Tuesday 30 August 2011

Recurring questions: Do stock market gains equate to economic recovery?

Do gains in World stock markets mean that the long awaited economic recovery is underway?

If you choose to believe the reaction of economics "experts" in the mainstream media, then the gains are really positive news meaning that the global economy is finally coming out of recession and that the recent falls can be forgotten about.

If however, you are disinclined to believe the media "experts" that were incapable of spotting the sub-prime mortgage scam for what it was and ignored the pre-2007 warnings that reckless borrowing to fuel property price inflation was going to end in economic disaster, perhaps you should ask another question:

Who are the beneficiaries of increasingly dramatic fluctuations in the money markets?

Hint: The unregulated speculative derivatives market is estimated to be worth 20x the GDP of the entire World. Nowadays there's vastly more money invested in bets about whether stocks are going to go up or down than is invested in actually making or doing things in the "real economy".

To take the UK as an example, the much hyped national debt of 876 billion (58% of GDP) was borrowed to spend on all kinds of beneficial stuff like universal healthcare, universal education, the military, infrastructure projects, science, research subsidies, policing, welfare, local services, libraries, foreign aid, industrial support and even a few ill advised and not very beneficial foreign invasions, while the sum just unconditionally handed over to the banks to pay down their appalling gambling debts (which is misleadingly excluded from the national debt calculations) is £1,376 billion (91% of GDP), this figure doesn't even take into account the economically destructive consequences of holding interest rates artificially low for years, a £325bn money printing scam (quantitative easing) and the countless $trillions in secretive ultra low interest loans to British banks from the US Federal Reserve.

Meanwhile neoliberal politicians are queueing up to shaft ordinary working & taxpaying people with their "austerity measures" based on the great neoliberal lie that "the state has been spending too much on welfare, healthcare, education and other services" when they know full well that the state has borrowed far more in order to prop up the corruption riddled, unstable and transparently defective neoliberal economic system.

The uber-rich neoliberal financial services clique are laughing all the way to the bank. They have benefited from taxpayer funded bailouts to kept their reckless money making scams from collapsing into the chasm of debt they had created. Now they are enriching themselves in the game of short selling sovereign debt before their self fulfilling prophecies about imminent downgrades come true, then brazenly chelping away that ordinary people need to suffer more "austerity" because their governments have too many unaffordable debts.

The $1.2 quadrillion speculative derivatives market dwarfs all of the real economies of the World, (it is 80x the size of the much hyped US government debt). The reason for this is that it is far easier to make money in unregulated financial speculation than it is to invest in employing anyone in the real (and regulated) economy to actually make things or to provide real services. The unregulated and unstable debt fuelled behemoth of the speculative derivatives market leaks it's inherent instability into the comparatively tiny real economy. The tendency to look for causal factors in the real economy is the same kind of futile outdated thinking as maintaining traditional twentieth century tribal political allegiances when all of the mainstream political parties have been infiltrated by followers of hardline neoliberal orthodoxy. Claims that worries about the Greek sovereign debt crisis caused the latest global market collapse are not so much "tail wagging the dog" theories as "flea wagging the dog" theories.

In order to make their obscene amounts of money, the speculative derivatives traders need to create unstable market conditions in order to maximise their gambling yields. All the talk about market confidence is as meaningless as the jumbled post hoc list of factors media "experts" like to espouse as reasons for the latest market surge/market collapse. Derivatives traders want the stock market to rise in order that it can crash again, they want it to crash again in order that it can rise.

Monday 29 August 2011

Don't vote labour

Every time you are tempted to think of Gordon Brown as a left wing
politician, recall his £160-240bn legacy of disastrous and
extremely inefficientPFI neoliberal economic alchemy schemes.
Every time I hear a Labour party supporter pushing the party line and repeating their mealy-mouthed and weakest possible criticisms of the coalition government (for fear of upsetting the neoliberal economic orthodoxy their party adheres to), I just wish they'd give their outdated partisan rambling a break.

Apart from the introduction of a few badly designed and inefficient bits of pseudo-socialist window dressing, to appease their core voters and the trade unions, New Labour were as neoliberal as Margaret Thatcher.

Neoliberalism has become the unquestionable economic orthodoxy, enforced by the unelected economic overlords at the IMF, the World Bank and most of the world's central banks. Labour followed neoliberal economic orthodoxy diligently, handing massive chunks of state infrastructure to tax dodging scam artists, hugely increasing the gap between the rich and the poor, commodifying education, eroding the principle of equal justice and recklessly liberalising the regulation that was meant to keep a check on the venal and nefarious uber-rich, that so often use their massive wealth to further their selfish and amoral pursuit of even more wealth, no matter what the cost to society.

