All posts by John Andrews

The Lost Morality of Economics

One of the most powerful and effective tools in the hands of capitalist economists is the suggestion that economics in general and capitalism in particular is some sort of science. This illusion – and illusion it is – is strongly assisted by the fact that modern economics is taught with the aid of impressive-looking mathematical equations and “proofs”. Economic textbooks are cluttered with tables, statistics, and graphs which make the books look like physics textbooks, or maths books even. Therefore economics must also be a science, right?

Well, no, actually. For the very simple reason that real sciences, such as physics and chemistry, demand a standard of proof and intellectual rigour that not only doesn’t exist in modern economics, it has never existed at all since the earliest days when some sort of economic theory could be perceived. Early economic principles were conceived in religion, and religion strongly influenced economic practices for at least two thousand years. Capitalism, the dominant economic belief of today, is still more of a religion than a science, because it demands from its adherents a level of blind faith which is little different from any other religious fanatic.

In the beginning

As an atheist I’m not much impressed by the bible, or any other religious work. I accept that there’s some limited utilitarian value in such books, for the slight contribution they make to studying the essential subject of history, but the main purpose they have always served – tools of psychological oppression for the rich to control the thoughts and actions of the poor – is reprehensible, and devalues any use they may have as lessons of history. The bible’s usefulness as a collection of historical documents is helpful for this discussion not because of any particular value to economic thought in the stories themselves, but in the almost undeniable fact that those stories were told, and presumably believed, a very long time ago.

RH Tawney was an economic historian whose work was well known in the first half of the last century, and was strongly influential on the embryonic ethical values of Britain’s Labour Party. He was a devout Christian and lifelong friend of William Temple, who became the Archbishop of Canterbury. Unsurprisingly he clearly felt no conflict of interest between his Christian faith and his staunch support of socialism, and if Tawney’s work is now largely unknown it’s probably due more to the latter fact than the former. However, much of what he had to say is as relevant today as it was in Tawney’s day – if not even more so.

One of his once quite well-known books, Christianity and the Rise of Capitalism, written in the 1930s, is a seriously important piece of work. It’s not an easy read, especially at the beginning where some of the old references he uses appear in the original Latin, Greek, German or French – without translations. And although he wrote with a beautiful elegance which is quite rare today I found I often needed to read some sections two or three times over to properly understand him.

The message of Tawney’s book is, essentially, this: although ruthless exploitation of the poor by the rich is probably as old as human history itself, there appears to have been a significant change in the wider social acceptance of the “rightness” of it starting somewhere around the time of the European Reformation in the sixteenth century.

The early morality of moneylending

I happened to be reading Tawney’s book at the same time as I was reading Ellen Brown’s excellent The Public Banking Solution, which coincidentally has a brief reference to a related point: that over two thousand years ago lending money at interest (which today we’re all conditioned to accept as the only way to do it) was not necessarily recognised as a good thing, and acceptable only in certain circumstances.

The Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy, Chapter 23 : 19 says:

Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother; usury of money, usury of victuals, usury of any thing that is lent upon usury.

It’s not clear what was meant by “brother”, but it’s assumed it had a wider meaning than just one’s male sibling, and possibly meant any Jewish person (given that the book is mainly about the Jewish people). Because the very next verse goes on to say:

Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury: that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all that thou settest thine hand to in the land whither thou goest to possess it.

These biblical references are interesting because they indicate the morality practised by the ancient Jews with respect to the business of lending. Furthermore, the second part of that last verse is intriguing, as it suggests that usury is a good way to help possess new lands. This theme is echoed earlier in Deuteronomy; for Chapter 15 : 6 reads:

For the Lord thy God blesseth thee, as he promised thee: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow; and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee.

So lending at interest was clearly recognised thousands of years ago as a tool to control other lands, and presumably for that reason it was forbidden for Jews to borrow from others.

This biblical chapter has other interesting comments on the morality of lending. It opens, for example, with this:

“1. At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release.

  1. And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lendeth ought to his neighbour shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbour, or of his brother; because it is called the Lord’s release.”

This is obviously a clear statement that all debts should be wiped out every seven years.

There are further verses in Chapter 15 which clearly describe a high standard for the morality of money lending:

“7. If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thy heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother:

  1. But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.
  2. Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it shall be sin unto thee.
  3. Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest him: because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto.
  4. For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.”

Some of this morality was clearly adopted by the early Christian church, because lending at interest (usury) was regarded as a serious sin, and charity towards the poor was routinely practised by most Christian churches and monasteries, and taught as a Christian virtue. This situation lasted for the best part of fifteen hundred years – until the Protestant Reformation.

 The age of Calvin

Arguably the single most powerful driving force behind the Protestant Reformation, the one thing which, probably more than any other that drove Martin Luther to hammer his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg Castle church on Halloween in 1517, was the cesspool of corruption that had overtaken the Christian Church. The many problems that Luther publicly exposed to the glaring light of day, like the little boy who cried out that the emperor wasn’t wearing any clothes, gradually galvanised like-minded thinkers into action all across Europe.

Although Martin Luther is widely credited with initiating the Protestant Reformation, his interests appear to have been largely focused on reformation of the Church, to try to end the rampant corruption that was decaying the institution which meant so much to Luther for its spiritual values rather than its income-generating qualities. However, there were others, such as Huldrych Zwingli, and John Calvin, who interpreted Luther’s lead as an opportunity to liberate the business world from the traditional grip of the Church. Of these, Calvin arguably had the most influence on the economic changes that were soon to come about, and which would provide much of the moral justification for what is today widely recognised as capitalism.

Tawney captured the essence of the significant societal change that took place in the new dawn of the European Reformation:

To countless generations of religious thinkers, the fundamental maxim of Christian social ethics had seemed to be expressed in the words of St Paul to Timothy: ‘Having food and raiment, let us be therewith content. For the love of money is the root of all evil.’ Now, while, as always, the world battered at the gate, a new standard was raised within the citadel by its own defenders… Not sufficiency to the needs of daily life, but limitless increase and expansion, became the goal of the Christian’s efforts. Not consumption, on which the eyes of earlier sages had been turned, but production, became the pivot of his argument… The shrewd, calculating commercialism which tries all human relations by pecuniary standards, the acquisitiveness which cannot rest while there are competitors to be conquered or profits to be won, the love of social power, and hunger for economic gain – these irrepressible appetites had evoked from time immemorial the warnings and denunciations of saints and sages. Plunged in the cleansing waters of later Puritanism, the qualities which less enlightened ages had denounced as social vices emerged as economic virtues. [My emphasis].1

Although it’s highly unlikely that Calvin ever intended his writing to have the savage effect that modern capitalism has produced on humanity, our planet, and all living creatures, it’s clear to see a watershed moment coinciding with his work. Before Calvin the generally practised morality of everyday economic affairs was largely influenced by the same values the Church had been promoting for over a thousand years, significantly based on Old Testament teaching. But with Luther’s bold attack on the Church’s lucrative and highly corrupt protection racket, the door was flung open to confront any and all inconvenient Church restraints – such as money-lending and profit-making businesses, subjects about which Luther’s famous protest showed no particular interest:

What reason is there [asked Calvin] why the income from business should not be larger than that from landowning? Whence do the merchant’s profits come, except from his own diligence and industry?2

Today these seem innocuous questions, but in Calvin’s day they were almost sacrilegious. However, given the seismic rumblings that Luther had triggered they would have passed almost unnoticed – except by those who could see their potential for economic liberalism.

Tawney provides profound evidence for the effect this new thinking produced:

A practical example of that change in emphasis is given by the treatment of Enclosure and of Pauperism. For a century and a half the progress of enclosing had been a burning issue, flaring up, from time to time, into acute agitation. During the greater part of that period, from Latimer in the thirties of the sixteenth century to Laud in the thirties of the seventeenth, the attitude of religious teachers had been one of condemnation…

[but] When Major-General Whalley in 1656 introduced a measure to regulate and restrict the enclosure of commons… there was an instant outcry from members that it would ‘destroy property’ and the bill was refused a second reading.3

Enclosures in England, like the Highland Clearances in Scotland, were the massive thefts of land from the millions of poor who depended on it for their very survival. It’s easy, and not entirely incorrect, to see the plump hands of the well-nourished aristocracy behind this, but Tawney also draws our attention to the actions of another group who, if anything, are even more despicable than over-pampered patricians, a group who, two hundred years later, would be contemptuously identified as the “bourgeoisie”:

It was not the lords of great estates, but eager and prosperous peasants, who in England first nibbled at commons and undermined the manorial custom, behind which, as behind a dyke, their small savings had been accumulated. It was not great capitalists, but enterprising gildsmen (soc), who began to make the control of the fraternity the basis of a system of plutocratic exploitation.4

Many of those born into lives of luxury and over-pampered indolence, then and now, have no idea of the price paid in human misery and environmental destruction for their grotesque over-consumption. Whereas most of those who emerged from humble backgrounds and ruthlessly clawed and gouged their way to riches are only too well aware of the suffering they left far behind, and their own vital roles in perpetuating it.

Capitalism in its teenage years

There was still a significant ethical component in the teaching of economics two hundred years after Calvin. The subject was still not widely known as economics, merely part of the much wider subject of moral philosophy. Adam Smith, often called the father of capitalism, was not an economist, but occupied the chair of moral philosophy at Glasgow University for a number of years.

Smith’s best-known work “Wealth of Nations” is most well-known for one of its least important (and least accurate) phrases – the suggestion that everyone is driven by their own self-interest, and that an “invisible hand” guides their selfish actions toward the overall best interests of society.

Although much of Smith’s book sings the praises of profit-seeking, showing how far times have moved on from pre-Reformation days, the moral philosopher inside him is still cautious about the limitless power of corporations which, in Smith’s day, were just beginning to exercise their full nation-making (or breaking) strength:

The government of an exclusive company of merchants is perhaps the worst of all governments for any country whatever. 5

And he was concerned about the corruptive influence of big business upon the nation’s rulers:

In the mercantile regulations the interest of our manufacturers has been most peculiarly attended to; and the interest, not so much of consumers, as that of some other sets of producers, has been sacrificed to it.6

Although Smith was much mistaken, in my view, about the easy availability and sufficiency of work, it has to be remembered that when Wealth of Nations was written the worst effects of enclosures in England, and the clearances in Scotland were yet to be felt. Most people could still sustain themselves to some extent on the land if they had to, and at least provide basic shelter and prevent starvation for themselves and their families. The worst horrors of the so-called “Industrial Revolution” were still almost a hundred years away. Nevertheless Smith still had a high regard for the importance of human labour, rather than money, as the real source of a nation’s wealth:

Labour was the first price, the original purchase money that was paid for all things. It was not by gold or by silver, but by labour, that all the wealth of the world was originally purchased; and its value, to those who possess it and who want to exchange it for some new productions, is precisely equal to the quantity of labour which it can enable them to purchase or command…

Labour alone, therefore, never varying in its own value, is alone the ultimate and real standard by which the value of all commodities can at all times and places be estimated and compared. It is their real price, money is their nominal price only.7

It’s possible that Smith conceived this thought all by himself, but it’s also possible he obtained it somewhere else. Ben Franklin, for example, wrote the following well before Smith’s book came out:

The riches of a country are to be valued by the quantity of labor its inhabitants are able to purchase and not by the quantity of gold and silver it possesses.8

So it’s reasonable to assume that in Adam Smith’s day the slowly-evolving theory of capitalist economics still retained some of the teachings of the early Christian Church, not least of which was its recognition of the importance of human labour. Consider, for example, the harsh but generally not unreasonable words of 2 Thessalonians 3:10:

[I]f any would not work, neither should he eat.

However, not only was the brutality of the “Industrial Revolution” yet to reveal its advantages to the fledgling capitalists of Smith and Franklin’s day, so too was the steadily growing transatlantic slave trade.

