Tag Archive: anti


voice of anti-capitalismThe truth is out: money is just an IOU, and the banks are rolling in it

David Graeber, theguardian.com
Back in the 1930s, Henry Ford is supposed to have remarked that it was a good thing that most Americans didn’t know how banking really works, because if they did, “there’d be a revolution before tomorrow morning”.

Last week, something remarkable happened. The Bank of England let the cat out of the bag. In a paper called “Money Creation in the Modern Economy“, co-authored by three economists from the Bank’s Monetary Analysis Directorate, they stated outright that most common assumptions of how banking works are simply wrong, and that the kind of populist, heterodox positions more ordinarily associated with groups such as Occupy Wall Street are correct. In doing so, they have effectively thrown the entire theoretical basis for austerity out of the window.– moneyTo get a sense of how radical the Bank’s new position is, consider the conventional view, which continues to be the basis of all respectable debate on public policy. People put their money in banks. Banks then lend that money out at interest – either to consumers, or to entrepreneurs willing to invest it in some profitable enterprise. True, the fractional reserve system does allow banks to lend out considerably more than they hold in reserve, and true, if savings don’t suffice, private banks can seek to borrow more from the central bank.

The central bank can print as much money as it wishes. But it is also careful not to print too much. In fact, we are often told this is why independent central banks exist in the first place. If governments could print money themselves, they would surely put out too much of it, and the resulting inflation would throw the economy into chaos. Institutions such as the Bank of England or US Federal Reserve were created to carefully regulate the money supply to prevent inflation. This is why they are forbidden to directly fund the government, say, by buying treasury bonds, but instead fund private economic activity that the government merely taxes.

It’s this understanding that allows us to continue to talk about money as if it were a limited resource like bauxite or petroleum, to say “there’s just not enough money” to fund social programmes, to speak of the immorality of government debt or of public spending “crowding out” the private sector. What the Bank of England admitted this week is that none of this is really true. To quote from its own initial summary: “Rather than banks receiving deposits when households save and then lending them out, bank lending creates deposits” … “In normal times, the central bank does not fix the amount of money in circulation, nor is central bank money ‘multiplied up’ into more loans and deposits.”

In other words, everything we know is not just wrong – it’s backwards. When banks make loans, they create money. This is because money is really just an IOU. The role of the central bank is to preside over a legal order that effectively grants banks the exclusive right to create IOUs of a certain kind, ones that the government will recognise as legal tender by its willingness to accept them in payment of taxes. There’s really no limit on how much banks could create, provided they can find someone willing to borrow it. They will never get caught short, for the simple reason that borrowers do not, generally speaking, take the cash and put it under their mattresses; ultimately, any money a bank loans out will just end up back in some bank again. So for the banking system as a whole, every loan just becomes another deposit. What’s more, insofar as banks do need to acquire funds from the central bank, they can borrow as much as they like; all the latter really does is set the rate of interest, the cost of money, not its quantity. Since the beginning of the recession, the US and British central banks have reduced that cost to almost nothing. In fact, with “quantitative easing” they’ve been effectively pumping as much money as they can into the banks, without producing any inflationary effects.

What this means is that the real limit on the amount of money in circulation is not how much the central bank is willing to lend, but how much government, firms, and ordinary citizens, are willing to borrow. Government spending is the main driver in all this (and the paper does admit, if you read it carefully, that the central bank does fund the government after all). So there’s no question of public spending “crowding out” private investment. It’s exactly the opposite.

Why did the Bank of England suddenly admit all this? Well, one reason is because it’s obviously true. The Bank’s job is to actually run the system, and of late, the system has not been running especially well. It’s possible that it decided that maintaining the fantasy-land version of economics that has proved so convenient to the rich is simply a luxury it can no longer afford.

But politically, this is taking an enormous risk. Just consider what might happen if mortgage holders realised the money the bank lent them is not, really, the life savings of some thrifty pensioner, but something the bank just whisked into existence through its possession of a magic wand which we, the public, handed over to it.

Historically, the Bank of England has tended to be a bellwether, staking out seeming radical positions that ultimately become new orthodoxies. If that’s what’s happening here, we might soon be in a position to learn if Henry Ford was right.Enemy Is Profit

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voice of anti-capitalismThe VOAG Focuses On The Labour Party, As Another Member Resigns

With the European elections looming, and the Borough Council elections only a year away, the VOAG publishes a letter of resignation from the Labour Party, posted on Facebook by a former member.

The stark reality is that only a Socialist Party of the Bolshevik type can lead the working class, those that work and produce the wealth, to a better future. Only a Socialist society, one that produces goods and services, not for profit, but according to what’s needed and democratically agreed upon, can fulfill our needs, the producers. With true equality of opportunity comes true freedom.

As Karl Marx, the founder of modern socialism said: “Where one can do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic”…”Where in place of the old bourgeois society we shall have an association in which the free development of  each is the condition of the free development of all”. (Karl Marx, communist Manifesto).

Lenin declared, in his book What Is To Be Done, that “economic arguments [for socialism] are the most widely applied, but not the most widely applicable”. The essence of socialism, the project, often forgotten by fellow socialists overcome by the day-to-day struggle, is the complete transformation of society, the transcendence of mankind, and the liberation of humanity. Socialism, as Marx once said represents “the very beginning of human history“.

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I am returning my membership card for the Labour Party as a means of saying that I wish to resign from the party. It is with regret that I am doing this but I see no other option.

I joined the party in October last year as a longstanding member of the Fabian Society. As an expat, I had come to the University of Cambridge the previous month and was horrified at the damage the coalition government had done to the social fabric of Britain. I had thought and hoped that both the aggressive foreign policies – notably the war against Iraq – as well as many Thatcherite notions endorsed by ‘New Labour’ had been part of the past, and that the choice of Ed Miliband as a more ‘left-wing’ candidate had signified a fresh start for Labour. I admit that I had been very much wrong.

I have closely followed Labour’s policies and campaigns since. Most of these have been concerned with shallow, cosmetic and ultimately insignificant campaigns. Britain surely faces more challenging problems than ticket touts at major rugby events (23 February). The most visible response to the dire problems faced by a society which for the first time since 1945 has seen the Red Cross in action delivering food to the needy has been Miliband calling for a ‘freeze’ on energy bills. Surely nobody in the Labour party is so naïve as to seriously believe that such a move were possible without renationalising the energy companies.

The excesses of an entirely market-driven society and of almost completely deregulated capitalism could be felt by all in 2008 and the following years: Profits had been privatised, and losses socialised. Yet I cannot remember reading any statements by Labour during these last few months that would have called for fundamental changes to an economic model creating the rifts running through Britain. Quite to the contrary, recently even the Labour Party, or rather some members thereof, attempted to jump onto a populist bandwagon to please an immigrant-bashing and xenophobe, Daily-Fail-reading petit bourgeois sector of the electorate with a petty, islandish outlook. This, at least, was the impression conveyed in late January, early February, when the Labour leadership failed to stand up to such tendencies galore, and instead attempted to play the ‘tough on immigration’ card.

Just as bad, if not worse, is the fact that Britain currently has, arguably, the worst Secretary of State ‘for’ Education in history. Michael Gove, on this the person reading this letter will probably agree, is easily the worst person in this office in British history. Education, to some extent the most important brief in the cabinet, is in the hands of a tub-thumping madman. Yet while it is clear that a myriad of different forms of schools has done incredible damage to the education system, that tuition fees have turned higher education into nothing but a marketable commodity, there is no such thing as an education policy on the part of Labour that would even bear the potential – let alone the promise – of making the best possible education again available for all. The most fundamental key to equality is left in ruins, while Labour cannot even bring itself to let go of such a completely failed notion as academies and ‘independent’ schools mushrooming around Britain.

