Dont buy the Sun.

Dont buy the Sun.
Hillsborough Justice campaign - Remember the 96.

Monday, 28 March 2011

500,000 people the number of people who converged on London and peacefully exercised their democratic right to protest against planned Government cuts. And 1/500,000 is the amount of airtime given to these people, in comparison with the hysterical over-reaction of the media to a couple of hundred punks who caused some superficial, albeit irresponsible, damage to a few stores in central London.

The reality of the demonstration was that rather than these stupid kids, people from all walks of life - steelworkers, teachers, nurses, doctors, professors, cleaners, unemployed people, students, had a great day out and made their voices heard.

Aware that overseas readers may not be fully conversant with the situation in the UK, I should briefly explain. Apparently, England is broke. Stone - flat broke. There is, we are told "no more money" left. There is so little money left that the new Conservative-Liberal Government have decided emergency austerity measures are needed. Thus, University budgets are being cut by about 12%. Local authority public service jobs are going to be reduced by 500,000 people over the next three years. The squeeze is on.

The need for austerity can be seen in other areas as well. The Queen herself is contributing to the cost of the upcoming nuptials of Kate Middleton and Prince Wills leaving only 10 million pounds of the overall cost - security, street cleaning and so on - to come from us, the taxpayer. I cannot resist the irony behind a report I read that described how a company contracted to carry out some of the cleaning was recently happy to learn that ten cleaners had been laid off from a local hospital where they worked (because of the cuts) as it provided the company with an additional pool of casual labour for the aftermath of the wedding.

The thing that amazes me about all of this is not the (very) obvious contradiction of a modern society - that we can afford to get involved in a war (using jets that cost 30,000 pounds per hour just to keep in the air) against a nasty dictator (that the UK supported for years), blowing hundreds of innocent civilians to pieces in the process, but that anyone can attempt to justify this and still be considered 'in their right minds'.

The truth is of course, than any justification of such a ludicrous situation is either malevolent sophistry or massive self delusion. I was going to say I am sorry if this sounds harsh, but in point of fact, I am NOT sorry if it sounds harsh. Sanctioning any of the current wars the UK is involved in is only possible if you are personally prepared to fly to another country, stick a gun in a child's mouth and pull the trigger, because as we know, with a 100% certainty, civilians will inevitably die as a result of our government's actions. Supporting them is therefore premeditated murder. The usual defence of our foreign adventures is couched in language like - 'national interest', 'collateral damage', 'regret at civilian casualties' - but the truth is, these are euphemisms for state sanctioned killing.

What possible link is there between Government cuts and war? - you might ask - the two are not necessarily connected. I disagree. I think that there is a direct connection between the cuts and war. The connection is made when you ask "In whose interests are these cuts being made?" or "In whose interests is this war being fought?". In both cases, I cannot answer that either the war, or the cuts benefit me in any way, shape or form. Is it in my interest to reduce hospital workers, police officers, street cleaners or road repairers? Of course not. Is it in my interests to have a war fought in my name in the Middle East? Again, no. So who will profit from all of this?

Well one group of people who will profit is probably the class of people who are going to be represented at the wedding I referred to earlier. With shares in arms manufacturers, oil companies and banking those people will profit. And unlike the cleaners who will be cleaning up after them, their is absolutely zero possibility that their income will suddenly, and arbitarily, be reduced to zero through no fault of their own.

Not perhaps the tone of posting YWNA readers have come to expect. And I accept, probably unwelcome to some. But the truth is, after less than five years here, I am angry again. Completely and utterly pissed off because the story of the UK has been for the last five years, yet again, one of reversal for the majority of the citizens of the place. It is exactly like the Thatcher years again. I do not relish the next few years here at all. There will be increased crime and civil unrest.Increased unemployment. Good news stories emanating from the UK will dry up. It will be all gritted teeth, hair shirts, insecurity and misery if the current Government get their way. And that's why we marched. We dont want to see England of the Eighties unnecessarily recreated, for purely ideological reasons - and like Harper in Canada, this current Government, as ideologues, make most Communists seem utterly pragmatic. YWNA is advertised as News update for friends. It will continue to be that. I will continue, when possible to regale you with stories of my own stupidity, but politics has been added, because politics has become, through necessity, once again a daily part of our lives. I cannot describe with any reliability how I wish this was not the case.

More pictures are in the album below.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

A Wind in the Willows: Protest March in London, March 26th

THere's a wind o'change a'blowin' 'cross Blighty. At least hopefully there is. And a new direction to YWNA to reflect those changes. Now is the time, as they say, for all good people to come to the aide of the party. And that includes YWNA.

I was, as a youth, a committed Marxist, a member of Militant Tendency in Liverpool, the Socialist Workers Party, the Labour Party and a trade union organisation called Bloc 84, all organisations that modern right wing press would describe as 'shadowy'. I left the aforementioned parties, not because I didnt believe capitalism is a fatally flawed, intrinsically evil system , because, obviously, I do, rather, I thought that Marxist determinism was as flawed as capitalist economic determinism, and also a lot of Marxists I met were incredibly inept, socially.