Capitalism reaches full maturity

By the middle of the nineteenth century Capitalism had possibly achieved its zenith. The most powerful empire of the day, based in London, was ruthlessly exploiting the people and resources of so much of the Earth’s surface that the sun never set over it. The United States had seized control over the central landmass of North America by massive acts of genocide of its native people, and waging war with Spanish colonizers. As British colonizers wallowed in the wealth generated by millions of oppressed natives, British workers were literally starving to death in depopulated common land and the industrialised ghettoes of the new manufacturing hell-holes of England. As new US multi-millionaires wallowed in their wealth, the African slave population that was worked to death producing it reached its greatest number, about ten per cent of the total population of the US. Capitalism must have surveyed its work around the globe and smiled in satisfaction.

But to every action there is reaction.

There have always been small groups of oppressed people who have bravely resisted their oppression. For most of human history their small victories have usually been short-lived affairs ending not so much in ideological failure but by the same vicious brutality against which they fought. Even the more successful rebellions, such as the English and French Revolutions, were eventually crushed by the same reactionary forces that were initially overwhelmed. However, these more successful popular uprisings sent out ripples of change, which astute governments were quick to notice. Many of the political and social reforms that were slowly achieved in Britain in the nineteenth century were won not so much because of the ruling aristocracy seeing the wisdom of the reformers’ campaigns, but because of the salutary lesson taught to their French counterparts in the 1790s when they failed to heed the wrath of the masses.

Emerging from early seventeenth and nineteenth century reformers such as the Levellers, Diggers, Luddites and Chartists appeared an even more radical and coherent ideology: communism. Argued and explained in the writings of Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx, for example, communism inspired rebels all around the world, and with the victorious Russian Revolution in 1917 reason for real hope inspired reformers in almost every country.

Like the English and French Revolutions before it, the ripples spread out from Moscow across the world, and capitalist governments sat up and took notice. Obviously the new Russian upstart must be crushed, and it would indeed be ruthlessly opposed and attacked at every opportunity throughout its life, but in the meantime the rabble-rousers at home had to be carefully handled. Using the tried and tested method of divide and rule, together with liberal use of the more dark and sinister devices that have always been at the fingertips of powerful governments, communism was kept at bay in most of the western world. It was eventually defeated in 1989 when Mikhail Gorbachev served up his communist country on a platter to the treacherous western powers who would immediately sell his capitulation as a victory of the ideology of capitalism over communism.

Of course, it was nothing of the sort. Given that Russian communism, and later Chinese communism, were savagely and relentlessly attacked throughout their lives by the most powerful nations on the planet, it was not communist ideology that failed, it was western military and economic warfare that won.

But the key point to note, and indeed the point of this essay, is that at the heart of this ancient struggle lies a very simple economic question: whose benefit should the wealth of a nation serve? The capitalist believes that all wealth should be concentrated in the hands of a tiny minority of powerful people, utterly ruthless people driven only by their own greed and ambition and who will stop at nothing to achieve it. They do not openly say this, but it is without question how they behave. The communist believes that wealth should be evenly distributed between all people. Unlike the capitalist, who keeps his ambitions secret, the communist is perfectly open about his aims.

So it all comes down to morality. Who is right, from an ethical perspective, the capitalist or the communist? The communist is perfectly happy to argue his point on ideological grounds, but the capitalist has tried to turn his ideology into a bogus science, not only utterly devoid of any morality whatsoever, but also devoid of any intellectual rigour – and with its real purpose kept permanently hidden from view.

That modern capitalism is wholly conspiratorial in nature was once openly confessed by one of its leading champions, the American economist James Buchanan. Describing the exclusive gatherings of disciples that Buchanan hosted, historian Nancy MacLean explained:

Buchanan made one more important point to his invited guests. The key thing moving forward, he stressed, was that “conspiratorial secrecy is at all times essential.”9

But apart from being an ethical vacuum, modern economics as it’s widely taught, which is almost exclusively capitalist economics, is also not a science. It’s a construction composed entirely of fabricated nonsense, unproven and unprovable theories, and perfectly ridiculous claims, all dressed up in mathematical symbols to create the illusion that it’s somehow deep and meaningful. Even professional economists admit to the deceitful gobbledegook that is the subject of economics.

Thomas Balogh, for example, economic adviser in Harold Wilson’s Labour Government, here quoting the economist and Nobel Laureate Wassily Leontief, partly explained how this trickery has succeeded:

The increasingly technical formulations [of mathematics in economics] and the debate over their validity and precision provided employment for many of the thousands of economists now needed for economics instruction in universities and colleges around the world…

Mathematical economics also gave to economics a professionally rewarding aspect of scientific certainty and precision, adding usefully to the prestige of academic economists in their university association with the other social sciences and the so-called hard sciences. One of the costs of these several services was, however, the removal of the subject several steps further from reality. Not all but a very large number of the mathematical exercises began (as they still do) with the words “We assume perfect competition.” In the real world perfect competition was by now leading an increasingly esoteric existence, if, indeed any existence at all, and mathematical theory was, in no slight measure, the highly sophisticated cover under which it managed to survive.10

Australian economist Steve Keen is more direct:

There is one striking fact about this whole literature [of economics], and that is that there is not one single empirical fact in it.11

Even one of the best-known economists of all time, JM Keynes, is positively scathing about the pseudo-science in economics:

Too large a proportion of recent ‘mathematical’ economics are merely concoctions, as imprecise as the initial assumptions they rest on, and which allow the author to lose sight of the complexities and interdependencies of the real world in a maze of pretentious and unhelpful symbols.12

Under the careful management of capitalist economists, such as James Buchanan, the philosophy of economics has been entirely sacrificed to the lies and myths and pseudo-science of capitalist theory, a theory which serves no one except the super-rich. Keynes was unequivocal in his condemnation:

Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.13

And that was before modern capitalism properly hit its stride. Andy Grove, co-founder and CEO of Intel, provided a more recent, and accurate definition of capitalism:

The purpose of the new capitalism,” he said, “is to shoot the wounded.14

Well, it’s high time the wounded started shooting back. Economics is first and foremost about morality, not money.

  1. Christianity and the Rise of Capitalism, R.H. Tawney, p. 246.
  2. Ibid, p. 246.
  3. Ibid, p. 253 and 256.
  4. Ibid, p. 78.
  5. Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith, p. 722.
  6. Ibid, p. 841.
  7. Ibid, p. 44 and 47.
  8. The Public Banking Solution, Ellen Brown, p. 123.
  9. Democracy in Chains, Nancy MacLean, p. 117.
  10. The Irrelevance of Conventional Economics”, Thomas Balogh, p. 8.
  11. Debunking Economics, Steve Keen, p. 67.
  12. General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, JM Keynes, p. 298.
  13. Extreme Money, Satyajit Das, p. 128.
  14. The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Greg Palast, p. 146.

Trial and Error

Nick Boles, an MP previously loyal to Britain’s Tory party, recently made himself very unpopular with his own constituency activists. Why? Because he dared to state that he would not support any move that might result in Britain quitting the European Union without a deal. In a recent column in his local newspaper he listed several points that explain his position concerning the disastrous Brexit fiasco. One of those points stated his adamant rejection of any support for holding a second referendum because, he says, it would “Increase cynicism about the honesty and competency of politicians”.

Well, what can you say? Anything that helps people to become cynical about the honesty and competence of politicians has to be good thing, doesn’t it?

But seriously, I understand the point he makes, and even agree with it at a very superficial level: you can’t ask people to decide something and then ignore their decision and do something else. But I think it might be helpful for him, and others with a similar view, to think about the Brexit referendum, or any referendum, not so much as some divine eternal proclamation, but more like a court verdict.

Our justice system has an essential device, an appeals process, which prevents or reduces countless miscarriages of justice. Many court cases which produce one type of verdict when they’re first heard often produce an entirely different verdict when the case is appealed at a later stage. This is because new evidence is usually heard at an appeal which was not initially available and which, if ignored through the absence of an appeal system, would result in grotesque injustices.

A similar and desperately serious situation exists with Brexit. Very few people who voted for Brexit had any idea of the mayhem that was about to be unleashed – and that was even before we actually left the EU. Very few people knew about the immense problem that would arise about the Irish border, for example, and very few people knew how much they were lied to in the months, and years, leading up to the referendum.

And how many people knew the great champions of Brexit would be the first to head for the hills as soon as the Brexiteers won the day? How many expected Nigel Farage to quit UKIP within days of the result, leaving others to sort out the mess he created? How many expected the likes of arch-Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg to expand his multi-billion pound hedge fund operation, not in Britain, but in Ireland? Or anticipated arch-Brexiteer James Dyson to move the headquarters of his multi-billion pound empire out of the UK to Singapore? If all these leading lights of the “Leave” campaign were so confident about a rosy future for post-Brexit Britain, why did they behave like rats leaping off the sinking ship?

No referendum result should be treated like the word of God. It should be seen as fallible as a court verdict which could and should be changed if new compelling evidence is produced. Adhering blindly to a referendum result just because it’s a referendum is a bit like someone being convicted on phoney evidence in some kangaroo court by a bloodthirsty lynch-mob, denied any chance of appeal, and then brutally executed – all O.K. because some pseudo-court said so. Referendums are just as capable of returning wrong decisions as any courtroom and, just like court decisions in moderately civilised countries, should be able to be changed if sufficient evidence is forthcoming.

Generally speaking, the judicial system is not too bad. It possibly produces more good verdicts than bad ones. But everyone knows it’s fallible. It makes lots of mistakes, even when it isn’t being cynically rigged or manipulated. Without an appeals system it would be much, much worse.

There is a mountain of new evidence to support a re-trial of this case. The accused, Britain’s partnership with the European Union, has been wrongly convicted. The case must be appealed, and another referendum, based on all the new evidence, held as soon as possible.

Day One

Although this essay is written with mainly British Green Party activists in mind, the Greens are a steadily growing international community, and the points made here will be as relevant to Greens in Argentina,  say, as they are in Japan, Zimbabwe, or anywhere else. The vitally important questions that I will address is this: when the Green Party wins a general election for the first time what exactly will it do in the first days and weeks of forming a government? Are the Greens just a toothless pressure group, or are they serious about changing the world for the better?

The importance of these questions cannot be underestimated. The policies of British Greens, contained in a vast document titled Policies for a Sustainable Society, are nothing less than revolutionary. So when a Green government is elected to power in Britain one of two things must happen: either it will largely maintain the status quo and hence betray most of its own members as well as all those who voted for it – which is usually what happens when a different political party takes over from a previous one, or it will do what its policies propose to do, and totally transform Britain.

In my opinion it’s simply not acceptable to maintain the status quo – not only for the obvious ideological reasons, but also because the global mismanagement of our planet that’s been going on for many decades has produced a global crisis of such proportions that we do not have the leisure to tackle the multiple emergencies that are happening one by one. We are long past the point where something must be done “before it’s too late”. It was too late some years ago. Time has run out. We’re now in the business of damage limitation and crisis control. Maintaining the status quo as our suffering planet grows ever more feeble is just not acceptable.

The Greens have an extraordinary body of policies which I’ve previously described in some detail1. Were these policies fully acted upon, they could not only transform our country, they could transform our entire world — for the better. So how exactly could the Greens do what they say they will do?

Some people would no doubt assume that if the Green Party won an election it could then proceed to implement its policies by plodding through them one at a time through the usual business of parliament. This view obviously ignores the desperate urgency of the crisis, and the need to take remedial action immediately, but it also overlooks the fact that very powerful players would oppose for their own selfish interests most of the changes the Greens would try to make.

The most important of these opponents are, of course, the usual suspects – the bankers and CEOs of parasitic corporations who have driven the man-made destruction of our planet, just so they may become obscenely wealthy and powerful. But there are also numerous powerful groups who serve the money-men for their own venal reasons, such as politicians; senior public servants including top brass in the military, police, judiciary, and “intelligence” services; the clergy; and last, but by no means least, the mainstream media.