After all of that they crowned it with the one of the biggest transferences of wealth in history from the ordinary to the super rich economic elite in the form of £900bn bailout to cover the bad debts of the reckless bankers to be paid off by decades of "austerity" imposed on ordinary working people, justified with the great neoliberal lie, that there is no alternative.

If you are one of those people that chooses to hang onto your illusory 20th Century tribal party distinctions and can't understand that all three of the main parties are now hard line neoliberals clamouring to repeat the lie that "the state is too big" and that state spending on infrastructure, education, healthcare and welfare needs to be slashed, when the legitimate debts of the state are completely dwarfed by the the money borrowed by the Neo-Labour party (with the explicit backing of the Tories) in order to give near unconditional handouts to their uber-rich corporatist pals, then you don't really have much to offer to the debate.

The Labour party left behind their credentials as nation builders, ethical social reformers and the representatives of ordinary working people a generation ago. Nowadays when you vote Labour, you are not voting for socialism, not for the left, not for social reform nor for workers' solidarity, you are simply voting on your preference for the colour red.

It amazes me that the gelded trade unions that provided such a large proportion of Labour party donations let Neo-Labour get away with their cosy and relaxed attitude towards the super rich and the tax evaders. After all, the core purpose of the trade unions was meant to be the protection of the interests of ordinary working taxpayers against the interests of the super rich, the landed rentier class and the corporate elites that tend to exploit them.

It also amazes me that millions of Labour voters apathetically let control of their party be seized by the right wing establishment elite out of a primitive fear that "it would be much worse under the Tories".

The biggest condemnation of Labour is that had they used their 1997 landslide as a mandate to spent just one term of government actively undoing some of the most egregious neoliberal abuses of the state imposed by the first Thatcherite party, the raving neoliberal Tories would still be much further away from achieving their goal of turning the UK into a Friedman's wet dream of a selfish, amoral, greed-is-good, fuck the needy, survival of the fittest society.

Let me get this clear. If you vote Tory, Lib-Dem or Labour you are a de facto supporter of the bankrupt neoliberal economic orthodoxy.

Vote for alternative parties or don't vote at all. Choosing the lesser of three evils is just giving a false mandate to the amoral neoliberals that want to destroy our sense of national solidarity and reinvent our nation as one of purely self interested consumers/debt slaves in which ownership of all state infrastructure has been seized by the tiny economic elite.

In terms of democratic mandate the bar is already set pretty low in the UK. 21.5% of the eligible vote was enough for Tony Blair to retain power for Neo-Labour in 2005 and 23% of the eligible vote was enough to make slimy PR man "Call Me" Dave our prime minister now, so please don't encourage any of the neoliberal parties by giving them your vote.

Sunday 28 August 2011

Charlie Chaplin Great Dictator Speech

It is over 70 years since Charlie Chaplin made The Great Dictator, the final speech is as relevant today as it was when he made the film in the midst of the Second World War.

Letter to George Osborne

This is a transcript of a reply I made to George Osborne beneath a self-congratulatory piece on tax dodging he'd contributed to the Comment is Free section of the Guardian website (I also sent this letter to his parliamentary email address).

Dear Mr Osborne,

I enjoyed reading your article about tax dodging on the Comment is Free website and really hope that you stuck around to read the below the line comments it is sure to provoke, even though I'm certain that many of the responses will be far less civil and carefully worded than my own effort.
"Tax evasion is morally repugnant. It's stealing from law-abiding people who face higher taxes to make good the lost revenue. Those who evade taxes, like benefit cheats, are leeches on society.”
I'd like to applaud your strongly worded opening statements in this piece and hope that these are words of sincerity rather than some hollow rhetoric designed to appease an angry population without actually investing a great deal of effort in clamping down on these disgustingly selfish individuals you personally refer to as “leeches”.

That several high profile Tory donors and some of the institutions of the press that overtly supported the Conservatives during the 2010 election campaign and then avoided criticism of the coalition government agreement and the lack of “true mandate” that would entail, have been shown up as prolific users of tax efficiency/evasion/avoidance/dodging scams makes me fear that this conflict of interests makes the latter seem a more plausible representation of your true stance.

The fact that you are a politician also makes suspect a degree of insincerity given the egregious abuses of the Parliamentary expenses system only a few years ago. I'm not going to dig out your record on expenses as I'm attempting to write this reply in a civil and non-partisan manner. I don't want to make my response to your statements appear as some kind of biased personal attack and I don't want to get bogged down in an angry commentary about the 2nd home flipping scam. However I'm sure that you will agree with me when I say that that the whole of politics was tainted when it was revealed that many of your Parliamentary colleagues had engaged in the same kind of dishonest pilfering of public funds that you describe as “leeching” when done by tax cheats and benefits fraudsters.