Ultimately, the balance we once attempted to strike between markets and citizens has been abandoned, with the former having been given complete preference over the latter. I continue to hope that from within the Fabian Society – as well as from other think tanks, as well as individuals – alternatives emerge, and that there be people within the Labour party who listen. However, so long as Labour as a party only disagrees with the Tories on how to tip the balance towards markets over citizens, rather than on how to reverse it, it is regret that I need to tell you that I cannot support the party as a member any longer.

Yours sincerelyEnemy Is Profit

voice of anti-capitalismThe sigh of the oppressed

Gerry Downing, Socialist Fight Group
Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.

Gerry Downing looks at the origins of monotheism and assesses the attitude of communists towards believers

Abraham Leon’s book The Jewish question: a Marxist analysis has the following to say about the Jewish religion: “Whereas catholicism expresses the interests of the landed nobility and of the feudal order, while Calvinism (or Puritanism) represents those of the bourgeoisie or capitalism, Judaism mirrors the interests of a pre-capitalist mercantile class.”

Leon quotes Marx approvingly from On the Jewish question: “We must not start with religion in order to explain Jewish history; on the contrary the preservation of the Jewish religion or nationality can be explained only by the ‘real Jew’, that is to say by the Jew in his economic and social role.”

The view that the ‘ancient Hebrews’, which refers in the first place to Abraham’s tribe of nomadic sheep-herders, believed in one abstract, invisible god is incorrect. This is mythology, which projects modern values and ideas onto an ancient society to prove some linear continuity. In fact ideas of a deity and religious beliefs have changed out of all recognition since 1900 BC.

Abraham’s nomadic Hebrews settled in a small part of Canaan about 1900 BC and remained semi-nomadic. Their chief god was El. Yahweh (Jehovah) was the god of the Canaanites. Later historical revisions ignored El and gave Yahweh as the only god of the Israelites. In fact during the time of the two kingdoms Yahweh was the northern god and El the southern god. They had no idea of a single god and such an idea did not exist in the planet at the time. The religion of Abraham was polytheism, not monotheism.

The religion of Moses
The religion of Moses was more advanced and did not advocated constant warfare to destroy the gods of other tribes, as long as they did not interfere with Yahweh’s domain. It was the development of a municipal god to replace and include Abraham’s tribal gods. The Hebrews had left the land of Canaan because of famine and came into closer contact with the more advanced culture of the Nile. There is no historical evidence that they ever settled in Egypt. In fact the historical record for the reign of Ramesses II is well nigh complete and there is no mention of any major exodus of slaves from the kingdom.

They did not assimilate into this culture because their nomadic animal husbandry would not allow it. The Bible tale that Moses was raised as an Egyptian nobleman because he was found floating in a basket in the Nile by Pharaoh’s daughter is probably simply a means of saying that the leaders of the Hebrews adopted some of their religious views from the Egyptians.

Where did the religion of the Egyptians come from? There is a quote from Marx that explains: “The necessity for predicting the rise and fall of the Nile created Egyptian astronomy, and with it the domination of the priests as directors of agriculture.” [1] God made himself known to Moses not from the burning bush or from the posterior of Yahweh, but from the social necessity of the Egyptian peasants to know when the Nile would flood so they could regulate their seasonal activity of sowing and harvesting. And only the priests knew that. The peasants had no idea how they knew this and the priests were not going to tell them because knowledge was indeed power. So the ignorant peasants readily believed that the priests were passing on the knowledge of when this was to happen because only god could know that and the priests must therefore be his representatives. The pharaoh was a god because he was the chief priest who knew everything, although there quickly arose a certain, often ill-defined, separation between religious and secular rule. This was not simply a conscious con trick, but a social necessity.

Whilst the Israelites lived in Egypt, the pharaoh Akhenaton had attempted to impose an early form of monotheism in the form of worship of the sun god, Aton, but the society reverted to their traditional gods on his death, and he himself had insisted on remaining a god. The advance to a multi-people empire and towards monotheism was thwarted for that time and the city built by Akhenaton in honour of the new god fell into ruins after his death. But the time for these ideas had arrived and was bound to circulate in an advanced culture like Egypt.

Moses supposedly created the Arc of the Covenant at Mount Sinai, where the god of Israel dwelt after the exodus. True, he was only visible as a sunburst, but, as he lived in that wooden box, he was remarkable small and not very abstract. Moses developed a primitive form of monotheism, dispensing with the multitude of lesser gods like the golden calf, in his own society and for his people alone. Yahweh was, after all, only the god of Israel. The religion of Moses was inspired by Egyptian culture, but retained the old Hebrew tribal deity. In fact the majority of the ‘Israelites’ who departed in the exodus may have been Egyptians.

Moses elaborated the Ten Commandments as new precepts to form the legal basis of a settled and more peaceful community. It was not a religion of one god overseeing all the peoples of the world onto whom humanity projected their idealised selves. It was a halfway house that had not yet developed the notion of one god for everybody. They just did not consider such a state possible because it was not possible at that stage. It was the later rise of great multi-people empires that posed this question.

Paul Lafargue
Over a hundred years ago, Paul Lafargue, explained the evolution of the belief in one god thus: “The idea of god, planted and germinated in the human brain by the unknown elements of the natural environment and the social environment, is not something invariable: it varies on the contrary according to time and place; it evolves in proportion, as the mode of production develops, transforming the social environment.

“God, for the Greeks, the Romans and other ancient peoples, had his dwelling in a given spot and existed only to be useful to his adorers and hurtful to their enemies; each family had its private gods, the spirit of deified ancestors, and each city had its municipal or state god. The municipal god or goddess dwelt in the temple consecrated to him or her and was incorporated into the image which often was a block of wood or a stone; he or she was interested in the fate of the inhabitants of the city, of these alone. The ancestral gods concerned themselves only with family affairs. The Jehovah of the Bible was a god of this kind; he lodged in a wooden box called the Arc of the Covenant; which was carried along when the tribes changed their location; they put it at the head of the army, that Jehovah might fight for his people; if he chastised them cruelly for their infractions of his law, he also rendered them many services, as the Old testament reports.

The Greeks and Romans, like the Jews and the first christians, had no thought of their god being the only god of creation: the Jews believed in Moloch, Baal and other gods of the nations with which they warred as firmly as in Jehovah “¦ The municipal divinities, which belonged to the warlike cities of antiquity, always at strife with neighbouring peoples, could not answer the religious needs which mercantile production created in the bourgeois democracies of the commercial and industrial cities, obliged on the contrary to maintain pacific relations with the surrounding nations. The necessities of commerce and industry forced the new-born bourgeoisie to de-municipalise the city divinities and create cosmopolitan gods “¦ These new divinities, Isis, Demeter, Dionysos, Mithra, Jesus, etc “¦ still took on a human form, though the need was beginning to be felt for a supreme being which should not be anthropomorphic; but it is not until the capitalist epoch that the idea of an amorphous god has imposed itself, as a consequence of the impersonal form taken on by the property of corporations.”

Lafargue here clearly spells out the reasons for the rise and development of monotheism: commercial necessity to trade peacefully. This had superseded the previous necessity, which was to advance by capturing your neighbour’s territory by war. Notions of god and versions of monotheism continued to be developed from the ancient primitive municipal monotheism of middle antiquity to the sophisticated supreme being of the French Revolution and Hegel’s ‘absolute idea’, as humanity’s productive forces gave rise to new social necessities.

Trade routes
Look at any map of trade routes from antiquity to the modern epoch. Almost all show major routes through or near the ancient land of Palestine. It was the land of the Canaanites, a great trading people. The invading Philistines (who gave their name to Palestine) took on much of the culture of the Canaanites, like the Israelites. They invented an alphabet because they needed to tally and record their trading activities, so the ship’s captain and crew would not rip them off.