Then there is another crushingly powerful force who will also oppose any major reforms a Green government would try to make: the US government. The evidence that this is so is abundant and compelling, for the US has a sizeable and shameful history of overthrowing numerous governments who have tried to implement beneficial social reforms for their own people; and, of course, the opposition of the US government to combatting climate change and other vital environmental protections is well known.

These obstacles to the essential reforms the Greens would like to achieve are very considerable, and need to be planned for, so that when a Green government eventually comes to power it can not only hit the ground running, it can hit the ground sprinting.

The Horns of the Buffalo

When the Zulus were the most terrifying tribe in South Africa, their army used a tactic known as “the horns of the buffalo” to overwhelm all opposition. The expression symbolised the fact that Zulu attacks would come from two directions, like the tips of buffalo horns. I think the Greens need to prepare for government by using a similar strategy. Of course, no one wants to think in terms of warfare, but failure to do so, given the immense opposition from the rich and powerful that Green reforms will inevitably receive, is not only naive and irresponsible, it would also result in failure for the first and possibly last chance the Greens would get to put things right.

Violent revolution is anathema to Greens, who are pacifists. More importantly, violent change is unnecessary in most countries, and could even be counterproductive. What the Greens have in abundance is far more powerful than guns and bombs – an absolutely fire-proof ideology. When the Chinese communists won control of China in the 1930s, against overwhelming odds, they did so not so much through guns and bombs, of which they had only meagre quantities, but through a fire-proof ideology. So the Greens need to adapt the “horns of the buffalo” battlefield tactic to their peaceful revolution in order to overwhelm the inevitable resistance they will face, in the shortest possible time.

The first and most important buffalo horn is the Greens’ remarkable body of policies contained in Britain in their document titled “Policies for a Sustainable Society” (PSS). The importance of this piece of work cannot be exaggerated, because it outlines exactly what the Greens could do to rescue our planet. The second buffalo horn should address the vital question of HOW the PSS could be implemented within days and weeks of the Greens forming a government.

The first and most important part of this strategy is transforming the purely ideological PSS into a practical tool of government. The PSS is a powerful piece of work. However, it needs to be transformed into a format where it could be of immediate practical use. The most effective way to do this is to write a new draft constitution for the country, wholly based on the PSS, which could be passed through parliament in the first days of a Green government coming to power. The almost inevitable opposition that will come from the House of Lords can be overcome by simply appointing however many new Greens to the House that are necessary to enact the new constitution. It would only be a temporary measure as the House of Lords, like the institution of monarchy, will cease to exist once the new constitution is made law.

The Green Cabinet-in-waiting

The second part of the strategy will need to address the changes that will have to be made to all of the civil and military services in order to put the new constitution into effect. This also needs to be planned for well before the new Green government comes to office. As the Greens do not have any type of blueprint for this particular task, they will need to create one. One possibility for doing this is for the party to establish a specific group for this purpose, the Green Cabinet-in-waiting (GC), say.

The GC should consist of party members with particular knowledge, skills, and motivation in each of the main government departments that will need to be transformed under a Green government as well as some key new government departments which will need to be created in order to properly implement Green policy. Ideally, but not necessarily, these people will also be parliamentary candidates hoping to win a parliamentary seat in a general election. The basic idea is to prepare and train the right people for the considerable responsibilities they will immediately assume once a Green government comes to power.

The first priority will be to ensure that all the most senior officials of civil and military services will perform all the new duties that the new constitution will require them to do with enthusiasm and commitment. Such enthusiasm and commitment cannot be assumed from existing post-holders because they all will have been appointed under a totally different political system using a totally different ideology. The days when civil servants were supposedly politically neutral are long gone, if indeed they ever existed. Today top civil servants are tightly connected to the world of capitalism, and frequently interchange jobs between corporate boardrooms and government offices. Therefore these people cannot be expected to preside over departments that will need to work in completely different ways to how they do now. Most of these officials will probably be required to vacate their posts one way or another because their commitment to the changes their departments will need to make will be doubtful at best. But many junior public servants who have not yet sold out to private enterprise will be strongly supportive of a new Green government, so these people need to be identified and moved into positions of maximum influence, because their experience of their own departments would be valuable knowledge.

The Keys to the Safe

There will be a need for at least two brand new and very important government departments, because nothing quite like them currently exists. For the purpose of this essay I’ll call them the Department of Public Works (DPW), and the Department of Public Finance (DPF). Of the two, the DPF is possibly the more important.

For many years Britain has depended on the private banking system for funding public services. In this regard, like many others, it emulates its role model, the US government. However, it is becoming more widely understood that this practice is designed primarily to benefit the super-rich, and only the super-rich. Concerns about the vast majority of humanity, as well as our suffering planet, are completely irrelevant — unless they can somehow be used to benefit the super-rich. It is obviously an unacceptable system.

The Green Party has a policy to create a public banking system. Britain has never had such a thing, so there will be a need to start from scratch. The fact that the government recently owned most of RBS, as a result of its technical bankruptcy following the 2008 stock market crash, is not the same thing as operating a system of public banking. The government’s ownership of RBS stock was just an accounting sleight of hand, designed to buy time for the bank to recover — something that seldom happens to other types of business when they go bankrupt.

Many countries use state-owned public banks, including all of the major economies that have shown the most economic stability in recent times — China, Russia, India, and Japan, for example. Even the US has one highly successful public bank in North Dakota – the one state which survived the 2008 meltdown relatively unscathed. But Britain does not have a public bank. This has been for political reasons rather than economic ones. It’s a well-known fact that whoever controls the purse-strings calls the shots, and in Britain, as in most of the US, the private banking system controls the purse-strings.

So the main function of the DPF would be to supply and manage money for the public sector. Without any doubt at all, such a move would be strongly opposed not only by the British private banking sector, but also by the American banking system (which effectively rules the world). Therefore it may well be necessary to create a new currency that is wholly controlled by the state and not subject in any way to the murky world of private banking and international money speculation, which has ruined many countries in the past (such as Germany, Zimbabwe, Argentina, for example) and wouldn’t hesitate to do so again if they could profit from doing so. This would not mean the end of our existing currency, just the addition of a second one. The new public banks would also provide banking services to the general public as well as the business community, especially in the administration of the new state currency.

This would enable the immediate financing of all Green policies, such as Citizens Income, and a nationwide system of green energy provision, as well as facilitating other urgent fiscal policies – such as paying for restoring full pensions to all sixty-year-olds, re-financing the NHS, and restoring free university education.

Work for All

A key feature of capitalism is pauperisation of workers, who are seen not as human beings but as a business overhead the cost of which must always be reduced. Hypocritically this is not a policy that’s applied to those who manage workers. This group sees itself as so important that its cost must be forever increasing. It is obviously a dysfunctional system that cannot be allowed to continue.

This does not need the elimination of the private business world that maintains the corrupt and odious capitalist model. It simply needs the provision of an alternative model of employment whereby workers are largely free to choose the type of work they wish to do, rather than being forced to sell their labour for ever-lessening wages for the ever-increasing riches of grinding capitalists. A state-run Department for Public Works could provide such an alternative system.

The purpose of the DPW would be to provide and administer employees for every state-run function. It would obviously be a huge enterprise. Financed by the DPF it would be able to guarantee that anyone who wanted to work would be able to have it.

Given that public services are (or at least should be) of benefit to society as a whole, jobs in the public sector are always useful, and allow workers to feel a well-justified sense of self-worth. Although people will always be able to work in the private sector, they would not, as now, be forced to do so. Instead of having to sell their labour for a pittance so capitalist grinders can become obscenely wealthy, they would be able to work instead at doing something truly beneficial for society. And this work would always be provided through the DPW. Unemployment would cease to exist, except for those who freely chose not to work. Although Citizens Income would be available to any who applied for it, citizens of working age should be encouraged to work instead in the public sector, in order to make positive contributions to the new society, and live really useful lives as well as obtaining money.

Public Information

Another new and vitally important government department that will be needed will be one that ensures citizens receive top quality information. For the purpose of this essay I’ll call it the Department of Information (DI). Like the DPF, it too will need to be established and working within a very short space of time after a Green government is established.

The state has always been very selective with the information that people receive, in order to persuade them to accept lives of suffering servitude to rich and powerful elites. Throughout most of recorded history this was mostly achieved with the mutually beneficial cooperation of the church, whose network of priests provided a direct conduit of controllable information to the ignorant masses. Once the printing press was invented, and more and more people learnt how to read for themselves, additional systems had to be found for ensuring they received the “right information” — information rulers wanted them to receive. These systems evolved into what are today widely referred to as the “mainstream media”.

The twentieth century saw the mismanagement of public information undergo seismic changes. From the unbelievably crass propaganda that deceived people into supporting the abomination known as the First World War at the start of the century, to the highly sophisticated telling of half-truths and outright lies at the close of the century that deceived people into supporting the illegal and cynical wars of the United States  as well as ignoring the catastrophic environmental destruction of the planet that started the sixth mass extinction of species — state manipulation of public information, controlled by the mainstream media, plumbed new depths of depravity.

Therefore it’s very clear that a brand new system of public information needs to be devised, a system that can be absolutely trusted for its honesty and morality. Deciding what this means in practical terms was well expressed by historian and journalist T.D. Allman, who wrote:

Genuinely objective journalism’ is that which ‘not only gets the facts right, it gets the meaning of events right. Objective journalism is compelling not only today. It stands the test of time. It is validated not only by “reliable sources” but by the unfolding of history. It is reporting that which not only seems right the day it is published. It is journalism that ten, twenty, fifty years after the fact still holds up a true and intelligent mirror to events. (My emphasis).2

Almost nothing that was reported in the mainstream media about the illegal wars in the Middle East over the last three decades will stand the test of time. The early catastrophes in Iraq, for example, have already exposed the lies and deceitful cynicism with which the mainstream media gave their enthusiastic support. The much-vaunted “freedom of the press”, which we are all supposed to champion, is conditional on the press doing what it claims to do — hold governments to account. But this is not what it actually does. More often than not, and with ever-growing regularity, it serves as government’s PR department, selling their illegal wars, environmental vandalism, and economic gangsterism to an over-trusting citizenry.

So the new DI will have a massive and vitally important duty to carry out.

Fortunately much of the infrastructure to carry this out is already in place, as we already have fine communication systems. What we don’t yet have are people that can be relied upon to carry out the required changes. Like most of the existing government departments that could be transformed simply by replacing the people that have been controlling them for many years with younger officials who have not yet been too severely indoctrinated, a similar device should be employed at the BBC. No doubt there will be many young journalists working at the BBC who aspire to do the great work that journalists could do, if they had the chance. Such people should be sought out and given that chance.

Using existing communications infrastructure, combined with youth and Green ideology, a new and totally trustworthy public information service could, and must, be created.

Ideology v. Votes

Many Greens subscribe to the view that winning votes is more important than staying true to their ideology. It’s quite understandable that they should do this because it’s what currently happens. A few years ago, just after I’d joined the Labour Party to support Jeremy Corbyn, I remember talking with a veteran party activist. He told me that when campaigning I should tell voters anything they want to hear in order to gain their support. What mattered above all else, he thought, was winning elections.

The logic of this position is undeniable: unless you’re in government you have very little power. If we lived in a relatively peaceful and humane world, that was not experiencing the sixth mass extinction of species, and it didn’t really matter which bunch of politicians were at the helm; if elections were a sort of game where there were winners and losers but no real harm was done, then that type of thinking is not unreasonable. But we do not live in such a world. We live in a world experiencing unnecessary global misery, and the most severe existential crisis since dinosaurs were wiped out.

