TOTALITARIAN TENDENCIES (Part 3.)

In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, I suggested that mass society driven authoritarianism is currently having a considerable hold globally over many people. Totalitarian solutions are being increasingly adopted by the elites in control of hierarchical mass societies and this coincides with certain moods among some sections of the masses. The obvious strategy for the elites is to create a social and political alliance with those among the masses who currently wish to preserve the current hierarchical systems. This strategy is partially succeeding in many countries, as many workers and middle class citizens are voting for populist strong men or women. But that is only to outline the negative side of the dialectic operating within hierarchical mass societies. There is another.

The masses within hierarchical mass societies, although being compelled to compete with each other for jobs, housing and much else, are nevertheless living within the same mass societies! They share not only the same territories and neighbourhood’s, but also experience many of the same multi-dimensional elements of the unfolding crisis. This means the crisis prone areas of health, jobs, housing, social care, low pay, pollution and climate change will probably be paying them more than one visit. Since the present mass society, socio-economic systems are only designed to create profits they will be unable to solve social problems in each of those areas. Consequently, the elites in charge of each capitalist system will be compelled to bear down negatively upon almost all non-elite citizens in one way or another.

This means, the multidimensional aspects of the developing crisis have the potential to be made the source of a common social struggle to both defend and improve the conditions for all working people. Of course, this possibility is made difficult for at least two reasons. First, because there is neither a practical example of a mass society which benefits all citizens sufficiently nor a consistent and plausible description of what such a non-exploitative form of mass society living would look like. (And self-critically we anti-capitalists need to ask – whose neglect is that?) Second, the habitual forms of struggle in modern hierarchical mass societies (both successful and unsuccessful) have been predominantly sectional.

For at least 100 years each waged or salaried category; teachers, nurses, engineers, factory workers, doctors, public service workers, care workers, shop workers and transport workers, etc., have pursued their own sectional struggles and been largely indifferent to the circumstances and situations of other sections of society. Political struggles for justice have followed a similar pattern. For many decades struggles against oppression and exploitation in the advanced capitalist countries have also been conducted in a way which is an almost complete denial of the socially inter-dependent reality of our mass society way of living. Considering that all the working and productive sections of mass society are totally dependent upon each other for everything they do and everything they need, that indifference (and even occasional hostility) to economic and welfare struggles is an enormous and myopic contradiction.

I suggest the challenge for 21st century humanity based within hierarchical mass societies, is to correct this historic negation of the inter-dependent social evolution of our species. We need to begin to organise and act – as the social species we are – and be consistent with the actual inter-dependent way we live within our mass societies. Our ideas of struggle should reflect our inter-dependence and not ignore it. It ought not to be a matter of passive indifference to the rest of us that teachers, nurses, doctors, firefighters, drivers, carers, power and sewage workers, etc., may not in the best of health physically and mentally because of low pay, poor conditions and financial worries. When we need them – and everyone will need most of them at some time – we need them to be in the best of health and focused upon the task at hand, not distracted or impaired by ill health and mental stress.

Instead, of counter-productive indifference and hostility, we should begin to actively support and defend all citizens both economically and socially. We need to function in accordance with our real world inter-dependent reality. A first stage for such a historical behavioral correction would be for those already aware of the above inter-dependence and the massive scale of the problems humanity faces to begin to advocate this and act in accordance with that reality themselves. The pattern of continuing in sectarian isolation from other like minded individuals and groups, needs to replaced by communication and cooperation. A second stage would be for increasing numbers of citizens to begin to demand of governments the modern equivalent of the 20th century ‘inclusive’ peasant demand for ‘peace, bread and land’.

In other words a revolutionary demand that not just our own particular sector of mass society be delivered from existential hardship, but that – as a priority – everyone in all mass societies, should have adequate food, clothing, housing and education – as a right! Such a campaign with detailed examples would – at the same time – be a practical counter to elite attempts to divide the masses along the current (short-sighted) sectional interests. Indeed, given mass society reality, considering the interests of workers as separate is in fact a complete illusion. Countering Totalitarian Tendencies requires an accurate description of realities rather than a regurgitation of seriously flawed ideologies. On the radical left it requires a change to symbiotic cooperation rather than the continuation of sectarian divisions. Even if such a re-orientation should fail to attract sufficient numbers to eventually trigger an uprising or begin an ongoing social revolution, it would still be a considerable advance toward fully reviving the distorted and damaged social essence of our humanity.

Once upon a (totalitarian) time.

For it is a fact that those activists a generation or so ago who in the middle of a previous existential crisis, could envision no other forms of mass society living than authoritarian based ones, could only suggest alternatives to the form and content of the dominating authority – not its abolition. They were thus unable to campaign for non-authoritarian solutions and eventually trapped themselves into only opposing certain totalitarian forms and not all totalitarian forms. Thus, when Fascist totalitarian movements and ‘leaders’ surfaced in the early 20th century, the movements and ‘leaders’ opposed to fascist authoritarianism became communist, socialist or liberal democratic – authoritarians! For example, Bolshevik authoritarians took power in Soviet Russia, Maoist authoritarians took power in China and Liberal Democratic authoritarians took power throughout the Anglo-Saxon West.