The fact is that many of your colleagues in Parliament were allowed to get away with their dishonesty by merely paying back all (or even in some cases only part) of the pilfered state funds. Because of this you must learn to forgive the presumption of political insincerity held by the public. The public can clearly see that many MPs are still in their jobs having committed expenses fraud that would have been grounds for summary dismissal for most of us that rely on “real world jobs” for our incomes.

The perceived greedy attitude of the establishment elite and the huge disparity in the ways different kinds of theft from the state are treated are some of the principle sources of public anger. Politicians that have stolen from the public get to keep their jobs and handsome pension schemes. Under your Swiss tax deal, leeching tax dodgers that have stolen money from ordinary working people get to keep their anonymity (and in many cases a hefty proportion of their pilfered fortunes). David Hartnett is allowed to sign off on multi-billion pound tax agreements that have been personally negotiated after he was expensively wined and dined by the same companies facing these huge tax bills. On the other hand Benefits fraudsters that get caught are rightly hauled before the judicial system, given long prison sentences and often find themselves named and shamed in the press.

Having witnessed the “fast tracking to justice” of suspected rioters, looters and arsonists over the last few weeks, I would like to see some concerted effort to use the same “presumption of guilt” strategy that has been used to deny bail to rioting nihilists, used to keep suspected tax dodgers in custody, to act as a very strong deterrent for other potential tax evaders and as an incentive for others to rapidly clean up their tax affairs before the police come calling.

After all, using a premeditated accountancy scam to siphon £millions out of UK jurisdiction in order to avoid paying tax, although a much less visible "crime" it is a far more economically damaging activity than the participation in a spontaneous riot, the smashing of windows, or a single act of looting low-mid value beverages or consumer goods.

Instead of reading that suspected tax evaders get to keep their anonymity and have a right to a secretive appeals process, I'd like to have read that they are to be denied bail and locked up with the longest possible sentences if they are found guilty, as a strong deterrent. You make an admission that “It's up to me as chancellor to close the loopholes down” but it is also your responsibility to liaise with your colleagues to form a robust new tax evasion law to act as the strongest possible deterrent and an indicator to a rightly angered public that the age of wanton profiteering at the expense of the state is coming to an end.

You close your piece with the statement that under the “coalition government the hiding places for tax cheats are systematically being shut down [and] we will make sure that everyone pays their fair share”. If you honestly mean to pursue a zero tolerance attitude to tax dodging you need to come up with some more seriously robust legislation.

One area that I firmly believe needs addressing immediately is corporate tax evasion and my policy suggestion would be to begin with the fairly simple process of eliminating tax avoiding companies from bidding for or receiving government funds (in the form of subsidies, government procurements, reconstruction and redevelopment projects, health contracts, care home fees, PFI contracts, interventions (bailouts) or other forms of state payment). If a company is not prepared to establish an authentic British subsidiary that pays a fair amount of tax on the profits generated in the UK and instead uses tactics like tax haven based shell companies or other tax evasion vehicles to avoid paying UK tax on their profits or to aid their employees in tax evasion, they should have no rights to access the potentially lucrative benefits of the British tax system (receipt of taxpayers' money via the state). 

A specific case I'm thinking of is the insane Mapley Steps deal, where hundreds of HM Revenue and Customs buildings were sold off to a company that is ultimately based in the British Cayman Islands for tax purposes, with the astonishing consequences that the operators of the UK tax office estate pay no UK tax on their profits and the UK government is unable to reclaim the VAT on the rent of what used to be government owned buildings.

Perhaps you could take action against the many pre existing tax rip-offs like the Mapley Steps scandal. Many of the UKs other £160-240bn hidden PFI debt legacies (introduced by your party and then massively and recklessly overused by Gordon Brown & New Labour) are riddled with creative accountancy and tax diddling schemes. It is time to give them an ultimatum to either get their houses in order or agree to rescind their contracts.

Perhaps another potentially useful strategy would be to give some of the estimated 40,000 police facing redundancy in the name of "austerity" the opportunity to retrain in criminal accountancy forensics, with the aim of adding numerous carefully trained and diligent staff to an integrated “Tax Evasion, Fraud and Corruption Inspectorate (anti-spiv squad) to orchestrate criminal proceedings against the morally bankrupt profiteers that have been exploiting a permissive system, and in doing so have been giving the general concept of capitalism a very bad name. An efficient anti-profiteering team should be easily capable of self financing through the collection of unpaid taxes and the levying of hefty fines.

As you rightly claim in the article, much of this legacy of wanton profiteering at the expense of the state was permitted and even supported by the economically neoliberal New Labour party, but this comparatively lax attitude to white collar profiteering existed long before Tony Blair came to power.

As the traditional party of the super rich economic elite and the party that introduced slavish adherence to neoliberal economic policy, I had little faith that the Conservatives would do anything much to undo the gross economic iniquities built into the British system over the last 30 years, but you must feel free to prove me wrong.

