said to owe loyalty inflicts on us the fears and desolation of a war. And there are others when we are regimented to be excited – for example in April when we were swamped under a pervasive hysteria companion to the marriage of a couple of notably useless young parasites. We do not have to endure this catastrophic waste of human abilities; the argument for replacing this social order with another rooted in human interests sprouts from a solid base of facts historical, material, social…This is to be calmly assessed and excitedly brought into being.

What environmentalists are up against (2011)

From the July 2011 issue of the Socialist Standard

On the face of it the environmentalist movement has a lot of things in its favour. It would be difficult to find fault in their concerns about how the planet is being abused. Global warming, deforestation and pollution are real areas of concern for anyone who examines how modern society is developing. Where socialists would differ from environmental activists is in two major areas. Firstly, in their analysis of what causes the problems and, secondly, what is the solution to the problems.

Quite often environmental activists make the assumption that the problems are caused by social ignorance and that the solution can come about by a series of legal enactments that would save the planet from its present dangers. Socialists would repudiate such a simplistic analysis. Let us look at one of the major concerns of environmentalists and socialists alike – the deforestation of the Amazon area.
“Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has increased almost six-fold since last year despite government promises to reduce the destruction according to data released yesterday. Satellite images obtained by the National Institute for Special Research reveal 595 sq km (230 sq miles) of deforestation in March and April of this year. Figures from the Brazilian government show a 27 per cent increase in deforestation of the world’s largest rain forest from August to April” (Times, 20 May).
This deforestation is not caused by social ignorance. All major governments are aware of the problem, but they are also aware that in order to keep capitalist profits on the rise they must have timber from the Amazon and the clearing of the forest for the growth of crops and the rearing of cattle. “In 30 or so years, we have gone from zero to 400,000 heads of cattle,” boasted Onofre, president of the local ranchers association. Nowadays everybody says we have to preserve the forest. But when we arrived nobody knew we had to protect anything we had to deforest. We chopped the trees down so we could feed our animals, our cattle.”… Back on his ranch, Onofre reflected on his hopes that Brazil’s Congress would approve a controversial bill altering the forest code and reducing the amount of rainforest Amazon landowners had to protect” (Observer, 22 May). 

The local farmers and cattle raisers can heave a sigh of relief at the latest piece of news from their government. “Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies has voted to ease restrictions on the amount of land farmers must preserve as forest. The amendment also grants amnesties for previous deforestation” (BBC News, 25 May).       

The drive for more and more profits make it essential that the Amazon landowners continue their policy of forest clearance. The importers of timber, cattle and agriculture products also cry out for more deforestation. While the profit motive remains, all attempts by the environmental movement to restrict the development of capitalism in the Amazon area is futile. Only the establishment of world socialism can stop this insidious destruction of our planet.
Richard Donnelly

50 Years Ago: Britain and the Common Market (2011)

The 50 Years Ago column from the July 2011 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Common Market has become a burning issue for British capitalism. After being convinced for years that it would fail, the Government has now belatedly realised that it may after all be here to stay. But so late have they left it, and so long have they dithered, that if they are to do something about joining they must do it quickly. Otherwise, it will be impossible for them to jump on the bandwagon at all.

Hence Mr. Macmillan’s somewhat panicky efforts to get matters straight with the Commonwealth and his undignified haste to prepare the ground at home.

For it is clear that the issue of whether Britain should go into the Common Market is causing a lot of heart-searching in many quarters. Not only is the Government worried, but industry, the Commonwealth, the Conservative Party, the Labour Party, even the trade unions. And not only worried, but very much divided. Even allowing for the fact that the Labour Party has long abandoned all pretence of being anything but an appendage of capitalism, it is indeed strange, for example, to see Mr. Michael Foot and Viscount Hinchinbrooke lined up against Britain’s entry, at the same time as Mr. Shinwell vies with the Daily Express in concern for the Commonwealth. And on the other side, Mr. Woodrow Wyatt, Rev. Donald Soper, and Lord Home certainly make an odd collection!

As far as industry is concerned, to the giants like I.C.I., the whole question is academic. They are going into the Common Market regardless of what decision the British Government may take. Confident of being able to compete on equal terms with the Europeans, the only thing they are afraid of is being left outside. On the other hand, there are many industries and firms that are very much afraid of meeting European competition and who are consequently violently opposed to going in.

(Editorial, Socialist Standard, July 1961)