The explicit and latent authoritarian mentality of mass society living, noted in Parts 1 and 2, blossomed during the 20th century and eventually could summon up only the above three authoritarian choices to appeal to the oppressed and exploited. Therefore, when, after vicious and brutal total war fighting, each of these choices eventually succeeded in gaining power between 1917 and 1923, their leaders simply continued with elite controlled exploitative and intensive wage-labour (at work); imprisonment and torture (in concentration camps or Gulags) for opponents; political assassinations for rival politicians (and for their own party dissidents); militarised forms of forced labour for additional mass factory production and forced conscription for mass fighting purposes; and, of course continued a ruthless pillage of natures resources.

A serious study of history, which goes beyond superficially understood labels of political identity, therefore reveals that extreme forms of authoritarianism ready to move in totalitarian directions, have more than one political mask for their elites to wear which helps disguise their hideously inhumane intentions. Consequently, in the current growing crisis for 21st century humanity, there is a serious danger that the misperception’s and mistakes of past generations will be repeated. Many of our contemporary activists still mistakenly see the phenomenon of fascist totalitarianism as having no direct ideological connection with the ‘norms’ of mass society modes of production in general nor the totalitarianism of National socialism’s and communisms in particular.

Worse still, some current anti-capitalists clearly do not recognise the essential social and economic identity between mainstream liberal capitalist and the state-capitalist hierarchical mass societies of 20th century Chinese and Russian ‘socialism’s in one country’. It seems for some observers, historically accepted political labels can serve to filter out any underlying problematic socio-economic reality. For these modern anti-capitalists, as with many of their 20th century counterparts, Das Kapital and the Grundrisse are perhaps a couple of thousand pages too long to consider undergoing a thorough economic education, before they start advising others which socio-economic way to turn. Perhaps, like modern college exam guides, pamphlet-ed short cuts in the 20th century were attractive, particularly to those who were moved by a macho urge to ‘lead’ the masses to some imaginary ‘big brother’ salvation.

So to sum up: In failing to unite against all forms of authoritarian mass societies in favour of egalitarian ones, suffering humanity in the past allowed itself to be divided up between different kinds of authoritarian/totalitarian tendencies and after mass murdering each other with a death toll of scores of millions, those surviving the genocidal conflict returned to a system of elite determined wage-labour exploitation and oppression. The academics merely labelled these hierarchical mass society systems as socialism, communism, social democracy or neo-liberalism and these were handed on to the next generation, along with increasing levels of pollution, climate change and ecological destruction.

The question now arises will the history of the 20th century be repeated in the 21st? For example, as the 21st century crisis deepens, will the variously oppressed and exploited, noted previously, line themselves up behind a Right wing authoritarian regime, headed by a future Trump type, a Left wing authoritarian regime, headed by a Xi type or some other populist authoritarian regime headed by a Putin, Bolsenaro or Le Pen type? Or will a new generation of activists, avoid (or step out of) the ideological straight jackets humanity has been gifted by past allegedly ‘strong men’ (sic) and join a new generation of workers in consciously avoiding a repeat of those previous tragedies.

Roy Ratcliffe (November 2022)

PS. The further looming tragedy resulting from basing capitalist mass society production on fossil fuels for both energy and for carbon based commodities has yet to enter the general consciousness of humanity. Spoiler alert: Even with 100% renewable’s, (highly unlikely) wind, tides and solar can only produce alternative sources of energy, they cannot produce alternative types of material for commodities. In the 20th century, plastics have largely replaced, wood, glass, and metal previously used in the mass production of commodities – and plastics come from oil. With a 21st century global population of 8 billion potential customers, are capitalists really going to give up mass producing and transporting commodities in order to give up on oil?

(Totalitarian Tendencies Part 4, is to follow.)

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TOTALITARIAN TENDENCIES (Part 2)

The material basis of totalitarian tendencies.

Currently many mainstream commentators think that the main problem we face today in the advanced capitalist countries, is that liberal democratic politics is under extreme stress and severe attack by angry, misguided and misled mobs. But on the basis of the evidence abbreviated in Totalitarian Tendencies Part 1, it should be recognised that the current political turmoil is just a surface symptom of a much deeper tectonic type shift in the socio-economic foundations of hierarchical mass societies. I suggest that the current problems go far deeper than the democratic form of rule operating in some current mass societies. It is the hierarchical mass society form of living, producing, and consuming itself which is once again in a deep existential crisis. Furthermore, it is one every bit as problematic as the one occurring between 1910 and 1945. To fully grasp the significance of the surface political turmoil of 21st century hierarchical mass societies we need to understand the underlying socio-economic contradictions upon which all these systems rest.