I was amazed that the trade unions that provided such a large proportion of Labour party donations let neo-Labour get away with their cosy and relaxed attitude towards the super rich and the tax evaders amongst them (after all, even you would admit that the protection of the interests of ordinary working taxpayers against the interests of the super rich landed and corporate elite that would exploit them is meant to be the core purpose of the trade unions).

Having said this about the neo-labour legacy, I'd be equally amazed if the super rich bankers and corporatists that provide your party with such a hefty proportion of their donations and the media organisations that lend such loyal support to Tory political interests would allow you to get away with a honest and genuine all out “war on tax dodging” and the imposition of severe restrictions on other forms of economic spivvery.

Yours faithfully

Thomas G Clark

Unsurprisingly, Osborne kept up the dismal record of mainstream politicians by failing to reply to this letter.

Saturday 27 August 2011

Shadow Tolls, a secretive drain on public finance

Every time a car uses the Dishforth-Darrington stretch of
the A1, a secretive shadow toll is paid out of public funds.
Every time you drive on particular stretches of British motorway, from the A1 between Darrington and Dishforth to the A50 Stoke to Derby link you will be triggering a secretive payment to corporate interests paid directly out of government funds.

A shadow toll is a neo-conservative economic instrument designed to siphon billions of pounds out of government coffers into the hands of corporate profiteers. The system was first proposed in 1993 by the Tory party in the UK as a method of financing roadbuilding and road widening schemes and remained popular with the neo-conservative New Labour party as the financial design of the schemes allowed chancellor Gordon Brown to these hide billions in public infrastructure costs by excluding shadow tolls and numerous other PFI scams from the national debt calculations.

The shadow toll system is based upon payments made by government to the private sector operator based on the number of vehicles using the road. Several other nations such as Finland, Canada and the Netherlands have experimented with shadow toll programmes, however the UK is still the global leader in the creation of these schemes.

The classic argument in favour of the shadow toll system is that shadow tolling eliminates the need for drivers to pay tolls directly, thus avoiding toll collection costs. This seems sensible until it is considered that the UK road network is largely toll free and that the alternative to shadow tolling shouldn't be considered to be direct tolling, it should be direct government financing of infrastructure development projects, since the government can borrow at much lower rates than the private sector and are not burdened with the additional costs of providing shareholder profits.

There are many criticisms of the shadow tolling system, these include the fact that shadow tolling requires the Government and private sector to agree to the additional infrastructure cost of continuous vehicle counts and the expensive and complicated legal arrangements between the parties mean that transaction costs can be very high.

In the early days of shadow tolling the British National Audit Office found that all of the first four shadow toll projects falsely exaggerated their projected public sector savings and one scheme would certainly have been cheaper to implement through traditional state funding. Despite these early criticisms, the shadow tolling ball was in motion and the UK government carried on rolling out more and more shadow toll projects.

A committee of MPs have recently published a report that admitted that huge numbers of PFI projects (including shadow toll roads) do not represent value to the taxpayer, describing PFI as an "extremely inefficient" method of financing infrastructure projects and made the admission that PFI schemes were pushed through using misleading cost calculations and "perverse" fiscal incentives.

Another criticism is that the maintenance of the UK road network is already financed through direct taxation such as vehicle tax, local council tax and fuel duties. The imposition of lengthy shadow tolling contracts actually reduces the amount of government funds to be spent on the maintenance of the rest of the road network.

Yet another criticism is that shadow tolling actually creates strong disincentives to introduce environmental schemes such as congestion charging, carpooling, car sharing or other schemes to reduce road usage as any state efforts to reduce traffic on shadow toll roads would be seen as deliberate efforts to undermine the corporate interests of the shadoe toll profiteers and trigger costly compensation cases.

The evidence is quite clear that these secretive neoliberal economic alchemy schemes are little more than financially inefficient scams designed use government funds to enrich a tiny corporatist elite and clearly demonstrate the hypocrisy of the neo-conservative corporatists, who despite all their small state bluster, are always more than happy to siphon cash directly out of government coffers.

 If you enjoyed this post, maybe you could buy me a beer? £1 would get me a can of cheap lager whilst £3 would get me a lovely pint of real ale.

Friday 26 August 2011

UK property bubble, the case for market readjustment

As an economic recovery strategy austerity is not working. Defenders of the "orthodox neoliberal" response to the ongoing economic crisis often demand to know what the alternatives are to their favoured cut-now think later strategies. In this series I'm going to explore what some of these economic alternatives could be.