The Israelites learned to write from the Philistines (presumably between wars). So it is easy to understand that the record of what happened to the Hebrews from Abraham to Moses is second-hand and written to suit the politics of a later epoch. From 1100 to 539 BC the Phoenicians – the name given to the northern Canaanites by the Greeks – traded and settled the Mediterranean lands, just as the Jews did later and for the same reason: location and opportunity. It is entirely unremarkable that the Jews followed and developed this long tradition.

It is part of the mythology of Judaism, developed by the Zionists, that a nomadic tribe could have been culturally more advanced than the Canaanites because of their monotheism. The archaeological dig at Hazor, northern Israel (1955-58) settled all these arguments against the fundamentalists. Modern dating techniques enabled the archaeologists to outline a precise chronology. In the 13th century BC Joshua led the Israelite hosts which defeated Jabin’s city of Hazor (the biblical account that places the battle later under judge Deborah’s leadership was proved incorrect) and burned it to the ground. “Then, in a very long processes, some of those sites began to be resettled by the still nomadic Israelites, who slowly but surely turned the settlements into proper cities, particularly from the time of the Kings onward.”

Further excavations discovered a foundation deposit, which consisted of a jug containing a figurine of a war deity. This was immediately prior to the rebuilding of the city by Solomon soon after 1000 BC. This is a classic example of a more advanced people being conquered by a primitive but more warlike people, who then assimilated the religious culture and customs of the defeated people over a period. They adopted some of their gods like Baal and Hastoret.

The kingdom of the House of David arose around 1000 BC. Yossi Swartz wrote: “The priests of the kingdom tried, according to the records in the Old testament, but without much success, to enforce the belief in one god, Yahweh. How could these priests enforce the god who resided in Jerusalem, on the people of a village who believed that they must serve their local god who does not have to travel far to punish them?”

Following the return of the Israelites to the land of Canaan the next great learning experience was the defeat of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar and the exile of the ruling class to Babylon. There they learned the most advanced trading practices from the most advanced civilisation of the age, the Babylonians. Here the most important Talmud was written which laid down the religious, social and political norms to enable a trading and money-based ruling elite to function without continual inner conflicts.

Yossi Swartz explains: “The defeat of Israel by the Assyrians in the 8th century BC led to the assimilation of the Israelite peasants into other nations, and hence the legend of the 10 lost tribes. Two hundred years later the Babylonians destroyed the kingdom of Judah and the Jewish aristocracy was exiled to Babylon. During the Persian empire established by Cyrus, this aristocracy was sent back to Palestine as political agents of the empire.”

Modern Jewish culture
This was the real beginning of modern Jewish culture. During the Babylonians exile the prophet, called Isaiah the Second because of similarities with the first Isaiah, elaborated the modern Jewish god. His monotheism was universal and not held in by national boundaries. The old God of Israel was a sunburst in a wooden box, which the Philistines were able to capture. The new God of Israel had become too widely travelled and too ambitious to be confined in a small land, let alone in a wooden box. He had to be made suitable for a far-flung trading people, most of whom now lived in the diaspora. However, despite this development, elements of the exclusive ideas that went back to Abraham’s Yahweh survive to this day and have re-emerged over the centuries whenever the Jews found themselves embattled.

The ready acceptance of the new monotheism proved that its time had come. Cyrus, the victorious Persian king, defeated and subjugated all the mercantile trading rivals of the Jews (the Philistines and Phoenicians/Canaanites) and they now seized control of the trade routes as his agents and then spread throughout the territory of successive imperial powers as traders and merchants. Martin Gilbert’s Jewish history atlas gives us a picture of what the next period was like. His maps show growth of the diaspora (500 BC to 100 AD).

The Jews, he says, “moved about freely as traders” and “established flourishing communities” under the protection of the Greek and Carthaginian empires all along the coasts of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, Gilbert writes. The Sinai frontier, near the ancient land of Goshen, the home of Jacob, Joseph and Moses, was repopulated by the pharaoh with 30,000 Jews in 270 BC, the origins of the large Alexandrian Jewish community.

The Jewish risings against Roman rule paint a very different picture than the standard Zionist one. The Jews revolted against Rome in Judea twice, in 66-73 AD under the leadership of the Zealots, and Bar Kochba in 132-35 AD. However, they rose up also in Cyrenaica (the land around modern Benghazi in Libya), in Syne on the Middle Nile, in the entire delta of the Nile, in Cyprus and in Mesopotamia (all between 115 and 117 AD), according to Gilbert’s map.

Contrary to Zionist myths, the brutal suppression of the Bar Kochba revolt by the Roman general, Hadrian, was not the origin of the diaspora. That was the trading lifestyle of the ancient Jews and the far earlier conquests explained above.

The bulk of world Jewry was already far from home. The war between the Romans and the Jews was a clash of cultures, which reflected conflicting economic interests. Basically Rome was subduing the Mediterranean lands to extract tributes to feed the ever growing parasitic nobility and restless plebeian masses at home and they wished to appropriate the money that flowed from the activities of Jewish traders and cash-crop farmers.

Universal monotheism
Bruno Bauer’s theses are by far the most logical on the history and origins of early christianity. According to Bauer, christianity was first postulated by the Alexandrian Jew, Philo Judea, and developed by the Roman Stoic philosopher, Seneca.

Its fundamental tenets were: “the inborn sinfulness of man; the logos, the word, which is with god and is god and which becomes the mediator between god and man; atonement not by sacrifice but by bringing one’s own heart to god; and finally the essential feature that the new religious philosophy reverses the previous world order, seeks its disciples amongst the poor, the miserable, the slaves and the rejected and despises the rich, the powerful and the privileged – whence the precept to despise all worldly pleasure and to mortify the fresh “¦ And, as we see, we need only the keystone and we have the whole of christianity in its basic features: the incarnation of the word becomes man in a definite person and his sacrifice on the cross for the redemption of sinful mankind.”

In 313 AD the Roman emperor, Constantine, chose this religion above two others. It had been modified since its development 300 years before from a primitive redistributive consumer communism of the poor Jews of the Roman empire to one that could suit the needs of Rome. Constantine found he could easily adapt christianity to the pressing need to have a unifying ideology to bind together and oppress a far-flung multi-people empire.

This new christian religion excluded all other gods and forbade its followers from believing in them. As part of the dialectic of history christianity also hailed the fall of the world of antiquity as a victory of the spirit over the flesh and the just reward for corruption. It became the ideology for spreading the new empires that emerged out of the dark ages at the end of the first millennium.

A will o’ the wisp
You will note that in the search for the origins of a universal monotheism we are constantly frustrated by the realisation that every form of monotheism we examine is not really monotheism at all. Right up to Constantine’s adoption of christianity all religions acknowledged and believed in other people’s gods, as well as adoring and obeying their own (as interpreted by a privileged priesthood).

Even christianity is not really a universal monotheism. There is the doctrine of the trinity – three gods in one, and one god in three – although believers were bound to acknowledge under pain of the inquisition that each of these ‘persons’ was individually god. And then there was the anthropomorphic belief in Jesus Christ as god, made man, made god again; and all the saints, who are sort of minor gods (leaving aside how we may rationalise or adore the Virgin Mary) the faithful may worship if they choose. In fact there is a logical argument that the only real monotheistic religion is islam and that must surely explain its remarkably progressive nature from the 7th to the 15th century.

Contemporaneously with the religious wars in Europe in the 17th century, deism – a new form of monotheism that was more genuinely and rationally universal – developed. This rejected all religious practices associated with formal religion (which they blamed for Europe’s devastation) and ascribed to the supreme being the role of creator and initiator of motion. This was the divine watchmaker theory. Miracles – the fundamental method used by all religions to get the believer to suspend their critical, logical judgement – were rejected. The English philosopher, Anthony Collins (1676-1729), was the chief theorist of this school. Abraham Lincoln was a deist.