Within all mass societies that contain extensive divisions of labour between their citizens, there are a set of underlying practical socio-economic circumstance which give rise to fundamental socio-political symptoms and dilemmas. First of all each individual citizen is in competition with other citizens for partners, jobs, housing, status and much else. Citizens of mass societies are simultaneously thrown together in large numbers, yet remain economically, socially (and even emotionally) separate; people are essentially alone whilst being surrounded by thousands. In hierarchical mass societies, these competitive economic and social divisions also produce a range of responses from indifference, through callousness, and onto hostility and even hatred. These have become ‘normal’ responses occurring between members of the same society, the same species and at times even members of the same family. That brief description is the fundamental existential dynamic for the masses in hierarchical mass societies. Yet there is another dynamic with regard to the hierarchy.

The elites, who dominate and rule hierarchical mass societies also face competition between each other, but in this case the competition is mainly over obtaining the benefits of the surplus production extracted from the masses. In pre-capitalist mass societies, that surplus production was generally in the form of a significant proportion of everything produced (a ‘tithe’ or tenth of everything) plus a supply of luxury goods and services. In capitalist based hierarchical mass societies the surplus production is transformed into a monetary form and appropriated as taxes, grants and gifts or credit, which is then used to purchase essential as well as luxury items.

But of course that is not the only dynamic. In all such class-divided cases, an increase in the numbers of elites means that the surplus production (or value) extracted from the masses must be increased to maintain (or increase) the average elite levels of wealth. There are only two ways this can be done. 1. To increase the productivity of the masses of working producers (by more productive working) or increase the proportion of wealth extracted from the masses (by higher taxes). 2. To increase the extent of the resources controlled and/or the number of working producers controlled (by direct conquest of territory and people or proxy control).

The above is the underlying socio-economic dynamic which fuels the recurring elite instigated armed campaigns to obtain pillage, tribute, conquest or imperial type control using a delegated elite. Such campaigns have continued from the very earliest ancient, pre-Common Era hierarchical mass societies of Sumer, Babylon, Egypt, Persia, Greece, and Roman Empires, through the Medieval period of European and Eastern Wars and the eventual establishment of the Islamic, Mogul and Ottoman Empires. The same elite motive operated in establishing the Hapsburg and Russian Empires, the British Empire, and the Western colonising expansion of the USA. Even the origins of the two 20th century World Wars, were also over which group of ‘allied’ elites would control the main sources of profit from global natural resources and global human labour. This shortened list, just includes the most recognisable, tribute grabbing, resource stealing, human enslaving and genocidal instances.

That this 5,000 year old history of elite ‘need’ (and greed) is a built-in dynamic of the hierarchical mass society form is not only evidenced by this long episodic inhumane history but by the fact that it’s impulse still operates within the 21st century. Its relatively peaceful international means is to export capital in order to exploit foreign labour or import cheap labour and exploit it in the home country. Both these ‘peaceful’ (sic) international trading strategies are in order to increase the rate of surplus-product or value accruing to the various elites. The extreme violent variant of obtaining surplus-production in 21st century is demonstrated in the Russian elites desire to annex the land and people of Crimea and Ukraine and the Chinese elites desire to annex Hong Kong and Taiwan. Ruling and exploiting one territory or human community is never enough for the type of elites born into and formed within successive hierarchical mass societies.

The fact is that no individuals in any mass society conurbation can provide themselves with food, water, clothes, shelter and warmth from their own individual efforts. Consequently, despite the severe levels of competition, exploitation, oppression etc., contained within them, each individual member needs their mass society to function – at least economically – in order to simply survive. These contradictory circumstances create a strong pressure to both conserve the individual against other individuals and conserve the existing social system, against other existing societies. Hence the phenomena of some of the masses volunteering to join in the ‘special military operations’ their elites justify as ‘defending the mother country’. Others have to be compelled by conscription.

Living in a hierarchical mass society which is alienating and oppressive, means individuals are living amid a huge and often crushing social contradiction. Hence on top of any occupational and environmental illnesses, within hierarchical mass societies, there is a steady stream of alcoholism, drug addiction, schizophrenia, psychotic levels of random and targeted anger, plentiful suicides and many other negative psychological symptoms.

For working class humanity in particular, being trapped within a modern hierarchical mass society form of living is, on a much broader and more universal scale, an analogue of someone living with an oppressive and aggressive partner. With no realistic alternative she or he might reason: “I know its horrible being here, but it is somewhere to live”! I know from direct experience that women’s rights campaigners in the 1970’s and beyond, needed to establish refuges and lines of practical support before some women could break free from a family commitment which was deeply dysfunctional and dangerously destructive.

Similarly, a worker in a sweat shop industry (or serving soldier) might express it thus: “I know this job will likely kill me but I and my family need the money”. I also personally know that shop stewards in such industries had to constructively deal with a workforce often divided on how to respond (put crudely; whether to strike or not to strike) when faced with atrocious working conditions.

