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Nederlog

September 29, 2015
Crisis: China, "Marxism Today", Labour Party, Fiorina, TTIP

 "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
 
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
"
   -- I.F. Stone
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton















Prev- crisis -Next

Sections
Introduction

1.
Asian markets fall as new fears raised over China's
     economy

2. Marxism Today: the forgotten visionaries whose ideas
     could save Labour

3. Labour’s bitter refuseniks risk being stranded by the tide
4. Carly Fiorina endorses waterboarding 'to get information
     that was necessary'

5.
Will TTIP Get Terminated? Negotiations Falter as Europe
     Balks


This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, September 29, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about China and Asian markets: they are not doing well; item 2 is about a "long read" on The Guardian about "Marxism Today", that I found rather disappointing and ideological; item 3 is about an article by Polly Toynbee on The Guardian about
Labour, that seemed a little optimistic about
Blairism and Blatcherism; item 4 is about Carly Fiorina, who seems to this psychologist to speak like a sadist; and item 5 is about the TTIP: it has found considerable opposition, but is not dead yet.

1. Asian markets fall as new fears raised over China's economy

The next item is an article by Justin McCurry on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

Concern over the health of the Chinese economy has again struck Asian markets, with shares in the region plummeting to their lowest level for more than three years, after weak Chinese data prompted sharp losses on Wall Street.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei stock index fell more then 600 points in morning trading, continuing the downward pressure felt overnight in Europe and the US.

MSCI’s broader index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slumped 2.2%, touching its lowest levels since June 2012 and extending early declines after Chinese shares opened lower.

China’s blue-chip CSI300 index and the Shanghai Composite Index were both down 1.8%.

Asian markets were again feeling the fallout from China, where a survey of industrial firms published Monday showed an 8.8% year-on-year decline in profits in August.

“It’s a statistic that usually doesn’t affect stock markets, but due to the breadth of the fall, the outlook on China’s slowdown and its likely global effects has darkened significantly,” Chihiro Ota, general manager of investment research at SMBC Nikko Securities, told Kyodo News.

And that is about it, while the last paragraph explains why the item is in this crisis series: China is a very big market and a very big producer, and it is signficantly slowing down.

There is more in the article.

2. Marxism Today: the forgotten visionaries whose ideas could save Labour 

The next article today is by John Harris (<- Wikipedia) on The Guardian:

First some words in explanation:

This is "a long read", i.e. it is announced as such, and indeed it is fairly long, for which reason I cannot excerpt it very well, while it is here because my parents were Marxists (both for some 45 years), while I gave up Marxism the year after John Harris was born, when I was 20 a few months, and had decided - among other things - that I believed in science and truth far more than in politics and ideology as the way to emancipate mankind.

This also was in part a personal choice, although I did have quite good arguments against the Marxists (see my long letter from August 1976, for example, that is here and here).

Anyway... I have read all of the article, and here are some selected bits. First, here are the third and fourth paragraphs that outline what "Marxism Today" was:

What emerged from the debates and discussions was an array of amazingly prescient insights, published in a visionary magazine called Marxism Today. In the early 21st century, that title might look comically old-fashioned, but the people clustered around the magazine anticipated the future we now inhabit, and diagnosed how the left could steer it in a more progressive direction. Soon enough, in fact, some of Marxism Today’s inner circle would bring their insights to the Labour party led by Tony Blair, as advisers and policy specialists. But most of their ideas were lost, thanks partly to the frantic realities of power, but also because in important respects, Blair and Gordon Brown – both of whom had written for the magazine when they were shadow ministers – were more old-fashioned politicians than they liked to think.

At the core of Marxism Today’s most prophetic ideas was a brilliant conception of modern capitalism. In contrast to an increasingly dated vision of a world of mass production and standardisation, the magazine’s writers described the changes wrought by a new reality of small economic units, franchising, outsourcing, self-employment and part-time work – most of it driven by companies and corporations with a global reach – which they called “Post-Fordism”. Computers, they pointed out, were now being built from components produced in diverse locations all over the world; iconic companies had stripped down their focus to sales, strategy and what we would now call branding, outsourcing production to an ever-changing array of third parties.
I say, but not really.

And what I see is something rather different. Marxism Today was in fact the theoretical magazine of the British Communist Party, that was written by a fairly small number of academic marxists and leftists, who were quite as ideological and as political as the rest of the CP, and who had no really interesting ideas (I am sorry, but that is the case), but who - probably - wrote a bit better than the Morning Star, which was for ordinary workers rather than for and by a few leftist and marxist academics.

I see no interesting ideas, and in fact it seems I also see only a quite small group, that happened to miss two things that were quite prominent in "the academic left" in Holland and elsewhere: feminism and postmodernism.