The Irish philosopher, John Toland, was the first to coin the term ‘pantheism’ in 1705 to describe the new logical religion. There was a long line of antecedents who had developed this idea. Spinoza, Leibniz, Kant and Hegel were ideological pantheists, as were several of the romantic poets.

However, having achieved its highest development, monotheism also signalled its logical downfall. Learned opinion speculated that Collins and Toland were covert atheists, as well they might. Because to a materialist philosopher like Collins and a follower of the famous Jewish philosopher, Spinoza (mind and matter are one substance, Spinoza believed), it must have been an obvious step to ask, if the creator created everything and gave it motion, who created the creator? Once miracles were denied, deism logically led to atheism by a small step. The poet, Shelly, made this small step and got expelled from Oxford by the high Tory gentlemen who led that establishment and banished from his father’s house forever for this ‘crime’.

When the perfect and logical monotheism was achieved, atheism was just too tempting as the next step. Back to fideism and the Bible then with its talking donkey and snake. Napoleon had to restore catholicism in France to end the revolution.

Religion within the limits of reason alone is one of the most famous books of the idealist philosopher, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). The ‘absolute idea’ of Georg Hegel (1770-1831) pushed god to his furthest limits. It was a great feat for Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-72) to interpret Hegel materialistically. Feuerbach’s problem arose from the fact that, like Hegel, he was unable to identify practice, where humanity changed the world and the changed world changed humanity, as the subject-object of history. It only required Marx to read Feuerbach’s work to successfully turn Hegel on his head (or set him on his feet) to identify the social necessity of the productive forces to develop, driving the class struggle as the motor force of history, and not the intentions of god or man.

After that there was no more seeking the truth about god by honest bourgeois philosophers. The truth was out and its acceptance or rejection now became part of the class struggle itself. Atheism, particularly in the working class, is seen today as a threat to the system because a fundamental element of social control has been overturned.

Religion today
Modern religions have become the expressions of the material interests of a particular ruling class or a section of that class in a particular historical setting. No Marxist would deny that that the heretical sects of the Middles Ages represented the first failed attempts of early mercantile traders to free themselves from the feudal ignorance and oppression of the church. Lutheranism and Calvinism represented the ideology of a rising bourgeoisie.

Without that understanding conflicts like the 30 years war in Germany (1618-48), when a third of the population (seven million out of 20) perished, are totally meaningless. At the time they explained it as people gone insanely bloodthirsty for their version of the love of christ, but, of course, they fought over their material interests in the final analysis – and we must stress ‘final analysis’, because we are sure that very few of them thought of it in that way at that time.

No religion can be a mixture of conflicting viewpoints reflecting the mixture of classes. All religions are a false illusion, a fundamentally idealised and incorrect view of the world, which can only strengthen oppression by preventing the oppressed from seeing that the causes of their oppression (material and psychological) are in this world. They are based on ignorance of two types: the ignorance of the primitive and uneducated of the reasons for all natural phenomena; and the ignorance of the causes of social and economic phenomena like booms, slumps, wars and revolutions. The intellectual representatives of the bourgeoisie must reject Marxism, the only explanation for and way out of these crises if they are to serve their masters, because to accept it would be to accept the inevitable demise of capitalism.

These ideas are lodged in the social relations of production that the oppressed of every age must enter in order to live. Religion is subservience in a mystical cloak, which can only serve the interests of the ruling class, in the short and long term, no matter what episodic religious conflicts might break out. The ‘mixture’ notion of Judaism is an implicit defence of the rabbi and the Zionist rulers of Israel.

Of course, religious views are more complex than simply representing a straight rationale of one’s life activity. They develop in a much more complex way. In classical Marxist understanding there is the religion of the oppressor and the religion of the oppressed. This is how Marx tackles the question:

“Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people.

“The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusions about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusion. The criticism of religion is therefore in embryo the criticism of the vale of woe, the halo of which is religion.

“The task of history, therefore, once the world beyond the truth has disappeared, is to establish the truth of this world. The immediate task of philosophy, which is at the service of history, once the saintly form of human self-alienation has been unmasked, is to unmask self-alienation in its unholy forms. Thus the criticism of heaven turns into the criticism of earth, the criticism of religion into the criticism of right and the criticism of theology into the criticism of politics.”

Marx is here dealing with religion as a whole, not just the religion of the oppressed. But he does not see any side of religion as progressive – no, it is all reactionary and must be overcome in order to achieve liberation. It is the illusion that we must get rid of in order to rid ourselves of the “condition which needs illusions”. Any religious ideology represents a reactionary element of a people’s culture, because it must represent the domination of some ruling caste over the mass of the people. It is a vehicle for internal social control by the rabbi, priest, vicar or ayatollah, all of whom make a very good living disseminating magical nonsense on behalf of the ruling elite.

In Jewish history these elites were kings and rabbis (when a theocracy ruled) and today it is the state of Israel in the main, where elements or theocracy are stronger that anywhere else, apart from in the states of its bitterest enemies like Iran and Syria. In other cultures and states it is the established church or its equivalent which provides this prop.

Religion of the oppressed
Having said all that, it is necessary to stress that Marxists do differentiate between the religion of the oppressor and the religion of the oppressed (as we do with all manifestation of oppressive bourgeois ideology, including racism, sexism, homophobia, etc in the ranks of the working class and oppressed). These prejudices may not sit as firmly in the mind of a worker, particularly when he of she is moving into conflict with their employers or is beginning to see the need to tackle the system as a whole. A space is opened for progressive and revolutionary propaganda.

This is how the early Bolsheviks tackled the religion of the oppressed in the muslim countries of Soviet central Asia. They approached the oppressed women in particular with extreme sensitivity. The revolutionary women of the Zhenotdel in the early 1920s donned the paranja (a garment that totally covered the face without even openings for eyes and mouth) to get the ear of oppressed women.

Dale Ross (DL Reissner), the first editor of the Spartacist League’s Women and Revolution, explained that method and history well in her article ‘Early Bolshevik work among women of the Soviet east’ (No12, summer 1976). She goes into great detail to explain the difference between the Bolshevik method of approaching this work and both the Menshevik and Stalinist method. Her article points to the fact that failure to distinguish between the religion of the oppressor and the religion of the oppressed has disastrous consequence for socialists. There is no need to ask which method the PDPA and the ‘Red Army’ operated in Afghanistan. Or which method the Spartacists’ International Communist League supported so uncritically after 1979.

“The Bolsheviks viewed the extreme oppression of women as an indicator of the primitive level of the whole society, but their approach was based on materialism, not moralism. They understood that the fact that women were veiled and caged, bought and sold, was but the surface of the problem. Kalym (the bride price) was not some sinister plot against womankind, but the institution which was central to the organisation of production, integrally connected to land and water rights. Payment of kalym, often by the whole clan over a long period of time, committed those involved to an elaborate system of debt, duties and loyalties which ultimately led to participation in the private armies of the local beys (landowners and wholesale merchants). All commitments were thus backed up with the threat of feuds and blood vengeance.

“…Lenin warned against prematurely confronting respected native institutions, even when these clearly violated communist principles and Soviet law. Instead he proposed to use the Soviet state power to systematically undermine them while simultaneously demonstrating the superiority of Soviet institutions – a policy which had worked well against the powerful Russian Orthodox Church.

“”¦ Then on March 8 1927, in celebration of International Woman’s Day, mass meetings were held at which thousands of frenzied participants, chanting ‘Down with the paranja!’ tore off their veils, which were drenched in paraffin and burned. Poems were recited and plays with names such as ‘Away with the veil’ and ‘Never again kalym‘ were performed. Zhenotdel agitators led marches of unveiled women through the streets, instigating the forced desegregation of public quarters and sanctified religious sites.”