So despite any successful workplace actions the threat to livelihood and self-esteem within a hierarchical mass society – in crisis – can actually lead some people to a desire for a strong leader to forcibly keep job and benefit competition (foreign or otherwise) under control and the system functioning. This can be a particularly strong symptom when a crisis begins and tensions and emotions run high. Moreover, such contradictory responses occur in politically diverse hierarchical mass societies such as those designated as Fascist, Liberal Democratic or Socialist. The reason becomes clear when it is born in mind that it is the lived reality of the mode of production which determines these eventual human responses, not the political labels used to describe them.

Obviously if mass societies are exploitative, oppressive and discriminatory then discontent will surface sooner or later no matter how it is politically defined or ‘spun’. Consequently, real life contradictions such as deploring the system whilst needing it to continue are to be expected. Therefore, particularly in a crisis, prematurely forcing an issue or imposing a demonised description upon working people – when they do not know who to trust and have not yet grasped the scope, scale and detail of what is unraveling or is needed – can be a tragic mistake. Such arrogant sectarian posturing (eg. ‘only we know what is true and what is false – about everything!’) should be avoided in the first place and challenged were it occurs.

Millions of people know that capitalist societies are unfair, unjust, unequal and unsustainable. Millions also know that the so-called 20th century established ‘socialisms’ also retained wage-labour exploitation, extreme physical coercion to conform, extensive social discrimination, high levels of hierarchical privilege for the party elite and the constant destructive devastation of nature. Therefore, in the absence of a humane alternative, many will reason that ‘their’ current societies need to be supported because they are the only places which allow enough of the population to actually survive. In such complex and contradictory circumstances it should be understandable, therefore, that some individuals will take longer than others (and may need time and contemplation) to break away from various commitments to an existing hierarchical form of mass society. Impatience with the masses slowly emerging perceptions and mis-perceptions of the nature of socio-economic crisis is seldom a positive characteristic.

From a revolutionary-humanist perspective, therefore, an element of conservatism, existing within working class communities does not necessarily stem from a deep rooted right wing, fascist style conviction. Indeed, it is more likely that a limited, but rational element of confused and contradictory thinking, can be predominantly at play. With regard to political confusion and modern totalitarian tendencies, it should not be forgotten that the 20th century form of totalitarian tendencies we now call Fascism was introduced and gained power in both Germany and Italy – in the guise of Socialism!

In both Germany and Italy, it was a ‘National Socialist’ (Nazi) political tendency which adopted a radical programme of rights for workers and consequently attracted a huge working and middle class following. Millions of working people on all sides were fooled and divided by their own confused thinking and misplaced loyalties into fighting each other in favour of competing versions of hierarchical mass society ideologies. This confusion was supplemented by a father-figure, hero worshiping trust in strong men such as Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin. Such confused thinking around poorly analysed political categories has arisen once again in the 21st century and urgently needs to be countered. A much broader and deeper historically accurate narrative needs to be articulated. Totalitarian Tendencies Part 3 (to follow) will continue offering these contributions toward such accuracy.

Roy Ratcliffe (November 2022)

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TOTALITARIAN TENDENCIES (Part 1.)

Totalitarianism and Hierarchy.

In terms of hierarchical mass society dynamics, totalitarian rule is merely a further extension of existing hierarchical rule. The one cannot be understood without understanding the other. Furthermore, state and non-state forms of coercion and compulsion are the means which allow the transition from one phase of authoritarian rule to the other. Without coercion hierarchies cannot continue to rule over a majority and in an existential situation, without extreme compulsion hierarchical control cannot be transformed into totalitarian control. Compulsion is also the glue which holds hierarchical mass societies together. This has been the case in both ancient and modern mass society forms.

Hierarchical mass societies, with their extensive divisions of labour, are at the same time the source of human ‘alienation’ and the cause of the multitude of struggles within mass societies. Elite prescribed rewards to individuals for what amount to social activities lead to economic struggles, social struggles, ethnic struggles, gender struggles, educational struggles, ecological struggles, national struggles, political and politico-religious struggles. These are all responses to the ‘normal’ functioning of hierarchical mass societies – including the present capitalist ones. Additional struggles over the rights of animals and those campaigns to ‘save’ this or that endangered species now cover practically every species currently alive on planet earth.

Although they are all fragmented, these human rights, struggles animal rights struggles and now climate struggles signal the growing discontent of citizens with the ruling elites who control the many global mass society formations. However, this plethora of 20th and 21st century struggles have not generally been seen by their campaigners as the particular symptoms of a common alienation experienced within all hierarchical mass societies. However, many elites have begun to understand the potential danger these struggles pose to the normal forms of social control. For when too many serious struggles take place, the ‘normal’ functioning of mass societies begins to break down.