John Prescott's Pathfinder scheme led to the destruction of 100,000 of the
UK's most affordable houses. In many cases nothing has been built to replace them.
The British economic and political elites have a long track record of doing absolutely everything in their power to keep property prices at artificially inflated levels and prevent house prices falling back to sustainable levels. Their tactics include continued sales of social housing stock without replacement, deliberate destruction of swathes of affordable Victorian housing, running down the housebuilding sector in order to increase demand, refusing to regulate the something-for-nothing slumlord sector and printing loads of extra money (quantitative easing) while holding interest rates artificially low.

There are many reasons the political and economic elite have fuelled house price inflation. New Labour politicians benefited from a huge glow of smugness from middle England, as they saw their property values multiply with no effort or investment thanks to Gordon Browns house price bubble. The Tories are desperate to create the illusion that property values are not falling. The banks have benefited from decades of ever increasing lending, building up vast accumulations of mortgage collateral and the creation of millions of debt slaves.

If managed competently house price readjustment would only ruin speculators (financial, land and property) and the horrible buy-to-let parasites that did so much to create house price inflation and the 2008 economic crash in the first place.

Steps that should be taken to bring the UK housing market back down to sustainable levels:
  1. Build more social housing and ensure that the majority of new built private developments are affordable homes. There is no excuse for allowing developers to build whatever they like, thanks to permissive planning policies many of our cities are blighted with empty, (never even occupied) luxury city centre flats and apartments when the real social demand is for affordable family homes.
  2. End right to buy without reinvestment. Under current rules social housing can be sold off to the tenant but local authorities are prevented fro reinvesting the money in the construction of new social housing. This policy has massively depleated social housing stock to a point where there are now 1.7 million families on the waiting list for social housing.
  3. Stop pissing about with artificially low interest rates and money printing scams (quantitative easing). these measures are clearly only being used to prop up the banks and prevent a wave of foreclosures on negative equity properties which would bring down inflated property prices and leave many banks in even more over-leveraged positions.
  4. Force banks to sell all foreclosed properties within a given timescale to prevent the hoarding of empty property in order to increase demand and inflate the remaining market (tactics used on an industrial scale by Spanish banks after the 2008 Spanish housing market collapse).
  5. Give mortgage assistance only for "family home" properties. Anyone that gets trapped in negative equity through hoarding several buy-to-let properties will be getting exactly what they deserve, people that borrowed to buy a single home near the top of the market should be given assistance so that they can avoid negative equity and bankruptcy.
  6. Remove VAT charges from redevelopment costs, a tax on renovation is a tax on sustainability.
  7. Introduce an empty property tax to discourage property hoarding, a land value tax to prevent the speculative hoarding of building land and double rates of council tax for 2nd/3rd/4th homes, which would be paid into local council social housing funds.
  8. End Prescott's legacy of disgustingly wasteful Pathfinder schemes. The demolition of thousands of affordable quality (mostly Victorian) homes and the destruction of the communities that occupy them in order to drive up property values in adjacent areas and provide tracts of land for speculators to sit on is nothing short of sociological and environmental vandalism.
  9. Bring in proper regulation for the parasitic buy-to-let sector, measures should include the restoration of security of tenure for good tenants (abolished by Thatcher in 1988), local investigation and inspection teams with the power to confiscate properties that are dangerous and have been allowed to fall into disrepair, price banding of properties, protection from rent inflation, etc.
  10. Apply strict lending conditions to the banks in order to force  them to lend (the bailout money we gave them) to single home working families, not to property speculators and buy-to-let parasites.
These measures would cause a fire sale of buy-to-let and hoarded properties and return the British housing market to "the good old days" when a house was a home, not a bloody commodity.

Friday 19 August 2011

A simple pictoral guide to British politics

Neoliberal Blue.

Neoliberal Red.

Neoliberal Yellow

They are all neoliberals, do not vote for them*
* - unless you are one of the tiny uber-rich economic minority that neoliberal politicians are programmed to serve.

Thursday 18 August 2011

A letter from George

My policy of more of the same militant neoliberal free
market economics is the only conceivable way forward.
Dear voter,

After 30 years of privatise everything, tax cuts & tax loopholes for the rich, pensions & welfare cuts for the poor, reckless deregulation of the financial sector, globalisation of trade & investment while maintaining vast regional inequalities in wages & working conditions, refusing subsidies to industries that actually produce things yet awarding the biggest state subsidies in economic history to failed industry in the form of bailouts and money printing to save a bunch of gambling charlatans, ideologically driven neoliberal economics has doubled the concentration of wealth in the pockets of the richest 1%, turned a vast percentage of workers into debt slaves, provoked popular uprisings and riots all over Europe and the middle east and turned the world economy to over-leveraged, panic stricken chaos.

The only solutions to the problems of growing inequality and debt, ever increasing dissent and increased market volatility are; more privatisation, more tax cuts and tax loopholes for the rich, more "austerity" for the poor, more deregulation of the financial sector, more globalised trade & finance with greater regional inequalities in labour and less support for productive industry in favour of giving billions more to the "masters of the universe" in the banking sector (that coincidentally provide 60% of Tory party funding).