That the Greens have also subscribed to the view that votes matter more than ideology is deeply worrying, because this focuses attention only on the winning of elections, and ignores altogether the vital question of what happens when the election is won. Of course, it’s important to plan election campaigns with the serious intention of winning, but it’s every bit as important to plan for what happens when the campaign is successful.

Green ideology is seriously radical and revolutionary. There’s no point in beating about the bush on that point. Those who join the Greens understand that this ideology has the potential to save our planet and totally transform, for the better, all life on it. Such a vision cannot and should not be hidden.

Deeply buried in the old Labour Party activist’s view that we should tell people anything they want to hear so long as they vote for us is the assumption that there’s some sort of secret master-plan which, once electoral victory is secured, would be revealed in all its glory and everything will be just fine. It’s not only a deeply deceitful tactic, the sort that rightly gives politics a bad name, it’s also guaranteed to fail.

It will fail because its only measurement of success is electoral victory, a victory which, if it fails to deliver on all the false promises it made prior to the election, will be short-lived. This is actually how modern democracy is designed to work. It creates the illusion that people can change their lives just by electing different sets of politicians. But because the real controllers of governments — bankers and media moguls — are largely unseen, traditional political success depends on newly elected politicians working with these people, not opposing them. Any effort to restrict or eliminate their cynical and parasitical power will be met with the firmest opposition. General elections currently work like pressure valves, devices which the controllers can use to relieve popular unrest by creating the illusion that a new set of political faces will remove the causes of the unrest. But, of course, that seldom happens, because the real controllers are always unchanged.

And Green ideology runs contrary to everything the bankers and media moguls have done for hundreds of years.

In other words Green activists should never subscribe to the view that votes matter more than ideology. There must be no secrets. To use a hackneyed expression, Greens should say what they mean, and mean what they say.

Day One

So let’s summarise all this in order to properly answer what should happen on the very first days after the Greens win a general election. It could all be quite simple and straightforward — if it is prepared for beforehand.

Almost immediately on assuming office, the Greens should pass their new draft national constitution in parliament. If necessary, temporary appointments to the House of Lords should be made in order to complete the process — temporary because the House of Lords would change significantly under the new constitution, or possibly disappear altogether. The constitution, which would be the supreme law of the land, would provide the legal authority for the Greens to carry out the multitude of changes that would transform our country — for the better.

Whilst this is happening a thorough review of every government department should take place, removing any senior manager who is likely to be obstructive to Green changes, and replacing them with all those junior officials who have both experience of their departments together with real support for Green ideology — and there will be plenty to choose from.

The new government departments (such as the DPF, DPW, and DI) need to be established at the same time, and made operational within weeks of the Greens establishing a government. These would provide the essential funding, labour force, and public information that will all be vital to the success of the Green reformation.

The planning for all this is work the Greens could and should be doing now. Far from keeping it all top secret, which is the normal way of doing things in politics, it would be essential for the Greens to do it all openly and in full view of anyone who cares to look. Quite apart from the fact that secrecy is contrary to Green ideology it is also counterproductive to Green ambitions. People need to know and understand the reasons why Greens believe what they believe. There is nothing in Green ideology to hide or be ashamed of, and come the Green reformation the Greens will need to bank on the full support of a well-informed citizenry. That well-informed citizenry will only exist if the Greens openly campaign for the changes they intend to make together with the reasons for why the changes are essential; and the fact that a Green government comes to power as a consequence of providing that information will provide the lawful and moral authority for doing it. Such a major reformation of British government would not happen easily because of the powerful forces who would inevitably oppose it, hence the support of a well-informed citizenry will be essential to finally achieving a government that is properly democratic, humane, and capable of helping to stop the environmental destruction of our planet — instead of promoting it.

  1. John Andrews, “Come the (Green) Revolution, Please!”, Dissident Voice, December 2, 2018.
  2. Hidden Agendas, John Pilger, p. 525.

Come the (Green) Revolution, Please!

The Green Party of England and Wales is extraordinary. Whilst I’ve no idea whether it’s very different to other Green Parties around the world, it is totally different to any other large political organisation in Britain. Full disclosure: I’m a member of the Greens, so obviously I have some partisan interest. Nevertheless, I think I can prove beyond reasonable doubt that it is extraordinary.

Arguably the single most important extraordinary feature about it, compared with other large political parties in Britain, is that it has a written set of guiding principles, together with a multitude of written policies that it claims it would implement in the event of a Green government coming to power. This body of work, titled “Policies for a Sustainable Society” (PSS), is wholly controlled by the membership, and cannot be altered on the whim of its leaders. This alone sets the party aside from the Labour Party, for example, which has the biggest membership in the country, but no equivalent of the Greens’ PSS.

I couldn’t believe this when I was briefly a member of Labour – the fact that it has no written core principles. All it has is whatever the last election manifesto was. The shallowness of this situation is obvious: Labour “principles” are determined by a handful of people just prior to an election, and are wholly dependent on those few people. That’s why its leaders often refer to it as a “broad church”, suggesting that no matter what your political beliefs are, Labour will welcome you with open arms. It’s also why two people as ideologically far apart as Tony Blair and Jeremy Corbyn, for example, can somehow lead the same party – and preside over the preparation of two totally different election manifestos, and hence two totally different, and opposing sets of principles.

So the mere existence of the Greens’ PSS, making the party fairly impervious to the weaknesses and fallibility of leaders, is truly exceptional. It creates a party where written verifiable ideology trumps vague and vulnerable personality cults. But that’s just the start. The actual contents of the PSS are nothing short of breathtaking.

I recently completed a short summary of the PSS. It’s about twenty thousand words long, and I reckon it has only about 10% of the detail. I did it because the PSS is such a large piece of work that I’m sure most GP members probably haven’t read it, and therefore possibly don’t understand the full extent of the beauty of their own party. And “beauty” is the right word for it, because what it describes is a world that’s so completely different to the one we know, and so infinitely better, that it is indeed a beautiful creation. Far from being something of an ordeal to pore over a detailed political ideology, I found myself savouring what I was doing, frequently smiling, feeling uplifted, and thinking this is exactly the sort of world I want to live in.

The PSS opens with two short sections that in my summary I’ve called the “key facts”. The very first words state that:

The Green Party isn’t just another political party. Green politics is a new and radical kind of politics.

Ten Core Principles follow, summarising the Greens’ commitment to rescuing our dying planet, pacifism, economic justice for all, and constitutional reform based on direct democracy.

Next comes a slightly longer section about the Greens’ Philosophical Basis, which obviously supports their Core Principles, but with a little more detail, such as:

A system based on inequality and exploitation is threatening the future of the planet on which we depend, and encouraging reckless and environmentally damaging consumerism. A world based on cooperation and democracy would prioritise the many, not the few, and would not risk the planet’s future with environmental destruction and unsustainable consumption.

It’s interesting to note that the slogan the Labour Party used so successfully in last year’s elections, “For the many, not the few”, is remarkably similar to what the Greens have been saying for many years.

Those ten Core Principles, and the couple of dozen points in the Philosophical Basis, run like a golden thread linking every one of the hundreds of sections that comprise the full PSS.

Constitutional Reform

Arguably the most significant section of the Greens’ policies are those around constitutional reform, because what the Greens propose is not just a change of actors performing the same play on the same stage – which is the only purpose of most general elections – but a major reformation of the way politics works in Britain. Take, for example, two of the opening principles in the section on Public Administration and Government:

Britain still has many of the elements of its feudal past, including some remnants of the royal prerogative. We believe that the basic principle of Government should be the reverse of this, that is that power flows upwards from the people, and from their most local levels of Government to the higher levels…

All decision-making and action throughout all levels of government, including international government, shall be governed by the principle of subsidiarity: namely that nothing should be done centrally if it can be done equally well, or better, locally…

The highest form of democracy is direct participation.

To help achieve this the Greens further propose:

The basis for a decentralised society and the establishment of a Bill of Rights must be laid out in a clear and accessible written constitution.

This is no trivial point for a country that has never had a written constitution, and a country which, although no longer the global power it once was, is still a significant player on the world stage. But the Greens are not proposing just any old constitution that just perpetuates the ancient and very corrupt status quo:

A written constitution will describe a new system of government based on direct democracy and Green values…

Elections will be decided by proportional representation…

The City of London Corporation to be abolished, together with its institutions and all the special rights and privileges it has, to be replaced by administration similar to the rest of London…

Monarchy shall cease to be an office of government, and hereditary peers will not have hereditary rights to sit in Parliament…

The Church of England shall be disestablished and will have no role in the government of the UK…

Those few words propose unbelievably seismic changes for Britain. If they were carried out Britain would cease to be controlled by the corrupt and tyrannical elites that have not only oppressed British people for centuries, but also hundreds of millions of people around the world. For the first time in its history Britain would become a real democracy. But that’s just the start.

The Greens do not yet have, in my view, very strong policies regarding public information services, and this issue would have to be addressed in any written constitution. Good and trustworthy information is absolutely essential to the proper functioning of direct democracy; and it should be the responsibility of, firstly, the education system, and secondly, a state public information service to ensure good information is provided.

Green Britain

The Greens are, first and foremost, about protecting and improving the environment, and rescuing and restoring to full health our planet’s fragile and rapidly dying ecosystems. This principle underpins, explains and justifies every one of the hundreds of policies that comprise the PSS. In other words, there isn’t a separate section about “The Environment”; the whole thing is about the environment and the planet’s non-humans, and the way human beings could and should interact with them. Take, for example, the section on Animal Rights:

The prevailing assumption that animals can be used for any purpose that benefits humankind is not acceptable in a Green society…

To eliminate the wholesale exploitation of other species, foster understanding of our inter-relationship in the web of life and protect and promote natural habitat…

Other sections are designed with the environment at heart. Take the section on Transport, for example, which includes:

The Green Party believes that some of the greatest damage to local communities and the environment has been done by the transfer of freight carriage from water and rail to road and air, and the increasing size of road vehicles used. The Green Party’s aim will be to reverse this trend by:

(a)  Reducing the need for freight movement by the implementation of policies to alter the current culture of over consumption.

(b)  Promoting the provision of products from local sources;

(c)  Using financial incentives to bring large-scale freight carriage back onto water and rail.

(d)  Local or regional authorities planning freight movement within their areas on the principle of small-scale delivery vehicles servicing from rail and waterside depots.

(e)  Establish facilities for inter-modal freight movement, such as rail depots and waterside wharves.

Or Housing…

Building regulations to be changed to reflect the needs of a green society and green economy. Local authorities to have the means to properly police the regulations…

Or Education…

All schools to provide environmental education through academic and practical work. Schools to practice high standards of environmental welfare…

Or Industry…

The development of a sustainable zero carbon industrial infrastructure as a basis for a sustainable zero carbon society. This will free the UK economy from a reliance on endless growth in the production of commodities and financial transactions…

The Green Economy

One of the most important (and longest) sections in the PSS is The Economy. Unsurprisingly, the health of the environment assumes primary importance:

To conserve natural planetary resources and to maintain the integrity of natural life-sustaining cycles; to regenerate areas made waste and take steps to avoid further ecological disaster; to reduce demand for energy and raw materials; to favour low energy non-polluting processes based on renewable resources…

British Greens are sometimes referred to as watermelons – green on the outside, and red in the middle. A quick glance through The Economy section soon explains why:

To devolve economic power to the lowest appropriate level, thereby rendering participants in the economy at all levels less vulnerable to the damaging effects of economic decisions made elsewhere and over which they have no control…

To liberate and empower all sections of society to meet their needs as far as possible from their own resources through activities which are socially enhancing; to encourage all to contribute to society according to their abilities, recognising as they do so, responsibility for themselves, for others, for future generations and for the planet…

Appropriate national public expenditure will be necessary for the regeneration of the supply side of the economy to achieve the green objectives. Extensive investment is required to repair the damaged natural environment; to restore infrastructure; and to develop re-skilling and retraining in socially and environmentally-friendly production and services…

As for the big and very obvious question: where would all the money come from? The Greens have some fine answers. Obviously, given the scandalous tax evasion by the super-rich that’s been going on for centuries, there is need for considerable tax reform, and Green taxation policies do propose doing that. However, of far greater importance is a total overhaul of monetary policy, and that section in the PSS is several times larger than the section on taxation. For example:

The existing banking system has failed and is no longer fit for purpose. The Green Party believes that the power to create money must be removed from private banks. The supply of our national currency must be fully restored to democratic and public control so that it can be issued free of debt and directed to environmentally and socially beneficial areas such as renewable energy, social housing, or support for community businesses…

Of course, you have to allow for slight inaccuracies – like in the above wording, “our national currency must be fully restored to democratic and public control” – which obviously wrongly suggests that at some time in the past our currency once had democratic and public control. But such small slips aside, this is a proposal that’s every bit as seismic to the British economy as scrapping the monarchy, hereditary peers in the House of Lords, and political power of the Church of England is to the so-called English constitution.