Moreover, it is only when ‘normal’ levels of authoritarian compulsion cease to keep order in hierarchical mass societies, that hierarchies begin to extend their powers toward the totalitarian spectrum. This extension of powers is done in attempts to prevent a complete socio-economic breakdown or a potential revolutionary transformation of the mass society system. In country after country in the 21st century, the ordinary citizens of global humanity are beginning to resist the existential degradation of their animal vegetable and human communities. Implicitly, if not everywhere explicitly, the capitalist profit-led form of mass societies, is under critical review. At the same time ordinary citizens are faced with the re-emergence within the elites of totalitarian tendencies aimed at conserving the existing system.

Hierarchy in ‘normal’ times.

For generations, the absence of peace, justice and well being within ‘normal’ civilised societies, has ‘witnessed’ many religious believers being advised to, or coerced into, doing what no other life form would do; – passively bear whatever happens to them and turn the other cheek. All other species of ‘life on earth’ including most humans would sooner or later fight back or just move somewhere else. Indeed, those responses are the recurring strategies which often result in civil wars or emigrations.

One of the few active things religious officials encourage people to do when faced with common existential problems is to kneel down and pray to an imaginary invisible, all powerful man in an invisible unknowable (!) heaven. One other unnatural active thing some religions elites encourage is to disrespect other denominations religions and at times even kill their members, for religiously distorted views see these as rival worshipers of the same or a different God.

Perhaps predictably, given that the symptoms of alienation noted above are so pervasive, in the 20th century, secular versions of religious style patience and resignation to mass society alienation were also invented. A spectrum of physical and psychological ‘helpers’ expanded during the 1960‘s offering a range of services from drugs to surgery and from ‘counselling’ to ‘courses on well being. Just like religion, such prescriptions are all offered with the purpose of assisting the sufferer – purely as an individual – to ease the individual distress and pain of living within hierarchical social structures.

That so many problems and coping strategies exist within hierarchical mass societies points to something seriously wrong and unnatural with the hierarchical mass society social form. Yet despite the huge numbers of disturbed, discontented, disaffected, discriminated, disillusioned, dysfunctional citizens and endangered species, the type of remedies provided are all targeted at the individuals within them. This individual focus conveniently ignores the obvious social nature of the problems commonly encountered and at the same time serves to undermine the idea of individual sufferers combining with other sufferers to achieve better living conditions. However, that narrow individuated perspective cannot continue indefinitely.

The preferred elite solution to a modern authoritarian social system treating people consistently badly, is to undergo the individual medication or experience the individual therapy recommended and be thankful that their situation is not worse. Revealingly, where available, the drug and non-drug versions of therapy have been consistently taken up by individuals in all classes. This fact also highlights the depth and breadth of the problems built into the social fabric of hierarchical mass societies. Yet it is an obvious fact that in many cases, mental exercises to achieve inner well being do not really help. Talking things through or concept modification exercises for someone permanently, unemployed, homeless and living in a city centre shop doorway, or living with a partner who beats or rapes will not alter their reality or allow them to feel good about it.

Furthermore, even when considered in their most benign, current forms of hierarchical mass societies are authoritarian throughout the whole of their social fabric. The global response of elites using emergency powers to control citizen movements during Covid19 Pandemics indicates that in order to maintain them, hierarchical-led systems at all times are ready to adopt a totalitarian outlook and introduce extreme forms of control and violence if necessary. The experience of hierarchies becoming totalitarian are also reflected in the culture and literature of the First and Second World Wars. This transition occurred even in societies supposedly opposed to capitalist ones as Orwell’s ‘1984’ and ‘Animal Farm’ graphically portray.

The Elephant in the Room.

However, it often seems that only in science fiction stories is the logic of hierarchical mass society living portrayed as a morphing into a full blown Mad Max style dystopia. But the actual real-life alienated logic of ‘normal’ hierarchical capitalist mass societies is continually displayed in the taken for granted mass production and use of weapons of mass destruction – both in the case of conventional explosives and nuclear alternatives. There can be nothing more totalitarian than the fact that the existential end of practically everything we know can now be achieved – in real life – at the press of a certain button, by order of a political or military leader – without citizen consultation – even in supposedly democratic countries as well as dictatorial ones!

It is in the ubiquitous nature of predatory warfare perpetrated by all hierarchical mass society elites from ancient to modern that suggests this form of society is the originator of all such unnatural and nihilistic human common behaviors enumerated above. Yet amazingly pre- Atom bomb, industrial levels of human annihilation by warfare are invariably framed by mass society elites and their media echo chambers as heroic events to celebrate rather than as tragic socio-economic human failures to rectify. Humans are the only species of ‘life on earth’ that deliberately exterminate vast numbers of their own kind along with logging or spraying other species into forest or field oblivion. Yet so few people bother to point this out..

I suggest, that if we think about it, there is also something bizarrely schizophrenic about mass society elites who wear poppies and parade in stern faced, pomp and circumstance past memorials and cenotaphs to the millions dead in the wars their class started. For surrounded by huge personal wealth, they will coldly administer the reduction of wages, benefits and living conditions for millions still alive! And bizarrely many other people consider both these political actions as perfectly ‘normal’.