John Harris, who seems to have been part of the group around Marxism Today to some extent for the last couple of its years, sees it rather differently:

Three decades later, the impact of the economic and social changes that Marxism Today identified is undeniable – and the politics it prescribed are, if anything, more relevant today than ever before. But apart from a few cosmetic updates, today’s Labour party still essentially clings to the same old shibboleths. Indeed, with the election of Jeremy Corbyn, its collective faith in them looks to have been renewed.
I think that is the old ideology of Marxism Today rather than reality, but OK: Most people who engage in politics engage in it in an ideological way, that really has not much in common with (real) science.

Here are three final points. The first is this:
By 1988, Marxism Today was attracting huge attention and selling around 20,000 copies a month, partly thanks to the fact that it was stocked by WH Smith.
In comparison, my site is written by precisely 1 ill man, and got over 225,000 visitors and over 1,7 million hits last year. I don't know how fair that comparison is, and I also don't sell anything; I don't try to be popular in any way; nor do I advertise anything, but if 1 ill man can do so in 2014, I suggest that the Marxism Today of 1988 was not at all a big movement. [1]

The second point is this:
In late 1989, as communist Europe underwent a series of largely peaceful revolutions, the “tankies” were in abeyance, and the politics of Marxism Today dominated what remained of the CPGB, whose membership was now down to around 7,500. A new party mission statement, titled Manifesto for New Times, was being put together.
In fact, "socialism" (in fact: the dictatorship of the leaders of the communist parties) was destroyed, mostly from within, and indeed - apart from Rumania - mostly peacefully. Two years later, the Dutch Communist Party (<- Wikipedia, in English, quite well done) - which had about the same number of members as its British counterpart, around 1987 - was terminated.

I've seen in the Wikipedia that the same happened in Great Britain, though - as also happened in Holland - there are a few old-style Leninists who resurrected
something like it, but that is much smaller than the also small Dutch Communist Party (deceased).

The third point is this, which I found in the Wikipedia lemma on Robert Conquest:
He said (who was a Marxist at age 20):

"I found the communists very dull and rather stupid"
The same holds for me, although my parents were far from stupid. But they had no education beyond age 15, and they were strongly influenced by the Nazist occupation of Holland, in which both were in the resistance (which resulted in 3 years 9 months and 15 days of being locked up in four German concentration camps as a "political terrorist" for my father).

Also, the stupidity was in large part the result not of a lack in intellectual ability, but of (i) lack of a good scientific education of most members, coupled with (ii) democratic centralism, that made it virtually impossible to hold any other opinion than was held by the party leadership, which in Holland, at least, was mostly strongly pro-Soviet Union.

But OK - in the end this was a rather disappointing article, although that is in part due to its title.

3. Labour’s bitter refuseniks risk being stranded by the tide

The next article today is by Polly Toynbee on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
What a shocking disappointment. We assembled in Brighton for a bloodbath, for gunpowder plots, sectarian skulduggery and the starting pistol fired for the great Labour civil war. But it didn’t happen – or not as I write. The press room here is dazed, confused and feeling cheated – though most deliver the headlines they’d pre-cooked anyway.

Jeremy Corbyn’s triumph sent Labour MPs into a slough of despond, the future grim, no way out. Some over-hastily walked away eschewing contamination with a Corbyn shadow cabinet. Surely the far left would impose impossibilist policies and doom Labour forever?

But that hasn’t happened. Corbyn has done exactly what he said he’d do, though no one who remembers the 1980s Militant nightmare had any reason to expect it. He is proving so far to be the consensual, democratic leader he said he’d be. What a surprise. Politics is being done differently, as promised. No MP need parrot mantras they don’t believe, free to disagree amicably. Sensible policy has emerged, though by what means isn’t altogether clear.

I say. And my main reason to be - a little - amazed is that Polly Toynbee, like most other journalists who write in The Guardian, with the exceptions of Owen Jones ans Seumas Milne, was against Corbyn, before he was elected.

Here is another bit:

Moderation and consensus – that’s not what was expected. Can Corbyn keep up this air of unity, while letting his frontbench pick and mix their support? The political rulebook says no, but that iron law is rusting away. Free votes on some issues may do no harm, fresh air not chaos. McDonnell jokes that he’ll join Boris Johnson lying down in front of bulldozers against a new Heathrow runway, even if party policy backs it – and why not? It’s a long way to the next manifesto.

As for the moderates, the Corbyn refuseniks were yesterday urged to return to the fold. Now they look like rebels without a cause, beached on the Brighton shore waiting for their boat to be floated by a red tide that never quite rolled in.
Actually, the last paragraph seems considerably too strong, at least in the liight of the many prominent Blairites (<- Wikipedia) who are still members of the Labour Party: In the last Wikipedia lemma, I counted at least 67 named prominent Blairites, apart from Blair himself.