The consequences of these brutal Stalinist methods were the same as they were in Afghanistan 60 years later: “Women suing for divorce became the targets of murderous vigilante squads, and lynchings of party cadres annihilated the ranks of the Zhenotdel. The party was forced to mobilise the militia, then the Komsomol, and finally the general party membership and the Red Army to protect the women, but it refused to alter its suicidal policies. The debacle of International Woman’s Day was repeated in 1928 and 1929 with the same disastrous consequences, exacting an extremely high toll on party cadre.”

Only the method of the early Bolsheviks will work to defeat the rise of fundamentalism today. That requires a comprehensive understanding of religion, its origins and methods of control. This article is dedicated to beginning anew that task.Voag-Logo-catapult2

Diabled CampaignThe Black Triangle Campaign was founded to support the human rights of disabled people and to oppose the Government’s “Work Capability Assessments”, which re-classify sick and disabled people as “fit for work”.

 

The hidden welfare state that the U.K. government dares not speak of

The UK has two welfare states. There is one that is reported and endlessly discussed, and another, which is rarely mentioned. Whilst the first is suffering enormous cuts under the Tory/LD coalition, the other just keeps expanding.

Governments on the left and the right can always justify welfare cuts by pitting, for example, mobility scooters against needle exchanges, or the soft-play area in children’s playgrounds against an old people’s home. Who deserves it most, they say, students or cleaners? Old or young? But when we’re running not one, but two welfare states, that’s a totally fake scenario. The real choice is between playgrounds or gas rigs; between Meals on Wheels or The City of London Currency Speculators’ Maintenance Allowance.

There’s a connection – never mentioned – between, let’s say, Britain’s eight new deep-water gas rigs and its new food banks. The connection is that the $4.5 billion subsidy package being doled out to transnational gas corporations is a very big slice of the welfare pie. And to keep the gas transnationals on the benefits to which they are addicted, hungry humans have to queue for tinned food that is too close to its sell-by date to be kept on the shelves of supermarkets, many of which are themselves massive recipients of corporate welfare.

Not only does the UK pay out unemployment benefits less generous than Romania, Albania and the US, but the wages of the employed have simply not kept pace with productivity over the last 30 yrs. Tory Ideology is all about Handouts to the Wealthy paid for by the Poor.unemploymentGeorge Osborne has cut £18bn from benefits plus a further £81bn from public services in the name of unavoidable austerity, whilst at the same time providing huge subsidies, tax cuts and removing regulation for the hidden ‘welfare’ system that benefits the private sector.

No goods or services are directly returned to the government in exchange for these expenditures, although of course, politicians will argue that they’re stimulating the economy, helping struggling industries, creating jobs or funding important research but actually this is just a corporate welfare system.

The Cato Institute, for example, estimated that in the US, $93 billion were devoted to corporate welfare in 2002. This was about 5% of the federal budget, and nearly twice the amount spent on social welfare ie. feeding people, housing the homeless, raising children out of poverty etc.

There is no reason to think the situation is different in the UK. However, overall statistics for the UK corporate welfare budget are hard to discover, and the variety of different subsidies are staggering. Needless to say, the Tories focus their attention on fraud and waste in the social welfare budget.

Welfare fraud and waste is never far from the top of the UK’s news agenda – but the real figures often bear almost no resemblance to popular belief. The British public, for example, think around 27% of the welfare budget is lost of fraud, according to TUC research.

The Department for Work and Pensions’ latest data on fraud and error in the benefit system shows a very different reality: fraud exists, but at a far lower level than the public believes – and is outweighed by errors from claimants and officials alike. The DWP estimates £3.5bn has been overpaid due to errors and fraud in the system; 2.1 per cent of the overall benefit expenditure.

The corporate welfare budget arises from four main sources: Paying little or no tax – Tax havens; tax breaks; enjoying huge subsidies and the removal of employment and environmental protection regulations.

Tax Havens
 The UK’s 100 biggest public companies are running more than 8,000 subsidiaries or joint ventures in onshore and offshore tax havens, according to research. The figures, published by the charity Action Aid, show that only two of the companies listed on the UK’s FTSE 100 have no subsidiaries in tax havens – while companies such as Barclays and Tesco own hundreds. http://www.guardian.co.uk. The UK Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories constitute half of the world’s most frequently used tax havens.

Tax Breaks
Almost one in four of Britain’s biggest listed companies paid no corporation tax in this country last year – and almost half fail to disclose their tax payments to the UK at all, according to research by The Mail on Sunday.  According to the annual reports and accounts of all the companies in the FTSE 100, 47 companies gave no obvious figures for tax paid in Britain.  Of the 53 who did, 12 showed they paid no tax at all and, six actually received a tax credit.Tax AvoidTax Avoidance

 Treasury minister, David Gauke, admitted in reply to a parliamentary written question that only four employees of HMRC are working to capture 124 tax fugitives. The amount of uncollected tax rose again last year. A Labour MP pointed out that the four officials dedicated to the tax fugitives compares with the 450 HMRC staff involved in administering the withdrawal of child benefit from higher-rate taxpayers.

Subsidies
Currently, it is estimated that the government has already provided £43.5bn in various subsidies including the National Infrastructure Plan, the Equity Loan and Help to Buy schemes, the Enterprise Finance Guarantee and the Regional Growth Fund, with nothing to show for it. Far greater sums are in the pipeline, up to £310bn.

Meanwhile supermarkets get an enormous subsidy to help with one of their major overheads, staffing costs. This is because many employees in these large and successful companies are paid only the minimum wage. And because the current minimum wage is not a living wage, nearly everyone on it has to claim tax credits to be able to make ends meet. Those tax credits are funded by the taxpayer. The supermarkets are effectively state subsidised industries.

In addition to the recent unprecedented public support for the financial sector The NEF (New Economics Foundation) identified at least three significant hidden subsidies:

* The ‘Too Big to Fail’ subsidy: The government now provides a public guarantee, effectively insurance against banks going bust. This gives banks a huge commercial advantage over other firms in a market system. It means banks are able to borrow money much more cheaply than if they were not ultimately underwritten by the public. Exchanges with leading auditors in front of the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs in January 2011 confirm this. A conservative analysis reveals that this hidden subsidy could be worth £30 billion annually. It means that bonuses to senior staff for ‘performance’ and dividends to institutional investors are at least in part a straight transfer from the taxpayer.
* The quantitative easing windfall subsidy: When it was decided that the economy needed more liquidity, the Bank of England pumped money in using the technique called ‘quantitative easing’. To meet various, and sometimes self-imposed, requirements, it did by purchasing government bonds through investment banks. Merely for being passive conduits for this ‘risk free’ arrangement the banks took a cut of every trade. Here nef analysts found that banks enjoyed a significant windfall, but that lack of transparency keeps the likely amount hidden.
* The ‘make the customer pay’ subsidy: Since the baking crisis of 2008, the banks have been increased the gap between what they have to pay to borrow money, and what they charge people to borrow from them. This is the so-called interest rate ‘spread’. This is because they can borow money from the Bank of England at virtually 0%. As it is, the taxpayer is subsidising the banks twice over: once through taxpayer funded public support to the banks, and secondly through paying much higher interest to borrow than the banks do. This hidden subsidy amounts to at least another £2.5 billion each year.Rebuild The Fourth International

VOAG-Logo-(Brick)a8Ukraine and the Rebirth of Fascism in Europe

The violence on the streets of Ukraine is not a simple expression of popular anger against a government.  Instead, it is merely the latest example of the rise of the most insidious form of fascism that Europe has seen since the fall of the Third Reich.

Recent months have seen regular protests by the Ukrainian political opposition and its supporters –  protests ostensibly in response to Ukrainian President Yanukovich’s refusal to sign a trade agreement with the European Union that was seen by many political observers as the first step towards European integration.  The protests remained largely peaceful until January 17th when protesters armed with clubs, helmets, and improvised bombs unleashed brutal violence on the police, storming government buildings, beating anyone suspected of pro-government sympathies, and generally wreaking havoc on the streets of Kiev.  But who are these violent extremists and what is their ideology?