There are a few other economic policies which at first glance might seem quite trivial, but which are, in fact, highly significant, such as:

The Green Party would replace conventional [economic] indicators with those that measure progress towards sustainability, equity and devolution…

This is, once again, revolutionary stuff. The global economic system is based entirely on a system of measurements designed by, and for, the super-rich. It’s interested only in profits for the super-rich. The costs of those profits in terms of human misery, animal suffering, and environmental catastrophe, are entirely irrelevant. Changing the way economies are measured to not only take those factors into account but to prioritise them above the profits of the super-rich is Earth-shaking stuff.

The Bigger Picture

There’s only so much a country can do by itself. Sooner or later it has to co-operate with others in order to achieve mutually desirable results. Even if the Green Party managed to turn Britain into the greenest, happiest, and most self-sufficient country in the world it would be pretty ineffective if the rest of the planet continued along its man-made road to disaster. So the Greens are also committed internationalists, striving to help other countries make the essential changes they’re also going to need in the very near future.

To this end the PSS spells out its policies in its International section, and in the section on Peace and Defence. Unsurprisingly, some of these policies are nothing less than revolutionary:

The Green vision also involves a fundamental restructuring of the global economy to reverse the unsustainable trend of globalisation (i.e. ever increasing trade between ever distant nations with the primary goal of maximising profit) and a democratisation of the systems of global governance…

The United Nations should be reformed and democratised. The current national basis for membership should be extended to include regional (sub-national) representation and all representatives should be democratically selected. The WTO, International Monetary Fund, World Bank and similar bodies should also be reformed, democratised, or replaced…

To support the establishment and maintenance of ecologically sustainable and democratic communities throughout the world, and progress towards a world in which all people are equal in both their economic potential and their political rights…

The nature of conflict in the twenty-first century is highly complex, involving state and non-state participants at every level. Much international conflict today arises directly or indirectly from the abuse of power by rich Northern nations…

The United Kingdom has not been under significant threat of armed invasion since 1941 and such an event is unlikely to occur in the foreseeable future…

“Defence” is the protection of homeland against attack and does not justify pre-emptive strikes against nations and organisations. Military intervention for peacekeeping or conflict prevention cannot be justified unilaterally. It is irrational and immoral [and often illegal] to continue activities that exacerbate threats to international and local security…

The defence budget needs to be adequate to ensure security, but no more so…

The Green Party is committed to pursuing immediate and unconditional nuclear disarmament…

Green defence policy will be consistent with international law and the UN Charter.

The (vegan) buttering of parsnips

There’s an old saying that goes “fine words butter no parsnips”. This makes the vital point that there’s a world of difference between words and deeds. The history of politics is nothing if not a very long and depressing saga of false hopes and broken promises. It’s one thing for the Green Party to have all these wonderful world-changing ideas, making them reality is something else entirely.

To me, the answer is very simple. Write a draft constitution based almost entirely on the Greens’ PSS, and from then on, in every single election campaign, promise to pass that constitution into law within the first six months of a Green government coming to power. (Failure to do so would constitute a breach of promise to the electorate and require the Greens to quit office.) Ensure that the constitution is the supreme law which supersedes all other laws and renders invalid any conflicting law. Build into the constitution the sovereignty of the people, so that only the people can change the constitution – not some new and reactionary future government. Concern that such an action would be undemocratic is groundless: if the Greens openly campaigned for constitutional change and won a general election on the basis of that campaign, it would obviously be the democratic choice of the people to implement it.

I do not see any realistic alternative to this method. If the Greens were to try to introduce their policies piecemeal and individually they would either be quickly defeated by their rich and powerful opponents; or the partial changes would not be able to function alongside existing systems, and hence render them apparent failures; or they would simply run out of time. We are living through the sixth mass extinction of species – unique amongst previous extinctions in that this one was entirely man-made and was largely preventable. We are long past the point of “doing something before it’s too late”. Too late came and went some years ago; we’re now in the business of crisis control and damage limitation. The time is not very far away when no matter what we do it will be in vain. Like Easter Island, our fragile planet is rapidly becoming uninhabitable, solely because of human beings.

As an anarchist I’m not much of a fan of political parties. But what should an anarchist do if a political party comes along which promotes anarchist values? I’ve waded through almost every one of the Green Party’s hundreds of policies. There are some that I’m pretty indifferent to – like Citizen’s Income, for example – but not a single one that I strongly disagree with. Individual anarchists are not going to change the world for the better, but the Green Party just might.

Better late than never

Although white poppies have been around for almost as long as the red ones as a symbol of remembrance a surprisingly large number of people know nothing about what they stand for. To put it in a nutshell, white poppies promote peace, red poppies help promote Permanent War.

Arguably the most cynical lie that was told to the horribly betrayed young men who were butchered in the killing fields of Europe just over a hundred years ago, in order to persuade them to become lambs for slaughter, was that they would be fighting the “war to end all war”. If it was true, it would indeed have been worth dying for, but it wasn’t. It was a lie. Britain and the US, the last global empire and the current one, never made any effort to stop wars. The so-called peace treaty that concluded WW1 guaranteed WW2 would happen. Further evidence is obvious: apart from being the two biggest arms-makers on the planet, Britain and the US never stopped sending their armed forces to distant countries to kill people who, certainly after WW2, have been mostly rag-tag freedom fighters, defeated conscripts and defenceless civilians.

The best way anyone can commemorate those terribly wasted young lives from WW1 is to remember what they believed they were fighting for, and to demand that our great trusted leaders respect them by doing what they said they would do – stop fighting wars. Many people think this is impossible. It isn’t. Switzerland, for example, stopped fighting wars almost two hundred years ago; Costa Rica totally scrapped its own army seventy years ago; and there are other neutral countries who refuse to indulge in war, such as Sweden, Ireland and Austria. A properly constituted United Nations, self-funded with a new global reserve currency rather than being dependent on the US dollar, could finally do what most of its creators wanted: enforce world peace.

Added to the sheer inexcusable immorality of war, which has always been the case, we now have the fact that it’s also illegal – a relatively new concept. Therefore almost every military action that Britain and the US have engaged in over the last three or four decades, at least, have not only been immoral, they’ve also been illegal.

At the risk of stating the obvious, if there were no armies, or weapons of war, war would be impossible. Therefore Britain should initiate a global movement to scrap all armies, and start by scrapping its own, like Costa Rica did in 1948, and stop trading in weapons of war. At the very least Britain should declare itself permanently neutral, and copy the Swiss model and have only a part-time militia trained only for the defence of Britain, and to serve the UN on peace-keeping or humanitarian operations that have been sanctioned by the full General Assembly – not the so-called Security Council, a deeply cynical institution which should be scrapped. Britain should also close down all US army bases and spy stations on all British territory – including its overseas outposts, such as Diego Garcia (which obviously should be returned to the Chagos Islanders).

Whilst some sort of moral justification for war is always manufactured, to sell it to the 99%, morality is never the main reason for war. The main reason wars are fought is for loot, and to feed the parasites of war – the bankers, arms dealers, generals and “intelligence” agencies. This is as true today as it’s always been. When the phoney compassion of corrupt politicians and lying news providers is stripped away, we always discover that the real reason some war was fought was to make the super-rich and powerful even richer and more powerful.

Interestingly, far from being pie-in-the-sky, much of all this is already existing Green Party policy.

The real cynicism of Remembrance Day is the brainwashing that accompanies it. We’re conditioned to see dead and wounded soldiers as heroes, instead of tragic victims treacherously betrayed by their own trusted leaders. WW1 was supposed to be the war to end all war. It’s about time we started demanding the realisation of that cause. Better late than never.

Lessons from Switzerland

Almost forty years ago I invented direct democracy – or so I thought at the time. I had been raised in Rhodesia, a racist and mostly fascist country, and had just moved to England. Although England considered itself a fine example of democracy (and still does), I was puzzled how such a fine democracy could have an unelected head of state, and a parliament where more than half its members are unelected. There must be a better way, I thought, so I invented direct democracy and set about writing a political novel based on the idea of a southern African country having a revolution and creating a government that worked in such a way.

The novel was terrible and never saw publication, but the concept of a new democracy stayed with me, and is still with me today. Of course, I now know that I did not invent direct democracy. Some years after my first awful novel I learnt that Switzerland had been using direct democracy for over a hundred years. Far from being disappointed that I was not the inventor of this wonderful concept, I was delighted. It totally validated my belief that such an idea was not only possible, it was already working, and working pretty well. After all, here was Switzerland, one of the most successful and stable countries in the world, that had been using it for ages. It was a country wholly controlled by its people, with high standards of social welfare and enlightened environmental awareness. And it had kept out of wars for almost two hundred years – even when completely surrounded by war, twice. So ever since finding out about Swiss democracy I’ve yearned to visit the place, and see it in action. But Switzerland is an expensive place to visit, and if you ain’t loaded, that ain’t easy.

Then a few months ago we learnt of a cut-price holiday to Chateau D’Oex (pronounced “day”), and I just had to go for it. Although I knew that Switzerland must have its problems, just like anywhere else, I wanted to try to get a feel for what Swiss people think about their country and its relatively exemplar democracy.

I wasn’t especially interested in the beautiful scenery, and it is very beautiful. Many other countries also have beautiful landscapes, and I’ve been fortunate enough to see some of them before. What I wanted was to speak to Swiss people. This is not the easiest thing to do. First of all, although most Swiss people have various levels of competence with the English language, English is not an official language. Swiss children are taught to speak the main language spoken in their region, which means German, French or Italian, and then one of the other two. Romansch, the sort of native Swiss language, is hardly taught at all, which is a bit sad. English is sometimes available to school children as an optional extra.

But the fact that some Swiss people are not very fluent in English was only part of my problem. Mainly I’m always deeply humiliated when visiting foreign countries because I’m so incompetent at speaking their language, or some other mutually understandable language other than English (which obviously instantly associates me with one of the most vile and repressive regimes of all time), so I always feel very uncomfortable about trying to have conversations with people in non-English-speaking countries: I always feel I have to apologise for being English, and say how ashamed I am of our history. However, I did manage to overcome my discomfort a few times whenever I came upon someone who was clearly quite happy to speak English. Fortunately my wonderful wife Lorraine was with me, and she is usually less inhibited than I am about talking to people, and because she is very good at this she initiated many of the conversations we had with local folk.

So my impressions of modern Swiss life were obtained mainly from discussions with three young Swiss people (one of whom said she would rather live in England!). I’ll call them Belinda, Martina, and Stan.