I hope the previous paragraphs will not be quickly passed over, but carefully considered, for what they contain illuminates practically all the unresolved contradictions now being played out within modern capitalist societies. This is occurring because in periods of extreme crisis, the fundamental socio-economic contradictions and their ideological expressions tend to surface with profound and violent intent. Indeed, often even the most intelligent and astute historical, social, economic and political commentators fail to understand the basic socio-economic contradictions of hierarchical mass societies or the nature of the pent up passions when they start to be forcefully expressed. The latter will be considered in Totalitarian Tendencies (Part 2.)

Roy Ratcliffe (November 2022)

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THE COST OF LIVING CRISIS!

The current media discussions on what is described as the ‘cost of living crisis’, have been a confused mix of sense and nonsense. The sources of this confusion have been politicians and so-called financial experts, most of whom clearly do not know the difference between sense and nonsense in economics and finance. This article will hopefully dispel at least some of the confused platitudes which currently dominate media thinking. The nonsenses and examples are emphasised in bold.

That governments are powerless to effect prices and interest rates set by the financial markets. I have heard such blatant nonsense several times. Although the complete capitalist system needs ending it is still the case that the whole history of the capitalist mode of production, is littered with successful attempts by governments to regulate and limit what people dominating the money market could do to manipulate financial transactions. Furthermore, it was only the deliberate de-regulation of financial ‘services’ in 1989 that allowed a small number of well situated individuals to collude in a) setting a wider range of interest rates, b) to more freely speculate on future commodity prices, c) to issue as much leveraged credit as they saw fit. d) to set up more tax havens and launder money from dodgy sources. Consequently, in a monetised economy, the cost of living or the cost of buying things we need, including loans and mortgages, are not the results of some unstoppable natural force, like tides, gravity or seasons. In fact they are the results of manipulations and price setting by groups of key people located in various financial markets.

These key people can be prevented from doing this fixing and insider trading anytime governments want to. And indeed, when a crisis is big enough they do in fact curtail them. For example, no government would allow the economic, commercial or finance sectors, to negatively effect their own country if an enemy (human or virus) was preparing to invade. In such circumstances everything and every person would be subject to severe restrictions and controls from buying and selling to moving about. Just recall the Covid19 personal, occupational and transport lock-downs? It was the same in Europe during the two world wars of 1914-18 and 1938-45.

In crises of sufficient magnitude, financial markets as well as production in general are heavily regulated and controlled by governments. The reason why the elites controlling capitalist governments are choosing not to regulate and control the activities of the financial manipulators now, is obvious. The current stage of crisis, engulfing the working and lower middle classes, does not sufficiently inconvenience them. If it did, as it did for example in the 2008 financial crash and in the early days of the Covid19 pandemic, they would act decisively. In another example, during the 2008 run on the banks they stopped all financial manipulation dead by closing the financial markets and freezing all transactions except those designed to bail out their friends in the banking sector.

Our economy and finances are rather weak now, therefore we we cannot do as much as we would like to. I have also heard this a couple of times just recently from prominent politicians in the advanced capitalist countries of UK and US. I expect this pathetic rubbish will be repeated in other countries across the globe so let’s also tackle this absolute nonsense. First of all, the advanced capitalist countries are among the richest in the entire history of the human species. They are richer and more productive than ancient Egypt, Persia, Greece and Rome. Secondly, the modern elites have extracted wealth from their own working populations for hundreds of years. Secondly, during the colonial and imperial stages of expansion they extracted exorbitant amounts of wealth, raw materials and slaves, from numerous countries around the world. Thirdly, their countries now contain means of production which are the most efficient and productive in the entire history of humanity.

Fourthly, even during a period of the most deep recession and international economic and financial crisis, (between 1910 – 1945) the countries of Europe and America tooled up and produced enough food, materials and sophisticated machinery to fight two long wars, by air, sea and land. This latter example proves that abundant production is not determined by the so-called health of the financial sector, (which had totally collapsed in 1929,) but from the application human labour to the materials provided by nature. In 2022, the only thing lacking in UK, Europe and America etc., in order to provide everyone with decent sustainable food, clothing, housing, education, warmth and safety, is the will of the elite to employ people and available material to mass produce these basic ‘goods’.

The interest rates have increased and commodity prices have suddenly shot up causing cost of living increases. Political and media phrases such as above, are also being uttered as if such rapid ‘market changes’ are similar to an inevitable act of nature, like the jet stream affecting the weather. But of course market changes are not natural. What has recently happened is that some (usually male) combination of influential financial or commodity dealers and brokers in key positions have decided that interest rates or commodity prices should be higher. Such unchallenged and unregulated decisions can depend upon irrational panic, rational calculation or blaming an unconnected event, but either way they are deliberate human choices. The motivation for them has a direct relationship to how the finance sectors short or long term investment strategies are meant to pan out. Thus in reality;

“The risk of market collapse is amplified by regulatory incompetence and banker greed…Derivatives serve practically no purpose except to enrich bankers through opaque pricing and to deceive investors through off-the-balance-sheet accounting.” (‘The Death of Money’ J. Rickards. Introduction.)