The political formation is known as “Pravy Sektor” (Right Sector), which is essentially an umbrella organization for a number of fascist groups including supporters of the “Svoboda” (Freedom) Party, “Patriots of Ukraine”, “Ukrainian National Assembly – Pravy Sektor”.  All of these organizations share a common ideology that is vehemently anti-Russian, anti-immigrant, and anti-Jewish among other things.  In addition they share a common reverence for the so called “Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists” led by Stepan Bandera, the infamous Nazi collaborators who actively fought against the Soviet Union and engaged in some of the worst atrocities committed by any side in World War II.

While Ukrainian political forces, opposition and government, continue to negotiate, a very different battle is being waged in the streets.  Using intimidation and brute force more typical of Hitler’s “Brownshirts” or Mussolini’s “Blackshirts” than a contemporary political movement, these groups have managed to turn a conflict over economic policy and the political allegiances of the country into an existential struggle for the very survival of the nation that these so called “nationalists” claim to love so dearly.  The images of Kiev burning, Lviv streets filled with thugs, and other chilling examples of the chaos in the country, illustrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that the political negotiation with the Maidan (Kiev’s central square and center of the protests) opposition is now no longer the central issue.  Rather, it is the question of Ukrainian fascism and whether it is to be supported or rejected.

For its part, the United States has strongly come down on the side of the fascist.  In early December, members of the US ruling establishment such as John McCain and Victoria Nuland were seen at Maidan lending their support to the protesters.  However, as the character of the opposition has become apparent, the US and Western ruling class and its media machine have done little to condemn the fascists.  Instead, their representatives have met with representatives of Right Sector and deemed them to be “no threat.”  In other words, the US and its allies have given their tacit approval for the continuation and proliferation of the violence in the name of their ultimate goal.

In an attempt to pry Ukraine out of the Russian sphere of influence, the US-EU-NATO alliance has, not for the first time, allied itself with fascists.  Of course, for decades, millions in Latin America were disappeared or murdered by fascist paramilitary forces armed and supported by the United States.  The mujahideen of Afghanistan, also extreme ideological reactionaries, were created and financed by the United States for the purposes of destabilizing Russia.  And of course, there is the painful reality of Libya and, most recently Syria, where the United States and its allies finance and support extremist jihadis against a government that has refused to align with the US and Israel.  There is a disturbing pattern here that has never been lost on keen political observers: the United States always makes common cause with right wing extremists and fascists for geopolitical gain.

The Fascist Menace Across the Continent
Ukraine and the rise of right wing extremism there cannot be seen, let alone understood, in isolation.  Rather, it must be examined as part of a growing trend throughout Europe (and indeed the world).

In Greece, savage austerity imposed by the troika (IMF, ECB, and European Commission) has crippled the country’s economy, leading to a depression as bad, if not worse, than the Great Depression in the United States.  It is against this backdrop of economic collapse that the Golden Dawn party has grown to become the third most popular political party in the country.  Espousing an ideology of hate, the Golden Dawn – in effect a Nazi party that promotes anti-Jewish, anti-immigrant, anti-women chauvinism – is a political force that the government in Athens has understood to be a serious threat to the very fabric of society.  It is this threat which led the government to arrest the party’s leadership after a Golden Dawn Nazi fatally stabbed an anti-fascist rapper.  Athens has launched an investigation into the party, though the results of this investigation and trial remain somewhat unclear.

What makes Golden Dawn such an insidious threat is the fact that, despite their central ideology of Nazism, their anti-EU, anti-austerity rhetoric appeals to many in the economically devastated Greece.  As with many fascist movements in the 20th Century, Golden Dawn scapegoats immigrants, Muslim and African primarily, for many of the problems facing Greeks.  In dire economic circumstances, such irrational hate becomes appealing; an answer to the question of how to solve society’s problems.  Indeed, despite Golden Dawn’s leaders being jailed, other party members are still in parliament, still running for major offices including mayor of Athens.  Though an electoral victory is unlikely, another strong showing at the polls will make the eradication of fascism in Greece that much harder.

Were this phenomenon confined to Greece and Ukraine, it would not constitute a continental trend.  Sadly however, we see the rise of similar, albeit slightly less overtly fascist, political parties all over Europe.  In Spain, the ruling pro-austerity People’s Party has moved to establish draconian laws restricting protest and free speech, and empowering and sanctioning repressive police tactics.  In France, the National Front Party of Marine Le Pen, which vehemently scapegoats Muslim and African immigrants, won nearly twenty percent of the vote in the first round of presidential elections.  Similarly, the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands – which promotes anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant policies – has grown to be the third largest in parliament.  Throughout Scandinavia, ultra nationalist parties which once toiled in complete irrelevance and obscurity are now significant players in elections.  These trends are worrying to say the least.

It should be noted too that, beyond Europe, there are a number of quasi-fascist political formations which are, in one way or another, supported by the United States.  The right wing coups that overthrew the governments of Paraguay and Honduras were tacitly and/or overtly supported by Washington in their seemingly endless quest to suppress the Left in Latin America.  Of course, one should also remember that the protest movement in Russia was spearheaded by Alexei Navalny and his nationalist followers who espouse a virulently anti-Muslim, racist ideology that views immigrants from the Russian Caucasus and former Soviet republics as beneath “European Russians”.  These and other examples begin to paint a very ugly portrait of a US foreign policy that attempts to use economic hardship and political upheaval to extend US hegemony around the world.

In Ukraine, the “Right Sector” has taken the fight from the negotiating table to the streets in an attempt to fulfill the dream of Stepan Bandera – a Ukraine free of Russia, Jews, and all other “undesirables” as they see it.  Buoyed by the continued support from the US and Europe, these fanatics represent a more serious threat to democracy than Yanukovich and the pro-Russian government ever could.  If Europe and the United States don’t recognize this threat in its infancy, by the time they finally do, it might just be too late.

Update – Ukraine’s Gold:
Meanwhile the Russian newspaper, Iskra reported on March 11th, that two days previously, in a mysterious operation under the cover of night, Ukraine’s gold reserves were promptly loaded onboard an unmarked plane, which subsequently took the gold to the US:

“Tonight, at 2:00am, an unregistered transport plane took off took off from Boryspil airport. According to Boryspil staff, prior to the plane’s appearance, four trucks and two cargo minibuses arrived at the airport all with their license plates missing. Fifteen people in black uniforms, masks and body armor stepped out, some armed with machine guns. These people loaded the plane with more than forty heavy boxes. After this, several mysterious men arrived and also entered the plane. The loading was carried out in a hurry. After unloading, their plateless cars immediately left the runway, and the plane took off on an emergency basis”.

“Airport officials who saw this mysterious “special operation” immediately notified the administration of the airport, which however strongly advised them “not to meddle in other people’s business. Later, the editors were called by one of the senior officials of the former Ministry of Income and Fees, who reported that, according to him, tonight on the orders of one of the “new leaders” of Ukraine, all the gold reserves of the Ukraine were taken to the United States”.

Indicatively, according to the latest IMF figures, Ukraine’s official gold holdings are just over 40 tons, having doubled in the past decade. Lets hope the Ukranians haven’t just “liberated” of all their gold, which after a brief stay 80 feet below the surface at 33 Liberty, will promptly find its way either to the Bundesbank, or to the billionaire oligarchs, based either in London or elsewhere, and currently in charge of “post-liberation” Ukraine.The Voag is everywhere

voice of anti-capitalismIs our meat fit to eat?