Referendums

The Swiss provide direct democracy through continual national referendums, which they hold more often than any other country in the world, and now have them about once a month. Contrast that with the fact that the UK has only ever had three national referendums, and the US has never had a single one. Swiss attitudes to their government are possibly similar to many other Europeans about their governments. Whereas Martina said she always voted in every referendum, Stan said he never did, and appeared to have a similar casual indifference to politics that is very common in many young people. I asked him if he trusted the information that came with every referendum question, about whether arguments for and against were equally weighted. He said he thought they were, so that obviously wasn’t the main reason for his indifference to the system – although he possibly wasn’t the best person to ask.

Good information is clearly a vitally important condition to the success of any vote, and I didn’t learn enough to form an opinion on the quality of public information in Switzerland. But according to a recent report by Reporters Without Borders, Switzerland has the fifth most independent press in the world; compared with Britain, at 40, and the US at 45. So presumably the Swiss do get pretty reasonable information about the issues they get to vote on.

However, there do seem to be some glitches in the system, admitted by this fine free press. Here we learn, for example, that there are at least seven weaknesses to how referendum results are implemented. It’s basically a list of tricks that the government has learnt whereby it can either minimize the effect of a people’s referendum, or ignore it altogether if it wants to. It can do this, according to another article on the subject, through the fact that Swiss courts are not specifically required to implement the constitution.

The genius Tom Paine clearly identified this problem over two hundred years ago:

A man, by his natural right, has a right to judge in his own cause… But what availeth it him to judge, if he has not power to redress?1

This crucial point about the difference between having civil rights and having the means to enforce them was highlighted in the landmark legal dispute William B Richardson v The United States of America, where Mr Richardson tried, but eventually failed, to force the US government to make public the money spent on the CIA – as required in the US constitution. But it was decided that as a mere citizen Mr Richardson “lacks standing” to actually enforce the constitution.2 So as far as Switzerland is concerned, it appears the people may indeed have this wonderful democracy where citizens are invited to be directly involved in government decision-making, but there may be a big difference in what the people say they want, and what the people actually get. It could be that Swiss referendums are sometimes little more effective than large opinion polls.

Trade Unions

We asked Martina and Stan about Swiss trade unions, and received blank looks on both occasions. I remember Martina saying she thought there were some, but she knew nothing about them. The tour guide we had, Dave, was pretty knowledgeable about Switzerland, and told us that we were his one hundred and twenty fifth tour there. He told us quite a bit about Swiss life but never mentioned trade unions. So when she had the chance Lorraine asked him that question. Dave is the sort of guy who doesn’t like to admit that he doesn’t know something – especially if it’s about Switzerland, but he had to admit that he knew nothing about Swiss trade unions.

This is quite interesting.

Coming from England, which still has a pretty good trade union movement (albeit it a shadow of its former self) it seemed almost incomprehensible to us that a modern western society would have no significant trade union movement – because given the fact that no one we asked seemed to know anything about it that must be the obvious conclusion to be drawn. And if there’s no significant trade union movement, who looks after workers’ rights? Although there are trade unions in Switzerland, as a percentage of population, membership is only about half of what it is in Britain or the US — both of which countries currently have considerably depleted numbers of trade union members from what they once had.

It could be that the Swiss constitution helps the Swiss out quite a bit in this regard. Because although it may not be exactly user-friendly, it does at least establish clear principles of right and wrong. Its opening words, for example, include this line: “The strength of a people is measured by the wellbeing of its weakest members” ((The Swiss Constitution – Preamble.)), and it begins with a fairly comprehensive section on “Fundamental Rights”. In other words, a pretty high ethical standard of society is clearly defined in the country’s single most important document, reducing the requirement for trade unions.

National Service

All young men leaving full time education are required to do national service – unless, one of our informants told us rather cryptically, they’re rich enough to buy their way out. National service can take the form of joining the armed forces, or doing some form of social service. Girls do not have to do it at all, but may do so if they want.

The initial commitment is spread over five years with different types of training taking place in three or four month blocks once a year. After that every Swiss man joins a unit of reservists and is issued with a rifle which he must keep secure at home.

I asked Martina about the boys she knew when she left school, and how many of them joined the army, or social service. She said she didn’t know of any boy doing social service in preference to the army. But she says there is some public resentment to the practice, and a general feeling that too much money is spent on military training, instead of more important public services. That’s probably true of almost every country in the world.

I had the impression from both Martina and Stan that although they both loved Switzerland, they also felt it was too conservative, and that new ideas and innovation were seldom welcome. It was Martina who said she would rather live in England, because it seemed a freer society, and Stan appeared to have a hankering to move to Amsterdam, where he’d once spent a few months working.

Thinking about this very conservative nature for which the Swiss are quite well known, I wondered how much of it might be down to the fact that so many of them do five years of national service. After all, there are few institutions more conservative than the military, who are also extremely good at brainwashing. Forcing a young mind through such a regime is bound to have long-lasting effects on most. So how much, I wonder, of Swiss conservativeness is a product of military brainwashing?

The Economy

Another main reason I had for visiting Switzerland was to get a feel for how their economy works. I have strong socialist leanings, but Switzerland is an unashamedly capitalist country. But unlike so many other capitalist countries, Switzerland does not appear to have slums and ghettoes. No one appears to go hungry or homeless. There is clearly something different about Swiss capitalism, and I wanted to find out what.

Obviously this is not a scientific report, it’s just a short record of superficial impressions, points I picked up which appear different to the capitalism I’m used to.

Minimum wage

Switzerland is an expensive country to live in, therefore wages have to be pretty high. So the minimum wage is about $23 an hour. This is more than two and a half times higher than minimum wage in Britain. Although prices are definitely higher in Switzerland, the prices of most basics are not two and a half times higher than British prices. Petrol, for example – a vital driver of costs – is only about 20% higher than British prices. Apparently the minimum wage is only a very recent innovation in Switzerland. As I have always been deeply suspicious of the principle of a minimum wage, I would not be surprised to see the purchasing power of those who receive it in Switzerland start to fall – just as it did in Britain.

Although taxes are relatively modest, every Swiss resident is obliged to have private health insurance. Martina, who was probably on minimum wage, told us that her health insurance cost her SF350 a month (about US$350). She did not seem happy with the arrangement, and told us that it was about the cheapest insurance she could find, and wouldn’t cover everything. Dental care is apparently very good, but so expensive that many Swiss people travel to other countries to have it done.

So it comes back to the same basic point as always. Although $23 an hour might seem pretty good, money is only as good as what you can buy with it – and in Switzerland you need quite a lot to buy not very much.

Self-sufficiency

Unlike many capitalist countries, Switzerland does not appear to buy into the concept of globalisation with quite as much enthusiasm as most western countries. Although its banking system has long been an important asset to its economy (arguably the most important), the Swiss have never been huge fans of international trade. Both Britain and the US, for example, who both market themselves as champions of capitalism, have both had negative trade balances for many years (i.e. imports exceeding exports), but the Swiss have nearly always shown the opposite trend, with exports usually exceeding imports. In pure business terms, this is like saying Switzerland is a viable business, whereas both Britain and the US are technically bankrupt.

It would seem the key to Switzerland’s success in this regard is the fact that they value self-sufficiency extremely highly. They resist importing almost anything they could produce for themselves. Given that it has precious little in the way of natural mineral resources this is a singularly fine achievement. A brief glance at almost any set of statistics comparing Swiss trade with the rest of the world shows a remarkably healthy economy.

Swiss Cheese

Directly linked to the Swiss economic principle of self-sufficiency is the fact that they take huge pride in home-produced foods and drinks. Consistent with the notion that imported products should be avoided where there are good local alternatives, Swiss farm products too are usually preferred to imported farm products. A fine example of this in practice is the cheese industry.

Dairy farming is huge in Switzerland. The many beautiful mountainsides are invariably adorned with dairy cattle, seemingly happy to graze the plentiful greenery in one of the most beautiful landscapes in Europe. So dairy products are plentiful. However, consistent with the Swiss principle of subsidiarity, local is always preferred to products from somewhere else – even if the somewhere else is in Switzerland. So almost every rural town has its own small dairy producing milk, butter and cheese. As we were quite close to Gruyere, an internationally recognised Swiss brand, we had the opportunity to visit the cheese factory. But as this is not of much interest to vegans, we didn’t bother. We would far rather have visited the local bakery, because unsurprisingly bread-making is something else the Swiss do very well, and something else they do locally in many areas – once again preferring local to some cheap mass-produced rubbish.

Possibly because the Swiss are so protective of their farming industry, vegans can have a fairly bleak time of things. Although our hotel knew we were vegans, and said beforehand they could cater for us, it took them three days to obtain some soya milk, even though it was easily available at a local co-op almost across the road; and all they could produce for our evening meal was rice and vegetable stew, varied on two occasions with a few added mushrooms.

Switzerland is well-known for its cow-bells, which are something of a national symbol, and cows grazing the beautiful hillsides to the sound of clanging cow-bells is supposedly an image of the perfect rural idyll. But walking nearby to such a scene you can’t help but notice how bloody loud those bells are, and my heart went out to the poor animals that are forced to wear the damn things – mostly unnecessarily.

But pigs fare much worse. Dave commented several times on the beautiful rural idylls but observed that you never see pigs in Switzerland, which is very odd, he thought, given that the Swiss apparently eat a lot of pork. It’s not that odd. You don’t see pigs because they’re factory-farmed on a fairly large scale, and the poor creatures seldom see the light of day.

However, the principle of subsidiarity applies to almost everything else in Switzerland – from small local timber mills, to breweries and wine-makers. Wherever local products can be used in preference to goods from anywhere else – even other Swiss goods – the Swiss use them. And providing you’re not a vegan, or a pig, it works extremely well.

One of the most interesting points about all this is that the Swiss policies of subsidiarity and self-sufficiency, which clearly do it no harm whatsoever, could also be called protectionism which, according to the technically bankrupt nations of Britain and the US, is no way to run an economy. But the hard evidence provided by Swiss success shows that their economic policies, coupled to their direct democracy, is a much sounder way to manage a country than Britain or the US manage their countries.

Banking

Switzerland has been known as a haven for dodgy offshore banking and financial services for a very long time, and most infamously for laundering Nazi gold during WW2. But there is a very huge difference between Swiss offshore banking and the basically criminal enterprises operated by other capitalist giants such as Britain and the US. The Swiss National Bank is in full control of money supply, and is also under direct control of the state – which is itself largely controlled by the people through their system of routine referendums. Article 99 of the Swiss constitution states that “A minimum of two thirds of the net profits made by the Swiss National Bank shall be allocated to the cantons.” (My emphasis) In other words, unlike British and American banks, vast quantities of bankers’ profits are distributed throughout Swiss cantons for local development.

Model of capitalism

No self-respecting socialist would put up an argument for capitalism as the best way to manage a country’s economy. However, there’s no escaping the fact that Switzerland is both a capitalist country, and a very successful economy, and has high levels of social care, and has high standards of environmental protections. In other words, if anyone wanted to present a reasonable argument for the virtues of capitalism, they would be hard-pressed to improve on the Swiss example. And yet this is not the model most preferred by the self-appointed champions of capitalism, Britain and the US. Why might that be?

Unlike Britain and the US, Switzerland appears to try to run itself like an honest business enterprise, whereas Britain and the US both manage their economies in much the same way as if they were being run by Al Capone. Adam Smith, credited as the father of capitalism, would most likely approve of the Swiss model, but would certainly abhor the economic practices of Britain and the US. In fact, the two economic systems are so different they really should have different names.

How is it then that Swiss capitalism has managed to escape the traps that British and US capitalism have fallen into? Why have Britain and the US turned into the biggest criminal enterprise on the planet whilst the Swiss tick along as a comparatively decent, honest, solvent society? The answer, surely, lies in the fact that Switzerland is, relatively speaking, a real democracy.