In other words interest rate fixing, commodity price fixing, currency exchange rate offers and acceptances (swaps, etc.), are not inevitable like the sunrise and sunset, neither are they are necessary like food, water or heating. Indeed, they are not even desirable for the vast majority of citizens within capitalist societies. They are the results of deliberate manipulation by a few collegiate individuals located in key positions in a relative few financial institutions. Yet as we are now seeing again, the personal motives of these financial ‘dealers’, ‘brokers’ and ‘bankers’, are having crippling effects upon the mortgages, rents and heating costs of the rest of society. For those too young or who may have forgotten the last high profile austerity inducing ‘fixing’ and ‘trading’ episode during the years 2007 and beyond, below is a reminder.

The 2007 to 2009 financial crisis. Banks and other financial institutions, had been constantly leveraging borrowed money at one rate and lending it out at another rate, both of which the financial sector had decided was appropriate. Different forms of debt, credit cards, mortgages, student loans, were bundled together by a select few who estimated their yield and sold them to unsuspecting punters (institutional and otherwise) for an estimated value plus commission. These were particular instruments of greed, bearing no relationship to the actual production of new useful products. But then this is the case for most things in the financial sector. As an author and former employee of the Bank of England informed his readers;

“In real life financial markets, market makers are the parties that that are always ready to deal….Market makers are willing to quote prices (bids and offers) at which they will buy and sell”. (’The Bank of England and Government Debt’. W. A. Allen. NIESR. Pub.Cambridge University Press. Chapter 2.)

These ‘parties’ are actually privileged persons in the financial markets and are the market ‘fixers’ and have been so all through the 20th and 21st centuries. Although for much of that post war period, their manipulations were regulated and the scope of their activities was limited by law. It was the Big Bang changes and deregulation of this sector in the Reagan and Thatcher era of 1986, which allowed the proliferation of futures and massive debt speculation to mushroom. It was that which led to the spectacular and disastrous bubble-bursting’, banking crisis of 2008. And in this way;

“The collapse of the housing market (bursting of the housing bubble) and its crucial impact saw the end of the five largest US investment banks…..Lehman Brothers collapsed completely due to the same mistakes of too high leverage and an over reliance on unrealistic real estate assets. “ (’Financial Crisis: Bear Stern and Lehman Brothers’. L. Brinkmann. Introduction.)

Note, they caused the collapse of the housing market due to setting their own unrealistic assessments and leveraging (multiplying) the amounts at what they considered was an acceptable ratio. Soon after the collapse a partial remedy or ‘bail out’ was concocted by the political and financial elite called a ‘Troubled Asset Recovery Programme’. This programne cost the task payers colossal amounts of money and also ruined many ordinary peoples lives from businesses closures and job losses. The troubled asset programme was implemented to save the livelihoods and statuses of high-paid financial elite and their ‘too big to fail’ ‘money market’.

And then there was Libor. Libor stands for the ‘London Interbank Offered Rate’. This was manipulated by means of late night discussions and early morning phone or email contacts between certain privileged individuals in various banks who then suggested (offered) what the interest rate should be for borrowing between them for the coming days trading period. Once this interest rate was agreed by the most influential of the 16 or so key ‘insiders’, everyone else simply adopted the same rate throughout the global network. Here is a précis of how it then functioned. If a big trader has nominal control of billions of pounds or dollars and can use this to buy options at one price knowing it would go up by even only 1% or less and then sell it when it did, then quick profits would be made.

For example, a one percent gain on a million is 10,000, when it is of ten million it is 100,000 etc. This Libor rate setting not only enabled big monetary profits and commissions for traders, but since it was used elsewhere in the global finance sector it also negatively effected millions of people. A one percent rise in a loan or mortgage created by a handful of traders and brokers, might not seem too bad but a four or five percent rise prompted by such an internal clique could spell a knock on disaster for millions of people. This could only happen because;

“Libor was set by a self-selected, self-policing committee of the world’s largest banks. The rate measured how much it cost them to borrow from each other. Every morning, each bank submitted an estimate, an average was taken and a number was published at midday.” (’The Fix’. L. Vaughan & G. Finch. Chapter 1)

The above is a statement which hides as much as it reveals. In one particular case, which became transparent after the crash, one of these select people who was active in manipulating and fixing the market rate of Libor (in this case setting it low) to support his investment strategy, emailed one influencer friend as follows.

“I need you to keep it as low as possible, all right?”……“I’ll pay you, you know, $50,000, $100,000, whatever. Whatever you want, all right?” (quoted in ‘The Fix’ above.)