So no: Neither Blairism not Blatcherism is dead, and it will take a considerable while for this to happen, if it happens, for Corbyn also still may fail.

4. Carly Fiorina endorses waterboarding 'to get information that was necessary'

The next article today is by Ben Jacobs on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina has endorsed waterboarding, the controversial interrogation method that has been called torture, as an important tactic that was used only “when there was no other way to get information that was necessary”.
I say.

First of all, it has not just "been called" "torture", it is torture, according it two persons who were thus treated: Christopher Hitchens and Jesse Ventura. Besides, it has been used as torture for over 400 years, so I find this sudden care for words not sympathetic.

Second, it seems fair to me - as a psychologist also - to call American presidential candidates who support torture sadists.

Third, there is also this (again with this suspect sudden care for words, that would probably not have been there if Ben Jacobs had had the guts Christopher Hitchens showed, who denied it was torture, until he was exposed to it):

The 2014 Senate report that called waterboarding – in which water is poured over a cloth on a prisoner’s face in order to simulate the feeling of drowning – tantamount to torture and said it produced little useful intelligence. Fiorina called the report “disingenuous” and “a shame” that “undermined the morale of a whole lot of people who dedicated their lives to keeping the country safe”.

Naureen Shah of Amnesty International told Yahoo of Fiorina’s comments: “This is completely rewriting the history of what happened.”

I side with Naureen Shah, and should like to add that "the morale of a whole lot of people who dedicated their lives to keeping the country safe" included willing torturers, while the US has signed agreements that forbid torturing. But OK - these are facts, and Fiorina probably doesn't do facts in her propaganda for herself and the right wing of the Republicans.

Finally, there is this bit, that supposedly shows Fiorina's patriotic heroism:

Fiorina also detailed how, as head of Hewlett-Packard, she provided the National Security Agency with a significant number of computer servers in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001. Then-NSA chief Michael Hayden phoned Fiorina and told her: “Carly, I need stuff and I need it now,” she said. The servers that she provided were used by the NSA to implement a warrantless surveillance program called Stellar Wind.

The last link - Stellar Wind - is quite interesting. Also see William Binney on the merits of Stellar Wind, who according to Wikipedia (minus note numbers)

estimates that the NSA (particularly its Stellar Wind project) had intercepted 20 trillion communications "transactions" of Americans such as phone calls, emails, and other forms of data (but not including financial data). This includes most of the emails of US citizens. Binney disclosed in an affidavit for Jewel v. NSA that the agency was "purposefully violating the Constitution". Binney also notes that he found out after retiring that the NSA was pursuing collect-it-all vs. targeted surveillance even before the 9/11 attacks.
5. Will TTIP Get Terminated? Negotiations Falter as Europe Balks

The last item today is by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:

While public opposition to the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)—the massive proposed "trade" deal between the European Union and the United States—has grown steadily since negotiations started two years ago, new signs suggest that official government backing is also faltering across Europe.

In an interview with French regional newspaper Sud Ouest published Monday, Junior Trade Minister Matthias Fekl said TTIP negotiations were favoring American interests and "either weren't advancing or were progressing in the wrong direction."

"If nothing changes, it will show that there isn't the will to achieve mutually beneficial negotiations," he said, before adding: "France is considering all options including an outright termination of negotiations."

I say - that seems Good News to me, although it is no more than an intermediate result.  The same holds for the following bit:

Meanwhile, a group of more than 55 UK members of parliament (MPs) has signed onto a motion expressing major concerns about the mammoth trade pact, which civil society groups have dubbed a corporate giveaway. Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP, put forward the Commons motion, and it has now been signed by every member of the Scottish National Party group at Westminster, as well as the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

And again the same holds for this:

Almost 3 million people across Europe have signed a petition calling on the Commission to scrap the agreement.

Last week, the Oxford-based group 'We Own It,' which deals with national issues surrounding public services, held a demonstration against the proposed TTIP, warning that it could lead to private businesses being too heavily involved in public services.

Cat Hobbs, an organizer with the group, told the Oxford Mail: "The idea is that it would open up new markets to private companies and the reality here is that it’s going to open up public services to private companies. Multi-national corporations’ rights will become more important than ours."

Quite so. And the reason is more specifically this: It seems - for the TTIP and the TTP are both secret and classified, although they concern the rights of something like a billion people - that anything which hurts the profits of multi-national corporations can be undermined and destroyed by them, because they can start special "court"-cases in special "courts", manned by lawyers from the multi-national corporations.

That means that all laws approved by parliaments to protect the population are
up for grabs, and may be "rewarded" by enormous claims for restitutions to the
corporations for hurting their (purported) profits.

-------------------------------------
Note

[1] Incidentally: The numbers are just for the Danish site. For the Dutch site I get no numbers, but I take it that is twice as many, since I am Dutch and the site exists longer.


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