Whilst there’s no doubt there are some glitches with Swiss democracy, it’s leaps and bounds better than the British and American models. Whereas British and American so-called democracies are thoroughly corrupt, basically criminal enterprises wholly controlled by the world’s wealthiest gangsters, the Swiss people have a fine national constitution which provides them with a mechanism whereby they could easily control their government if they had to. In Britain or the US the super-rich controllers of politicians know they can literally get away with murder because there’s no mechanism to stop them, but in Switzerland there is, therefore super-rich Swiss must be far more careful in what they try to get away with.

The British academic R.H. Tawney once observed:

That democracy and extreme economic inequality form, when combined, an unstable compound, is no novel doctrine.3

In other words real democracy and extreme economic injustice are not compatible. You can have one or the other, but not both. Britain and the US resolved this problem by ensuring that real democracy does not exist, which allows extreme economic inequality to thrive. The Swiss on the other hand, with their very different version of democracy, are not only relatively free from economic injustice, they also have a highly successful economy.

So it seems fairly obvious to me that extreme constitutional reform of western so-called democracies – to provide real direct democracies – is the essential first step for eliminating global economic injustice.

Here’s Tawney once more,

Democracy is unstable as a political system as long as it remains a political system and nothing more, instead of being, as it should be, not only a form of government but a type of society, and a manner of life which is in harmony with that type. To make it a type of society requires an advance along two lines. It involves, in the first place, the resolute elimination of all forms of special privilege which favour some groups and depress others, whether their sources be differences of environment, of education, or of pecuniary income. It involves, in the second place, the conversion of economic power, now often an irresponsible tyrant, into a servant of society, working within clearly defined limits and accountable for its actions to a public authority.4

Socialists are unlikely, with good reason, ever to trust any form of capitalism. But the inescapable fact is that when capitalism is managed in the way the Swiss do it it is a reasonable and perfectly workable model. It helps to see that Swiss democracy and the version of so-called democracy that’s practised by most western countries is as different as socialism and capitalism. For me the most perfect economic model is one where the state, directly controlled by the people, is wholly responsible for providing all essential public services, but where the private sector (properly regulated by the state) is free to provide non-essential services for whatever profit it can make.

But the Swiss model is a reasonable alternative.

  1. Rights of Man, Tom Paine, p. 120.
  2. Blank Check, Tim Weiner, p. 226.
  3. The Vote – how it was won, and how it was undermined, Paul Foot, p. 340.
  4. The Vote – how it was won, and how it was undermined, Paul Foot, p. 306.

Britain demands a second referendum

Last Saturday at least half a million people marched through London demanding a second referendum on Brexit. I don’t blame most of the people who voted for Brexit, and therefore created this mess. For the most part they did not know what they were doing. Most had been lied to or deceived by ignorant or treacherous MPs, and horrendously misled by the mainstream media.

Democracy is a wonderful thing, but it’s wholly dependent on people receiving good information. Although very little good information was available prior to the referendum itself this was not the main problem. The main problem was the decades of xenophobic anti-EU bile churned out by the gutter press beforehand. This was proved by the fact that one of the main claims of the Leave campaign was to “take back” control of Britain from the EU. If people’s minds had not already been horribly poisoned against the EU, why should “taking back” control from it have been a major issue? Not that it was ever a truthful cause, because we the people have never had much control of our government anyway.

Smearing the EU, which so many politicians and the gutter press have amused themselves doing for so long, is an effective distraction. It tries to blame Europe for the considerable failings and treachery of our own government, and the mainstream media. It wasn’t Europe’s fault that Britain involved itself in the illegal wars that caused the mass migrations from the Middle East and Africa which helped to fuel the Brexit xenophobia; and Europe had nothing to do with shutting down our A&E wards, stealing billions of pounds from pensioners, scrapping free university education, establishing sinister secret courts, or wasting trillions of pounds on bankrupt banks – for example. Our government, to whom Brexiteers want to “give back control”, did all these things and much, much more all by themselves.

The EU is not perfect. It could and should be much improved. But the simple fact is that it’s in Britain’s best interests to remain part of the EU. Our physical and economic security is much greater if we remain part of Europe.

Although I can’t prove it, I have long believed that the USA has been trying to break up Europe for some years now. By the turn of the new millennium the EU had become a major economic player, and the US perceived it as a significant challenge to its global economic hegemony. Iraq, for example, won UN approval in October 2000 to sell its oil in Euros, rather than US dollars – which is not something the US would take lightly – and we all know what happened to Iraq very soon afterwards. It was therefore highly likely that the US would try to remove the EU as an economic competitor. What better way than to cause it to break up and fragment? Perhaps it’s only coincidence, but Nigel Farage, the most significant face behind Brexit, appears to have much closer ties to the US than to Britain, and seems strangely close to Donald Trump.

We desperately need another referendum on leaving the EU – one that requires at least half of British voters to support any decision to leave, not just a simple majority of however many votes are cast.

 

Will the real anti-Semites please stand up

Amongst the highly prolific author HG Wells’ many publications is a less well-known book titled A Short History of the World. Given the potential immensity of such a subject, the fact that Wells produced a book of very modest length (my copy is a mere 350 pages or so) no doubt would encourage some to dismiss it as trite and superficial. Obviously it’s superficial, but it might be reasonable to say the same of something twenty or fifty times longer – depending on how well it’s written. But Wells’ book is truly remarkable for its economy of language, with hardly a single unnecessary word used; and it’s also remarkable for its scholarship.

Wells studied biology before he became a writer, and carved a meagre existence for himself as a teacher for almost ten years. Perhaps the early discipline of scientific method, together with the need to communicate new ideas to young minds, influenced much of his later writing style, because what he created with Short History is an amazingly compact and very readable collection of short essays covering a multitude of historical events from the creation of the Earth, through discussions on all the main religions, to the Russian Revolution – which took place a mere five years before he published his book.

Few of the sixty-seven chapters exceed four pages in length, yet each chapter is packed with such a wealth of information that it’s difficult not to be impressed with the depth of Wells’ scholarship, because to write as informatively and concisely as he does in each chapter implies a huge depth of knowledge. Like a few other great thinkers, Wells was an autodidact and acquired most of his knowledge by charting his own course, free of the constraints that hinder many of those restricted to lives of formal education.

Of particular interest in these times where the expression “anti-Semitism” is seldom out of the mainstream fake-news for any length of time, are a couple of chapters Wells devotes to the early history of the Middle East. It’s necessary to repeat the important point that Wells wrote this book in the early 1920s. Israel did not exist at that time, yet the word that Wells seems to use most often when referring to the natives of the massive area stretching roughly from where Iran is today to Tunisia in the West, Egypt in the South, and Turkey in the North, is “Semite”:

We have already noted the appearance of the Semitic people as wanderers and nomads in the region of Syria and Arabia, and how they conquered Sumeria and set up first the Akkadian and then the Babylonian Empire. In the west these same Semitic peoples were taking to the sea. They set up a string of harbour towns along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, of which Tyre and Sidon were the chief; and by the time of Hammurabi in Babylon, they had spread as traders, wanderers and colonizers over the whole Mediterranean basin. These sea Semites were called the Phoenicians.1

Now he clearly did not believe that these people were all Jewish, for he refers specifically to them as:

[A] little Semitic people, the Hebrews, in the hills behind the Phoenician and Philistine coasts.2

And then he devotes a whole chapter to “The Early History of the Jews”, whose importance to the history of mankind Wells clearly understands and appreciates, as the chapter opens:

And now we tell of the Hebrews, a Semitic people, not so important in their own time as in their influence upon the later history of the world.3

(He couldn’t begin to know how prophetic those words would become.)

Note that Wells points out that the Hebrews were “a” Semitic people, not “the” Semitic people, and remember once again that he was writing before Israel had been invented. The importance that Wells rightly assigns to the Hebrews:

is due to the fact that they produced a written literature, a world history… which became at last what Christians know as the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible. This literature appears in history in the fourth or fifth century BC.3

Sometime around 600BC the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar ordered the destruction of Jerusalem, which had been the Hebrew capital for at least 400 years, and

The remnant of the people was carried off captive to Babylon [where] they remained until Cyrus took Babylon (538BC). He then collected them together and sent them back to resettle and rebuild the walls and temple of Jerusalem.3

Wells notes that the period of time that the Hebrews spent in Babylon was highly significant, because:

It civilized them and consolidated them. They returned aware of their own literature, an acutely self-conscious and political people.4

And very interestingly,

[Hebrew] accounts of the Creation of the World, of Adam and Eve and of the Flood, with which the Bible begins [and which vast numbers of westerners still believe to this day] run closely parallel with similar Babylonian legends; they seem to have been part of the common beliefs of all the Semitic peoples. So too the stories of Moses and of Samson have Sumerian and Babylonian parallels.4

So it appears that the original Semitic people were very different to what most of the world thinks today:

In the seventh century BC it would have seemed as though the whole civilised world was to be dominated by Semitic rulers. They ruled the great Assyrian empire and they had conquered Egypt; Assyria, Babylon, Syria were all Semitic, speaking languages that were mutually intelligible. The trade of the world was in Semitic hands. Tyre, Sidon, the great mother cities of the Phoenician coast, had thrown out colonies that grew at least to even greater proportion in Spain, Sicily and Africa. Carthage, founded before 800 BC, had risen to a population of more than 1 million.5

Now Wells did not invent the word “Semite”, nor did he invent this interpretation of their history. He simply related what would have been common understanding of history at the time. And this understanding survived for quite a long a time afterwards. Because in my edition of The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (an interesting use of the word “shorter”, as my two-volume copy is nearly 4,000 pages long), the word “Semite” is defined as:

A member of any of the peoples supposedly descended from Shem, son of Noah (Gen. 10:21 – 31) including esp. the Jews, Arabs, Assyrians, Babylonians, and Phoenicians.6

And my edition of this dictionary was published in 1993, over seventy years after Wells wrote his book. So in relatively recent times, the definition of the word “Semite” has been almost totally transformed from what was in common usage for many, many years to a new definition, widely promoted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), which is now being used to refer only to Jewish people generally, and Zionists in particular. All of the other hundreds of millions of other people living in Semitic lands, as they’ve done for thousands of years, are simply removed from the new definition.

Now that publication date of 1993 is quite interesting, because it is a date after the First Gulf War, which took place in 1991. This war, which doesn’t deserve to be dignified with the word “war”, as it was more like a mass slaughter of defenceless people, was not only a massive abomination, it was also a massively illegal abomination, for it not only ignored numerous international laws, it also ignored the constitution of the very country that was mostly responsible for the abominations – the United States of America.

Ramsey Clark who, as a former attorney general of the US, knows a little bit about the law. His superb book The Fire This Time: US Crimes in the Gulf relates much of the detail of the monstrous crimes perpetrated by the US and its allies – and provides a comprehensive account of some of the various laws which were contemptuously ignored.

Clark describes just how one-sided this so-called war was:

Before 1991 was over, more than 250,000 Iraqis and thousands of other nationals were dead as a result of the attack. Most were civilian men, women, children, and infants.

US war casualties, including those who died from U.S. “friendly fire,” totalled 148, we are told. Out of an acknowledged 109,876 air sorties, total U.S. aircraft losses were 38, less than the accident rate during war games without live ammunition…

Iraq had no capacity to either attack or defend… The U.S. did not lose a single B52 in combat, as these planes dropped 27,500 tons of bombs. No Iraqi projectile penetrated a single Abrams tank, while the U.S. claimed to destroy 4,300 Iraqi tanks and 1,856 armored vehicles…7

U.S. forces buried thousands of Iraqi soldiers alive, wounded, dying, and dead. Miles of trenches with Iraqi troops in them were bulldozed over with sand. The United States refused to count, locate, identify or honor the dead. General [Colin] Powell said of the death count that it was “not a number I am terribly interested in.”8

General William G. Pagonis, stating proudly that this was the first war in modern time where every screwdriver and every nail was accounted for, simultaneously defended General Schwarzkopf’s policy against counting enemy dead. The generals knew but never mentioned that the Geneva Convention of 1949 required them not merely to count enemy dead, but to identify and honor them as well.9

Now there’s nothing unusual in the United States ignoring international law whenever it feels so inclined. After all, it’s knowingly been committing war crimes since Korea, and even one of its own Secretaries of State, Henry Kissinger, freely admitted in the 1970s that:

The illegal we do immediately, the unconstitutional takes a little longer.10

But the relevance to this particular discussion is around the question of anti-Semitism. Now I think I’ve established that for many, many years, and up until at least 1993, it was commonly understood that Semites were people with ethnic roots stretching from Iraq to North Africa.