As a consequence, I drifted away from organised politics, retaining an interest only as a shop steward in my union. Its only now, after returning to the UK where the political situation is so catastrophically and actively obvious, and the rampaging effects of unbridled capitalism hit so many of us so hard, that I feel it necessary to return to the arena.

Politically, then activity has increased at Large Mansions. Not that the basement is full of leaflets, or the bookshelves full of books, but discussions have become increasingly political, donations to supported causes have flowed, I have become a student representative and active at meetings, and both RHB and I have been web-active. Next week, its time to get street active, so we're off to London to March.

The website, I admit, does appear, as a friend observed, to be the usual ragtag motley collection of unfocused lefty nonsense, including very tasteless appropriation of the disaster in Japan. And the haranguing rhetorical approach can leave the impression that every email the organisers send is marked "Urgent" and written in block capitals. The analysis often appears unsubtle, scare-mongering, unsophisticated, the agenda divisive, sloganeering and simplistic - "evil bankers", "corrupt politicians" , "save the whales", "stop nuclear missiles", "no cuts"...against, against, against.............its incredibly unattractive.

So why go to London next weekend??? Simply put, its because, at the moment, the Coalition of Resistance are right. Bankers are evil. Politicians are corrupt, possibly more so morally in the sense of their 'souls' than the simple fact of them taking money from the ordinary people(which they have also done). People are dying in Afghanistan, Iraq and will die in Libya because Western capitalism supports and arms totalitarian dictatorships for profit. It is easy to say that this has always been the case, but I think not, and not to the current extent. I think there have been polticians convinced that their way is in the interests of all the people. The current UK Government cannot, I believe, be included in that description. I think they are guilty of as simplistic an agenda as the "no cuts" sloganeering of the Resistance seems to be, and that agenda is, I believe, to remove permanently from the UK, any last vestiges of what they would describe as 'socialism' - large government departments, thinking at universities, national health systems and welfare. In short, they are attacking us. I think we should attack back.

more new links1

more new links

new links added

Sunday, 6 March 2011

The purely economic man is indeed close to being a social moron

Brilliant though the title is, it is not, alas, original, as most will realize. No, this gem is from A.K. Sen, the famous Indian thinker. And most people would agree with the sentiment - no-one makes their decisions based on a quick cost-benefit analysis. So you dont go for breakfast to the diner that's the best economic decision for you, you go to the one you prefer, sometimes justifying afterwards that "They have a great deal on pancakes here". If you were economically rational, you would probably never do anything voluntarily, not engage in sports or activities (that could actually damage your economic potential).

Even the big decisions of your life - buying a car, a house, what sort of job you wish to do - none of these are economically rational decisions. I would argue that some people are a bit more rational than others, but we decide on what house to buy, what car to buy and what job to do on various, and varying parameters of desire, prejudice, fun, belief and status. Its an old discussion, but most academics I know would be three to four times better off if they had pursued a career in private business. To try to answer why they do not do so, the mistake that is made most frequently is to try and generalise the answer: "They dont because......"

What does worry me however, is that although economic theorists of the Chicago School are utterly wrong, they have simultaneously shaped our society, an this may, ironically, lead to them being right. Despite that there is no such thing as "human nature" the influence of culture is massive, and these guys believe in human nature. Most of our Western culture for the last thirty years, has had at its core the bizarre philosophies of these economic rationalists. So a view of Darwinism that it somehow also applies to human societies (a version of Whig history) and view of individuals as "competitive" and primarily economic, and a preposterous positioning of economics as a science with theories to explain all of this, has shaped our culture. People now talk about the 'value' of an education, almost purely economically. RHB aksed me tentatively last week, how I thought it would be received if she gave a talk to prospective University students and mentioned that the advantages of University were not just that you could get a better job at the end.

People talk about social capital. I know that this notion is not as simple as common usage has made it seem, but at the heart of social capital is an attempt to discover the "value" inherent in relationahips. Ironically, it was a Marxist sociologist who popularised social capital, trying to understand the strengths that exist in communities apart from economic ties or relationships of blood or obligation, trying to define the value of unseen things like friendship, community mindedness, philanthropy, altruism. There are two problems with this - first of all Marxism, and secondly sociology: Marxism because of the predominance of economic determinism in its ranks, and sociology because as a discipline it does'nt think about what its doing sometimes.

In the case of social capital, sociology "gave the ball away" (to use a footballing term), and has provided neo-liberal Governments with a concept that they have decided is measurable in order to inform and enforce their policies. So in the UK, annual surveys ask people about their perceptions of racism, crime, neighbourly behaviours, altruism and friendliness. This all gets poured into a big computing machine and the results tell us how much "social capital" there is in a neighbourhood. The results are interesting, if only that they tell us more about statistics than about people.