Yours faithfully

George Osborne BA Modern History

 If you enjoyed this post, maybe you could buy me a beer? £1 would get me a can of cheap lager whilst £3 would get me a lovely pint of real ale.

Saturday 6 August 2011

Why I blame the left for the economic crisis

New Labour's embrace of neoliberalism in the 1990s
signified the destruction of the traditional Labour movement.
At the risk of starting off by sounding like a the kind of Tory troll that likes to astroturf all economics based threads with their mindless bullshit, I'm going to say that I firmly believe that Labour are to blame for the woeful state of the British economy. Not because they were too "lefty" as the Tory apologists like to claim but because they were way to far to the right.

When Labour regained power in 1997, what the UK needed was an adjustment back to the left after 18 years of unrestrained neoliberal pseudo-economic policy, but what Labour delivered was more of the same neoliberal corporatist agenda but with a bit of (often poorly conceived) left wing window dressing to appease their core voters and Guardian columnists.

Some of the major causes of the deficit can be traced back to Neo-Labour:

Instead of imposing stronger regulation on the banks as "leftists" should do, they gave us their botched deregulation of the banks and building societies and left gaping tax-loopholes in the British economic system. They cosied up to big business and the financial sector instead of taxing their obscene remuneration packages, clamping down on tax avoidance/evasion and preventing the banks from over-leveraging themselves or pissing borrowed money down the speculative derivatives toilet.

Under no circumstances should a supposedly left-wing government be signing multi billion procurement projects with corporations nominally based in tax havens in order to avoid paying UK tax on their taxpayer funded profits, but that is exactly what Labour did in the Mapeley Steps ripoff.

Housing is another area in which the left should lead the way but instead of taking measures to fix the housing market by building more affordable housing, putting an end to right-to-buy without reinvestment, and dampening house prices with proper regulation of the parasitic bank funded buy-to-let sector, Labour politicians were perfectly happy to ride on the crest of the biggest artificial housing bubble in history and rake in the votes from people who were simply overjoyed to see the asset value of their house(s) multiply.

Labour also presided over a massive contraction in the housebuilding business, a sector that should have been booming. Another thing they should have done was to get rid of the ridiculous VAT charges on redevelopment, while they allowed new builds to go up VAT free because a tax on redevelopment is a tax on sustainability. Labour didn't even recognise these problems, they were too busy with their insane house destruction projects like John Prescott's mad Pathfinder schemes. Instead of bulldozing quality houses all over the Midlands, the North and Scotland they should have invested their efforts in attracting industry into formerly industrialised communities through education, skills training and infrastructure improvements.

The left should be blamed for allowing
control of their party to be usurped by amoral career politicians like
Peter "intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich" Mandelson.
Labour's contempt for existing infrastructure went way beyond the housing sector, they also built up an estimated hidden deficit of £250bn by tearing down state infrastructure and replacing it under neoliberal economic alchemy schemes called PFI that do nothing but relinquish state control over community infrastructure at great economic cost and enrich corporatist investors for decades. The Tories still haven't brought these hidden debts onto the balance sheet, but then they are also relying on the accountancy fiddle that the bailout costs are somehow separate from the deficit too (a much bigger economic deceit).

Labour spent more than a decade siding with industry, schmoozing with Murdoch and cosying up to the corporatist bosses, bestowing honours galore on the banking community that went on to drive the economy off a cliff with their unregulated speculative derivative trading a few years later. Throughout all of this, Labour were taking the majority of their party funding from the unions. The unions are to blame for the mess too, they didn't want to rock the Labour boat at all, out of their fear that things would be a lot worse for themselves (and the workers) under the Tories. The unions witnessed Labour politicians like Alan Milburn signing off on massive NHS privatisation-by-stealth deals, then sidling off to begin working for the companies he'd just opened the door to, and they did nothing to resist this kind of nasty Tory style profiteering.

Labour should have clamped down on egregious profiteering from utilities companies and reversed botched privatisation schemes like the railways (which now take double the subsidy that BR did and are more expensive to use than running a car) but they were too busy lining their own pockets with more privatisation deals and badly designed procurement contracts, subsidising economic failure and waving through inflation busting price rises from the corporate utilities spivs year, after year, after year.

Traditional left wing voters even re-elected Tony Blair
 after he supported the American far right neoconservatives
in their illegal & immoral invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Just as the unions did nothing, the old guard Labour backbenchers did nothing either, for fear of letting the Tories back in. They voted through one mad neoliberal policy after another and even backed Blair's (Murdoch's) mad neoconservative imperialist adventures in Iraq. As the genuine left bit their tongues and let the right wing economic madness continue, their numbers were gradually eroded away as the older generation were replaced by a tide of amoral self-serving Blairite careerists.