Just when last year’s horsemeat scandal was finally beginning to fade, Britain’s carnivores have now been hit with more bad news about meat. According to the union representing meat inspectors, diseased and dirty meat could end up on Britain’s dinner plates as a result of new legislation. Unison says that proposed law changes will reduce the ability of its members to inspect suspect meat and make sure diseased cuts don’t make the human food chain.

A spokesman for the union said that the new rules could mean meat that “repulses us” making it onto our dinner plates. “Most people do not know that there are a small group of meat inspectors and vets that keep them safe from harmful and repulsive additions to our sausages, Sunday roasts and beef pies,” she added.

It’s just the latest in a string of bad headlines about what, for many of us, is the best part of any meal. So, what are the health implications of producing, processing and eating meat, and is it time we thought about going veggie?

Diseased meat
What many of us don’t know is that millions of carcasses are thrown away every year before their meat can make it onto our plates. They may be carrying parasites such as tapeworm or come from animals infected with pneumonia, septicaemia, peritonitis and tumours.

Meat inspectors fear that, if the new rules come into force, more of that meat will end up in our stores and restaurants. But the health implications aren’t clear. Some of this meat might repulse us, but it won’t necessarily make us sick.

Chicken contaminated with faeces is another story, however. It’s the leading cause of campylobacter, the most common form of human food poisoning in the UK. There are 460,000 reported cases each year, 22,000 hospitalisations and 110 deaths. In the last two years nearly three million chickens contaminated with faeces were removed from the food chain.

The risk is still small, though. Thorough cooking kills campylobacter, and the bacteria is only found in a tiny percentage of chickens slaughtered each year.

Factory farming
But the health risks associated with meat don’t begin at the slaughterhouse. There is a convincing body of evidence to suggest that intensive farming methods which produce a large proportion of our meat are potentially harmful to human health.

Many human diseases have originated in farm animals. Scientists think tuberculosis and the common cold probably came to us from cattle, and influenza from ducks. But many experts think that diseases that may prove harmful to humans have more chance to evolve, and to evolve quickly, in intensively reared animals.

“In recent decades,” writes Dr Michael Greger, author of Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching, “previously unknown diseases have surfaced at a pace unheard of in the recorded annals of medicine: more than 30 newly identified human pathogens in 30 years, most of them newly discovered zoonotic viruses.” (Zoonotic viruses are those that can be passed from animals to humans.)

“Factory farms represent the most significant change in the lives of animals in 10,000 years. This is not how animals were supposed to live.”

And it’s not just that new diseases develop more quickly. It’s also that we lose the ability to control old ones. Some scientists fear that antibiotic use in intensively reared farm animals – which is now tightly controlled in Europe but still widespread elsewhere – is leading to the rapid rise of antibiotic-resistant microbes.

Processing
The final link in the chain from farm to plate is processing. Some meat is not processed at all, of course – a juicy steak is a juicy steak – but a considerable amount is turned into sausages, bacon, burgers, pie filling and ready meals. One risk of processing is that we can’t always be sure where the meat in our burger originated, a problem highlighted by the horsemeat scandal.

But even when the meat is bona fide, the general medical consensus is that we should cut down on the processed stuff. According to a study of half a million people across Europe published last year, the biggest consumers of processed meats are 44% more likely to die prematurely from any cause than those who eat little of it.

But cut down to what? Bridget Benelam, senior nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) says: “For red and processed meat, the government guideline is to consume no more than an average of 70g per day. Some people in the UK do consume more than this and so need to reduce consumption, but, on average we are actually consuming about this amount so it’s not necessary for everyone who eats meat to cut down.”

Quit meat?
But others take a more hardline view, and say the health and environmental implications of meat production make it difficult to defend. So, should we be encouraged to quit meat altogether? Is a sausage the new cigarette? It seems that, even if we’re not going vegetarian, more of us are becoming concerned about our meat intake. In 2013, meat-free sales increased by 6.6% over the previous year, while Quorn products leapt by 20%.

Nevertheless, many experts don’t advise that we give up meat, just that we eat less and better cuts. “Meat can be rich in nutrients and national surveys suggest that meat and meat products provide 34% of our zinc intake, 28% vitamin A, 22% vitamin D and 17% iron so it does make a significant contribution to the diet,” says Benelam.

That can also mean eating free-range or at least RSPCA-approved meat. It can be a little more expensive, but eating better meat less often can make it more affordable. When even Richard Turner, executive chef of the famed steakhouse Hawksmoor, urges consumers to eat less but well-farmed meat, and treat meat as a luxury rather than a daily staple, maybe we should all sit up and take notice.Revolution-Enemy Is Profit

Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq
An analysis of the effect of economic sanctions on Iraq –
A film by John Pilger

A poll conducted by ComRes last year asked people in Britain how many Iraqis had been killed as a result of the 2003 invasion. A majority said that fewer than 10,000 had been killed: “a figure so shockingly low it was a profanity”, commented John Pilger, in an article in the Guardian this month.

John Pilger continued: “I compared this with scientific estimates of up to a million men, women and children who had died in the inferno lit by Britain and the US. In fact, academic estimates range from less than half a million to more than a million. John Tirman, the principal research scientist at the MIT Centre for International Studies, has examined all the credible estimates; he told me that an average figure suggests roughly 700,000. Tirman pointed out that this excluded deaths among the millions of displaced Iraqis, up to 20% of the population.

The VOAG reported in March 2010 on two studies exploring civilian deaths as a result of the invasion of Iraq. One study by Opinion Research Business, on behalf of  New Scientist estimated 1.2 million people had died. A second study conducted by Dr Burnham of Johns Hopkins University, on behalf of The Lancet, Organ of the British Medical Association, estimated that a million people had died as a result of the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

These figures were complied in 2006, and updates in 2010 revised these figures to between 1.2 and 1.6 million deaths. With a pre-war population of 22.5 million, it means that as of 2010 one in nineteen Iraqis 1/19 has been murdered by the coalition. A further 20% of the population (One in five) have been made homeless. When General Franks, the US Comander of the Coalition was confronted with these figures he famously said: “We don’t do body counts”.

These death rates are based on statistical data. They are not confined to direct violent deaths, but all deaths; deaths through disease and loss of infrastructure for example. All ‘extra deaths’ over and above what the levels would have been, had there not been an invasion.

The “shock and awe” of 1993 and the subsequent occupation of Iraq was the extension of a murderous blockade imposed for 13 years by Britain and the US. Its results were suppressed by much of the mainstream media. Half a million Iraqi infants died as a result of sanctions, according to Unicef.; with children dying in hospitals, denied basic painkillers.

John Pilger’s article concluded: “Ten years later, in New York, I met the senior British official responsible for these “sanctions”. He is Carne Ross, once known in the UN as “Mr Iraq”. I read to him a statement he had made to a parliamentary select committee in 2007: “The weight of evidence clearly indicates that sanctions caused massive human suffering among ordinary Iraqis, particularly children. We, the US and UK governments, were the primary engineers and offenders of sanctions and were well aware of the evidence at the time but we largely ignored it and blamed it on the Saddam government, effectively denying the entire population the means to live.” I said to him: “That’s a shocking admission.”

“Yes, I agree,” he replied. “I feel ashamed about it …” He described how the Foreign Office manipulated a willing media. “We would control access to the foreign secretary as a form of reward to journalists. If they were critical, we would not give them the goodies of trips around the world. We would feed them factoids of sanitised intelligence, or we’d freeze them out.”

In the build-up to the 2003 invasion, according to studies by Cardiff University and Media Tenor, the BBC followed the Blair government’s line and lies, and restricted airtime to those opposing the invasion. When Andrew Gilligan famously presented a dissenting report on Today, he and the director general were crushed.