However, in 2001 it was decided at the very highest levels of US government to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.

The catastrophic destruction that had already been wreaked on Iraq – one of the earliest Semitic lands – ten years earlier was not enough. Nowhere near enough Semitic people had suffered enough. Tens of millions of other Semitic people would have to be killed, injured and made homeless. And true enough we have indeed seen the destruction of what was left of Iraq, then Libya. Syria has been made to suffer terribly, and were it not for the intervention of Russia would likely have gone the same way as Iraq and Libya. All Semitic countries.

For much of Jeremy Corbyn’s time in office as leader of Britain’s Labour Party, he has been persistently accused of anti-Semitism. He has been accused of “not doing enough” to purge the party of anti-Semitism, and he has been accused of being an anti-Semite himself, most notably by the senior and highly respected Labour MP Margaret Hodge who allegedly called him a fucking anti-Semite. Yet hard evidence to justify the accusations are very difficult to find – which is quite extraordinary if it’s such a serious problem in the Labour Party generally, and with Jeremy Corbyn in particular. Much media comment was recently made about a remark Corbyn is said to have made – six years ago – about a wall mural depicting a group of bankers and which was, apparently anti-Semitic. This is about the best Jeremy Corbyn’s accusers can do in terms of providing hard evidence of his supposed anti-Semitism. The fact that Corbyn has spent much of his political career fighting for justice for cruelly oppressed Palestinians – a Semitic people – is not only ignored, it’s now considered further evidence of his anti-Semitism, thanks to IHRA’s new definition of the expression.

So the question is what is real anti-Semitism? Is it really a refusal to condemn a wall painting? Is that really the best Corbyn’s enemies can come up with? And even if it is, how does it compare when measured against the illegal murder of millions of Semitic people across the Middle East and North Africa, the destruction of countless thousands of Semitic homes, and forcing millions of semites to become refugees in alien and unwelcoming countries?

  1. A Short History of the World, HG Wells, p. 74.
  2. Ibid, p. 79.
  3. Ibid, p. 92.
  4. Ibid, p. 93.
  5. Ibid, p. 98.
  6. New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, p. 2772.
  7. The Fire This Time, Ramsey Clark, p. 206/7.
  8. Ibid, p. 178.
  9. Ibid, p. 208.
  10. The Wikileaks Files, Verso, 2015 edition, p. 66.

Et tu Labour?

What is the point of memory if one fails to learn from the lessons it provides? Milan Kundera accurately observed that “the struggle of people against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting”. ((Hidden Agendas, John Pilger.)) The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) is an organisation supposedly committed to not forgetting the infamous extermination of Jews by the Nazis during World War Two. That is not unreasonable. However, what if remembering one horrendous holocaust from the past is paid for by forgetting, or ignoring, holocausts of the present? What if remembering one horrendous holocaust from the past is used as an excuse to attack and criminalise protests against holocausts of the present?

The IHRA recently drafted a brand new definition of the expression “anti-Semitism”. The status of the organisation appears to have given it an authority to do this which is somehow deemed beyond reproach or question, as the British Labour Party recently voted to adopt the whole definition as its official position on the issue of anti-Semitism. The IHRA definition was drafted by a Jewish lawyer, Kenneth Stern. It would seem that Mr Stern didn’t quite realise the significance of what he had done, and has since distanced himself from the way his work has been used. However, the Labour Party’s decision was nothing short of catastrophic.

It’s highly relevant to consider what has long been used as a definition of anti-Semitism. The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, for example, simply defines it as “hostility or opposition to Jews”.1 But even this definition is highly problematic, because the very same dictionary defines the word “Semite” as “A member of any of the peoples supposedly descended from Shem, son of Noah (Gen. 10:21-31) including esp. the Jews, Arabs, Assyrians, Babylonians, and Phoenicians”.2 Clearly the expression anti-Semitism is derived from the word Semite, yet somewhere along the way hundreds of millions of Arabs, Assyrians, Babylonians, and Phoenicians were simply wiped out of consideration, leaving behind only the Jews.

The new IHRA definition has now transformed the expression once again – and definitely not for the better. We have now moved from the questionable but quite straightforward “hostility or opposition to Jews”, to something that’s over five hundred words in length. Whilst much of the new definition is still basically describing hostility or opposition to Jews, there’s now some brand new and deeply sinister additions. We’re now told that the following are examples of anti-Semitism:

  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

It would seem the Labour Party has now voted to adopt the entire five hundred-plus words IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. It’s very clear that the new definition has done something that’s seldom been achieved before. It’s now made it extremely difficult to criticise the political activities of Israel, a country whose actions against Palestinians (a Semitic people) are demonstrably racist, oppressive, and flagrantly in breach of international laws.

When the Labour Party accepted the IHRA definition it added a caveat that “this will not in any way undermine freedom of expression on Israel or the rights of Palestinians”. No doubt this was added as some sort of appeasement to the sizeable number of Labour members who have long supported and campaigned for justice for Palestinians, but how is “freedom of expression on Israel” going to square in practice with the new ban on campaigning against Israel’s institutional racism against Palestinians, given this is now an explicitly prohibited expression of anti-Semitism?

One of the most ironic situations to arise out of this new definition is that Hassidic Jews, the ultra-orthodox practitioners of Judaism, could now be deemed anti-Semitic, as they have always denied the right of Israel to exist, and have even supported the Palestinian cause, as can be clearly seen, for example, in this video clip. So we have deeply religious Jews who are now officially anti-Semitic. It’s beyond farce. You couldn’t make it up.

The gutless Labour Party caving in to pressure from the powerful pro-Israeli Zionist lobby is utterly contemptible, but it’s far from being the first time that Labour has sacrificed vital political ideology in the cynical cause of political expediency. As far back as 1926 a gutless Labour Party failed to support Britain’s first ever successful General Strike. The ruling Tory party of the day was crushed by the united action of British trade unions. But what did Labour do? It capitulated. The strike was called off. Not even the Tories, who knew they were beaten, could believe it. It was a real and golden opportunity for Britain to create a socialist state, and the Labour Party, together with the treacherous leaders of the Trades Union Congress, simply threw in the towel, and betrayed millions of British workers.

Then it happened again in 1997 when Tony Blair’s “New Labour” swept to power after almost twenty years of relentless Tory capitalism. The nation was sick to death of Tory austerity. It was yet another golden opportunity to rescue our desperate economy, but what did Labour do? Capitulate. It betrayed the millions of people who had trusted it to rid the nation of Toryism and delivered yet more capitalist austerity for the next twelve years, causing Margaret Thatcher to smugly remark that Tony Blair was the Tories’ greatest achievement.3

The latest capitulation of the Labour Party is an interesting thing. It is supposed to be about alleged anti-Semitism in the country generally, and within the party in particular. Now what’s interesting about this is that I’ve lived in Britain for forty years and I have never, ever come across any anti-Semitism – using the word here to mean prejudice against Jews. And I know what prejudice against Jews is, because when I was growing up in Rhodesia, during its institutionally racist days, prejudice against Jews was also very common, and normal. But here in the UK I have never, not once, encountered anti-Jewish prejudice. Islamophobia is not unusual here, and prejudice against Eastern Europeans is totally normal. Prejudice against women, black people, gays, and almost anyone who is obviously different, all completely normal although thankfully not very common – inexcusable, obviously, but not unusual and I have observed examples of each of them at various times; but I have never once seen an example in this country of prejudice against Jews. A small minority of people, such as myself and Jeremy Corbyn, frequently criticise the grotesque abuses of Palestinians by the Zionist regime ruling Occupied Palestine, but that is something entirely different. It’s a wholly deserved critique of a repulsive regime which is in practice indistinguishable from South Africa’s horrendous apartheid years. Prejudice against Zionists is not the same thing as prejudice against Jews. So in my view, the claim that there’s some sort of major problem of anti-Jewish prejudice in Britain is a complete fabrication, deliberately engineered as a device to eliminate criticism of Israel. Given that this is exactly what has come about it would seem the strategy has been a successful one.

The real victims in this sorry story are all the other Semitic people whose terrible suffering has long been ignored: the Arabs, Assyrians, Babylonians and Phoenicians. These are the real victims of modern anti-Semitism, but their cause is almost completely ignored. In the past the British Labour Party has sometimes shown support for their endless agony, and criticised the shameful western-sponsored injustices they have to endure. But the latest capitulation of the Labour Party, sacrificing noble ideology to political expediency, is nothing short of disgusting, and hundreds of millions of non-Jewish Semitic people could now well ask, “Et tu Labour?”

  1. New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (1993 Edition), p. 88.
  2. “- p. 2772
  3. The Establishment, Owen Jones, p. 51.

Where is our brave new world?

It was recently reported that in just three years’ time many of those who voted for Britain to quit the EU will no longer be alive. This relates to the fact that most people who voted for Brexit were much older than those who voted to remain, and won’t have to live with the consequences of their decision. So, not for the first time, young people will have to pay for the errors of the old.

Although some old people, like me, voted Remain, many more didn’t. I believe the disastrous Brexit referendum was the direct consequence of the treacherous mainstream media (MSM), which has been slowly rotting people’s brains for many years. Although the most widely-read right-wing tabloids strongly promoted Brexit this wasn’t their only contribution to influencing the outcome. The real damage took place over the decades prior to the referendum, with the tabloids’ relentless xenophobia, racism, jingoism, and anti-EU bile, steadily brainwashing tens of millions of people to think and act against their own best interests.

The expression “fake news” is now fairly common. It’s been used to suggest that information that hasn’t originated in the MSM is not believable (or the MSM would report it, is their argument). But, in fact, the exact opposite is the case: nothing that IS reported in the MSM can be trusted, as they have always specialised in providing fake news. The evidence is abundant and compelling, from Ponsonby’s Falsehood in War Time, written ninety years ago, through Knightley’s superb First Casualty and the excellent classic Manufacturing Consent by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, to the excellent press watchdog Media Lens, with their encyclopaedic and up-to-date collection of evidence detailing some of the current deceit of the MSM.

It’s time young people created a brand new political organisation and, equally important, a public information service that can be wholly trusted. Their generation is in big trouble as a direct consequence of centuries of basically corrupt government, strongly supported by the church (it’s not for nothing the Church of England has been called the Tory party at prayer) and, for the last century or so, the MSM. Once again, evidence of corruption is plentiful. Apart from dozens of great books providing irrefutable proof, Private Eye, for example, has been publishing evidence of institutionalised malfeasance in high places every two weeks for over half a century; and, of course, today there are a number of excellent websites providing accurate alternative information.

Most old people have never intentionally misled or deceived the young over anything important. But the fact is that today’s oldies didn’t have the internet, and therefore had very limited access to good alternative information. They didn’t know they were being tricked and deceived: they made the cardinal mistake of trusting rulers, and their MSM lackeys.

Every institution that has misruled our country for centuries, enriching the super-rich at the expense of the super-poor, needs to be scrapped and replaced with something much, much better (not a very difficult thing to imagine). My trilogy of books, School of Kindness, People’s Constitution, and EnMo Economics detail some of the problems and suggest some possible solutions. But it will require an ideological revolution to achieve the changes future generations will desperately need, and young people are going to need a brand new political organisation to provide it – because none of the existing main political parties can be trusted to do so.