The pattern is the same all over Europe, left leaning parties have fallen over themselves to embrace the markets to such an extent that they have allowed "greed" rather than "state planning" to direct their economies.

After 30 years it should be clear to everyone that the neoliberal economic model is a failure. However all the politicians seem to offer is more tinkering with the broken system from the former-left and more of the same corporatisation of the state, tax cuts for the rich, deregulation, screw the workers idiocy (that got us into this mess in the first place) from the right. There are more right-wing neoliberal governments in Europe than ever before in history to implement these policies.

Labour have now spent a political generation abandoning their socialist credentials and cosying up to the economic elite and it appears is as if they are no longer capable of even conceiving an alternative to the neoliberal agenda. In a way Neo-Labour were the worst of both worlds, combining nasty Tory "business knows best" economic policy with the kind of illiberal, top down, totalitarian tendencies that give the left a bad name (National Identity Register, private jails, child detention, moralistic drugs prohibition policies, Digital Economy Bill,  CCTV and surveillance). After 13 years of Labour rule, when they handed control of the nation back to the Tories``, Britain was in a more corporatised, more unequal and more totalitarian state than the Tories had left it back in 1997.

The neoliberal economic system is broken and the democratic system is too because the huge majority of our elected representatives (in all the major political parties) have become shills for corporate interests. We're being "served" by a bunch of greedy piss taking pillocks (expenses scandal) and mindless avatars for the Murdoch bias who couldn't give a hoot about the majority of the electorate.

The great moral sellout by the left has put us in the situation where all of the major political parties are stuffed with self serving neoliberals only differentiated by differently coloured ties. Until this changes, nobody will steer the economy off the road to dystopian neoliberal failure.

Tuesday 2 August 2011

No anarchy in the UK, police advise people to grass up anarchists

The Westminster Counter Terrorism Police advise you
to inform on your friends and neighbours if you suspect
that they are guilty of having dissident political thoughts.
On 29 July 2011the City of Westminster Counter Terror Focus Desk released a newsletter which contained the statement:

"Anarchism is a political philosophy which considers the state undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful, and instead promotes a stateless society, or anarchy. Any information relating to anarchists should be reported to your local police." (source)
This police call for people to grass up anarchists comes in the wake of a bizarre right-wing social networking campaign to downplay the atrocities committed by the far right terrorist Anders Breivik in Norway with misleading and unsourced statistics which claimed that anarchist/leftist terrorists have been responsible for more deaths atrocities than Islamic fundamentalists, separatist nationalists and far right organisations combined.

The first part of the police statement is ostensibly correct, however it is clear that whoever wrote it just stole their definition of anarchism from the first line of the Wikipedia article on the subject (without complying with Wikipedia's terms of use policy, which specify that to reuse Wikipedia content you must provide credit to the authors). Had the Westminster anti-terrorist police read further than the first sentence of the Wikipedia article they would have found that by the fourth sentence the Wikipedia article stated that "there is no single defining position that all anarchists hold, and those considered anarchists at best share a certain family resemblance" and that the remainder of the article offers detailed descriptions of the vast diversity of different anarchist philosophies.

For the police to lump all anarchists together as a threat to society is a classic use of gross over-simplification, over-generalisation and stereotyping. It is as stupid as seeing all Muslims as terrorists or all Irish as IRA plotters and it doesn't say much for the competence of anti-terror police, that they see fit to publish such simplistic and uninformed views.

The police have been trained to fear anarchism because its inherent anti-state philosophy conflicts with the principle duties of modern day police forces; to defend the interests of the establishment and to protect the private property of the wealthy. The fact that the policeman that wrote this "advice" had to look anarchism up on Wikipedia to find his definition and then just plagiarised the opening sentence without apparently bothering to read any further is illustrative of the police mentality that there is no need to fully understand dissident political thought, simply a necessity to prevent it.

On the same page of the Westminster counter terrorism leaflet there is a picture of a flag with some Arabic text and a similar request for the public to grass up Islamist terrorists with the statement "[This flag is] often seen used by al-Qaida in Iraq. Any sightings of these images should be reported to your local police." The fact that the second warning contains similar advice and features below the anarchist warning shows that in the minds of Westminster counter terrorist police, gathering intelligence on domestic anarchist groups is considered as a higher or at best an equivalent in priority to combating UK based al-Qaida terrorists.