The truth about the criminal bloodbath in Iraq cannot be “countered” indefinitely. Neither can the truth about our support for the medievalists in Saudi Arabia, the nuclear-armed predators in Israel, the new military fascists in Egypt and the jihadist “liberators” of Syria, whose propaganda is now BBC news. There will be a reckoning – not just for the Blairs, Straws and Campbells, but for those paid to keep the record straight.


For More On Iraq:
Focus On Iraq: The War Continues (January 2011)
Latest On The Iraq Occupation (March 2010)
Civilian Death Toll In Iraq And Afghanistan (March 2010)The Voag

The Friern Barnet library victory shows the way to
campaign against cuts

Local residents, Occupy activists and squatters have worked together to force the council to re-open Friern Barnet library.Friern Barnet library

The Guardian, Nov 15th, 2013
Local residents, Occupy activists and squatters have worked together to force the council to re-open Friern Barnet library.

When Bob Marley and Peter Tosh wrote the classic protest song Get Up, Stand Up they could not have envisaged that it would be adopted by a group of mainly white, middle-aged, middle-class north Londoners who have formed a remarkable alliance with a group of squatters and members of the Occupy movement to oppose a library closure.

On Tuesday, all of the above joined hands in a human chain around Friern Barnet Library in north London. It was closed in April 2012 due to council cuts, and occupied by squatters five months ago, who reopened it with the help of local volunteers almost immediately.

Needless to say the council was not pleased. It has now reopened as a community library with financial input from the council who shut it down. Together, the disparate group of library fans sang an adaptation of their song that Marley and Tosh would probably have approved of – Get Up, Stand Up, Save Our Libraries.

The council threatened to close the library in 2009. Residents and Labour councillors staged various protests, including leafleting, a five-hour sit-in and the temporary establishment of a pop-up library. When the library closed the council brushed off the pleas to reopen it on that site.

When the squatters climbed through an open window in September and began working with local residents to restore a library service in the building the council was stymied.

Officials had to lodge court proceedings to evict the squatters, and as the weeks ticked by before the case was heard the disparate groups forged genuine and trusting relationships and the initially empty library shelves swelled until they had more than 10,000 donated books on offer to lend.

The library became a community hub with events for children, yoga classes and book signings with the likes of Will Self. Barnet county court granted an eviction order in December. But local residents speedily formed a legally constituted group of licensees who offered to take over the running of the library when the squatters moved out on Tuesday. They are now negotiating a long-term lease with the council and plans to sell the site off to a developer have been shelved – for now at least.

When David Cameron put forward his “big society” idea he probably wasn’t advocating unusual alliances of people working together collaboratively to overturn closures of public services implemented by radical Tory councils such as Barnet. But, arguably, this is the big society in action.

The Occupy movement has raised a great deal of awareness of global inequality but has not focused on or achieved small, concrete wins such as this one. The Barnet residents’ protests fell on deaf ears until the squatters supported by Occupy moved in. Squatters have had an opportunity to rebrand themselves as socially responsible, community minded individuals who are working to restore closed-down public services. The local residents are clear that without the input of the squatters and Occupy, the library would not have reopened.

The squatters know that without the huge support from residents they would have been unceremoniously evicted from the library premises much sooner and Barnet council would have gone ahead with its plans to sell the site to a commercial developer. But together the different groups formed a potent alliance. Assisted by a strong legal team they were able to argue in court that they were providing a greatly valued public service. Their arguments were reflected in the judge’s ruling. While granting Barnet council an eviction order, district judge HHJ Pearl recognised the right to protest and said of the occupied library: “There is no suggestion that this is anything other than a happy, pleasant, well-run place.”

The relationship between the various groups involved in the library protest and occupation has been characterised by gentleness, mutual respect for the range of views put forward and a very sincere spirit of collaboration. The residents have become more tuned in to the issues raised by the squatters and Occupy, and the latter have worked sensitively with the locals to help them achieve their objectives of restoring a much-loved public service.

As those gathered to celebrate the establishment of Friern Barnet community library on Tuesday lit candles on a very long cake modelled on Eric Carle’s classic children’s book, the Very Hungry Caterpillar, the unity of purpose resonated around the room. Could this kind of unusual alliance be the future of campaigning against cuts in services and other matters of public concern? This unprecedented reopening of a closed down library suggests that it could.Voag-Logo-Darker

Hands Off Our NHSAmericans spend over $4,000 more on profit driven healthcare than Brits do on their NHS. For that extra money, they have a lower life expectancy, a higher infant mortality, have less practising physicians, leave 50 million people uninsured, leave tens of millions underinsured, and make health bills the top reason for bankruptcy and homelessness.

Every pound put into profit is a pound taken from care. Privatisation doesn’t work. It’s time to nationalise everything, and for councils of workers, and stake holders to democratically run our industries and services.

So check this video The VOAG stumbled upon, exposing the government lies regarding the NHS.

 Lords and MPs financial interests in private healthcare: http://socialinvestigations.blogspot….Socialism or Barbarism, it really is that simple!

afnPress Release: Anti-Fascist Network statement on Saturday 7th September EDL demonstration

The Metropolitan Police arrested over 280 anti-fascist activists, local community members, and passersby in East London on 7 September,  as up to 700 English Defence League supporters were allowed to march  over Tower Bridge and rally at Aldgate without encountering any mass  opposition.

A large community demonstration was restricted to Altab Ali Park,  well out of sight of the EDL’s march route and rally point. A bloc of  around 600 within the demonstration, coordinated by the Anti-Fascist  Network (AFN), attempted to hold a march to get within sight of the  EDL’s route and present a visible opposition, which was then blocked and kettled by police. Despite police attacks the front of the AFN bloc did manage to get within sight of the EDL march, meaning the only political opposition the racists saw on the day was a direct result of the AFN  mobilisation.

Sarah Smith from London Anti-Fascists said: “The number of people who joined the Anti-Fascist Network  bloc on the day shows that there is a real mood for forms of  anti-fascism that go beyond static rallies where mainstream politicians  and religious leaders spout liberal platitudes. The 600 people who  attempted to march with AFN on Saturday shows that a moderate, ‘respectable’ anti-fascism based on deference to the state and the  political status quo is no longer the only show in town.”

Anti-fascists, independent legal observers, and people who were just  passing by were detained on the street for over six hours before the  police announced their intention to make mass arrests. Arrestees were  taken to police stations on the outer extremities of London — including  Colindale, Sutton, and elsewhere — mostly under the pretext that they  had committed an offence under the Public Order Act. Their alleged ‘crime’ was to march down a street the police didn’t want them to march  down.

Some arrestees were held for up to 15 hours in total. Were it not for the work of arrestee support groups, many of those detained would have  been thrown out of police stations in the middle of the night on the  outskirts of London with little way of getting home. Most have now been  released with highly restrictive bail conditions preventing them from  opposing the EDL and other racist groups.

Tony Dixon from the Anti-Fascist Network said: “These mass arrests, following a similar operation at an  anti-BNP demonstration in May, show how the state is using political  policing to criminalise protest and intimidate people out of taking  political action. Only the tamest, most moderate forms of protest are  sanctioned; anything else is met with police violence, kettling, and  mass arrests.”

Val Swain of the Network for Police Monitoring (NetPol), added: “Carrying out mass arrests on any demonstration is an  excessive and draconian measure. In this case it was clearly not  necessary to prevent disorder – many, if not most of the arrests were  carried out after the EDL had left the area.”In this case the police have taken 286 sets of names, addresses,  fingerprints and dna. It has been a highly effective data gathering  exercise. They have also imposed bail conditions preventing all of those arrested from participating in future protests – even though they have  not been charged, let alone convicted of any offence. The police have  had a successful operation to disrupt, deter and prevent anti-fascist  protest.”

Notes The Anti-Fascist Network is a network of independent anti-fascists  and anti-racist groups from across Britain, fighting the far right on  the basis of direct action and working-class politics. http://antifascistnetwork.wordpress.com/AFN-Banner