It is easy to understand police fear of anarchist tactics like black bloc,
however their decision to lump them together with other anarchist philosophies
such as anarcho-syndicalists and existential anarchists highlights their ignorance.
It is easy to understand the reasons that the police fear anarchism, the anarchists they most often encounter in the line of duty are people like direct activists, squatters and protesters using the black bloc strategy. It is pretty clear that most coppers don't really have any real understanding of the philosophical term "anarchist" and just use it as a kind of pejorative to describe people that wont accept the status quo, similar to "troublemaker" or "radical". However it is difficult to imagine what benefit the police would get from informants passing on their knowledge of anarchist philosophies such as existentialist anarchism, participatory politics or somatherapy.

Anarchism and the study of anarchist philosophy is not illegal and human rights legislation disallows discrimination against people because of their political beliefs. The very idea of the police instructing people to report individuals who hold or study dissident philosophical ideas is frighteningly close to George Orwell's concept of thoughtcrime and brings to mind the fact that in the early days of the Nazi Germany dissident political thinkers such as anarchists, socialists and communists were rounded up and imprisoned in the Dachau concentration camp.

In the late 19th Century William Melville of Scotland Yard
was the first of many police officers to use
underhand tactics to frame dissident political groups.
It is clear that the British establishment have feared anarchist philosophy for over a century. The Home Office and Metropolitan police spent 80 years hiding the fact that a police agent provocateur called Auguste Coulon working for MI5 founder William Melville planted bomb making materials in order to secure the conviction of a small group of anarchists in Walsall in 1891. The Anarchist newspaper "Commonweal" reported that "Inspector Melville the premier liar of Scotland Yard has been boasting openly that he has succeeded even beyond his hopes in splitting up the Anarchists into factions and has set them fighting each other instead of carrying on their work".

The British police have continued with the use of agent provocateurs to infiltrate anti-establishment groups in order to secure the imprisonment of their members. The most recent example being the case of undercover police officer Mark Kennedy who was found guilty of unlawfully spying on an environmental group and playing a key role in the plan to break into the Ratcliffe on Soare power station in 2009 for which 20 people were found guilty. When it emerged that Kennedy had been a police informer and that the Crown Prosecution Service had deliberately withheld vital evidence from the defence, the convictions were overturned by three senior judges who stated that Kennedy had played a "significant role in assisting, advising and supporting ... the very activity for which the appellants were prosecuted".

Not only have the British police authorities tried to bring down anarchist and other non-conformist political movements through the use of agent provocateurs, they have also benefited from reams of anti-dissent legislation designed to combat political protest. The Police have been allowed to brutalise people that choose to express their right to peaceful political protest with impunity for decades, from the murder of Blair Peach in 1979, through the brutal oppression of the miner's strike to the modern day kettling and baton charges familiar to virtually anyone who has attended an anti-establishment protest in recent years.

The Mark Kennedy case is another example
of how UK police use underhand and illegal tactics
to frame anti-establishment political groups.
The police tactic of kettling is one of the clearest examples of how the police view non-conformism as latent criminality. The tactic of mass detention is a clear partisan strategy to inflict discomfort and suffering on people that choose to protest against the actions of the establishment in order to dissuade them from ever doing it again. As part of the establishment machine the press will almost certainly concentrate on the actions of a tiny violent minority who are while the detention and intimidation of the peaceful majority is almost universally ignored.

Returning to the Westminster document and their broad definition of anarchism, (Anarchism is a political philosophy which considers the state undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful), several commentators have pointed out that David Cameron's so-called "big society" seems to fit this description of anarchism. Since the election in 2010 the Tories have set about vigorously destroying the welfare state, selling off state infrastructure and sacking tens of thousands of government employees, making claims that the shortfalls in state provision should be made up by individuals and small community groups as part of the nebulous "big society" initiative.

Most anarchists would be appalled to see such ruthless ideologically driven destruction described as "anarchism", however the Tory slash and burn neo-conservative policies are more consistent with the over-simplistic definition of anarchism favoured by the police (reckless and wanton ideologically driven destruction) than the activities of most of Britain's disparate anarchist groups. Even though the Tory party look set to reduce the police force by 34,000 and have set about attacking police pay and pensions, the subservient police mentality prevents them from recognising that the real destructive force that should be countered is the neo-conservative ideology of the establishment, rather than the radical ideas of a few disparate and largely powerless anarchist groups.

The police mentality towards philosophical anarchists and anti-establishment groups brings to mind Pastor Martin Niemöller's famous statement about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group.
First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
If you know anything about anarchism (or are capable of looking up some anarchist philosophy on Wikipedia) I recommend that you comply with police instructions and ensure that any information relating to anarchists is reported the local police. You should email as much anarchist literature as you can to  projectgriffin@met.pnn.police.uk or post it to Belgravia Police Station, 202-206 Buckingham Palace Road, London, SW1W 9SX.

If they are inundated with emails and letters explaining the basic fundamentals of the many diverse anarchist philosophies, perhaps they will think more carefully about publishing inflammatory material that attempts to build prejudice against and criminalise political thought by equating it with terrorism.

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