More often than not such ‘help me out buddy’ worked. If anyone doesn’t think this type of up and down price manipulating and palm greasing is still going on (out of sight and out of mind) in the offices and at the City desks in London or those of Wall Street New York, it can only be because they are naive or complicit in some way. Our elected officials with all their ‘revolving door’ access to information and research assistants can also only be one or the other – naive or complicit. Otherwise they could not suggest that our low-paid troubled human assets (ie. working class people) must now suffer rising prices and falling standards of living because some few in the ‘market’ want it this way. After the evidence provided above, that is obviously a lie.

Roy Ratcliffe (November 2022)

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THE WORLD OF RISHI ‘RICH’

Those who are hoping that the new boy on the UK Tory block, Rishi Sunak, will be any better than the last lot of Tories, will soon have to think again. Saving the UK from the worst economic storms ahead, or the planet from becoming even more degraded are the last thing on Rishi’s mind. Being ‘too busy’ to attend COP 27 is an almost complete give away and represents a feeble euphemism for being focussed on business as usual. And Rishi’s usual business is Finance Capitalism. He and his family have not got super rich by stacking supermarket shelves, staffing hospital wards or keeping the environment.clean. They have got rich by ruthlessly playing the existing political and financial system for their own calculated advantage and will try to stay rich doing the same.

Rishi’s time at Goldman Sachs bankers, (the ones who got super rich by catering to dictatorial regimes, engaging in futures speculation and selling the dodgy mortgage backed securities based on subprime mortgages that led the 2008 financial collapse,) has benefited him in numerous ways. Particularly in perfecting a barefaced ability to sell illusions to unsuspecting punters and now to gullible voters without any glimmer of conscience when the illusory bubbles bursts – as they did in 2008. The Finance Capital sector is itself a business world built on illusions spun in such a way as to fool the public. Most of the investment vehicles the bankers sell to the unaware are just paper promises and their inflated paper value can disappear as quickly as the numbers involved were printed on a financial instrument by a computer.

The vast majority of such ‘asset vehicles’ are fictitious in that they involve mathematical calculations, which bear almost no real relationship to any tangible assets. They are inflated paper promises called ‘financial instruments’ which are primarily designed to secure the salaries, expenses, fees and commissions financial sector operatives gain from their sale to those hopeful of a positive return. The similarity between the inflated paper promises of politicians printed in their election manifestos, is obvious. These too are also primarily made to secure the salaries, expenses and fees associated with public office. This similarity should already be obvious as the earlier promises of the Johnson election manifesto have already disappeared. Rishi’s promises will be next for the recycling bin.

Politics, Finance and even Religion have so much in common because they all deal in promises in the form of words and illusions rather than in the production of anything real. You are just required to believe the polished narratives they have perfected. For of course, money and words (sacred or otherwise) cannot directly create anything tangible. Even in the case of the investment of money, when it is not actually a fictional capitalised amount, the return of the amount loaned and the interest on it has to come from the financial or productive activities of someone else. The links between lenders, borrowers and reality may be intentionally obscure, but somewhere along the chain of transactions the value of the loan plus added interest is returned via the transformational application of human skills and labour to some form of valuable and tangible production.

Since money can only buy ‘things’ it can never be anything other than a claim on tangible forms of wealth. The financial sector is solely dedicated to amassing such claims whilst producing nothing tangible itself.

The origin of interest or profits on investment, is nothing more than a deducted portion of the monetised surplus-value created during capitalist production, which is passed along a chain of interconnected obligations back to the lender. The basis of this process, which rests upon productive-capital, is therefore ultimately the labour-power and spending power of working people. But Rishi and his ilk emanating from this sector haven’t understood this yet. They seem to think that financial manipulations are self-sustaining and more important than (and independent of) ordinary working people. But under capitalism no amount of money is of any use if there are few things to buy, and many things cannot be bought if not enough people have enough money to purchase them.

The capitalist system is built on production and profit from sales of commodities and services, not purely from finance.  The recurring contradiction between gross production and gross consumption is the unsolvable problem faced by the supporters of the capitalist mode of production. A post 1950’s solution has been frequently sought by governments and the finance sector which involves creating more purchasing power by extending credit and creating more currency. But credit only delays the need to pay and creating more currency only devalues the currency which then appears as price inflation leading to less purchases and austerity And neither solution solves the real problem.

Those finance sector participants who only understand the benefits of their economic system and not its problems, then focus on getting inflation down which continues a spiral of recessions which they and their governments have caused in the first place.

The vast amounts of monetary wealth and influence accumulated over many decades and controlled by it has made the Finance-Capital sector so rich and powerful that this wealth and power frequently comes to their aid. Finance capital not only influences industry and commerce now but also national governments. The ability of the finance-capital sector (banking, insurance etc.) to reward favours with grants, lucrative posts and consultancy fees makes it able to promote self-serving changes in government policies. Institutions such as the World Bank, the International Bank of Settlements, and International Monetary Fund are the global instruments of this sector. They and their proxies have conduits of influence reaching deep into industry, politics and governance.

If they are astute enough, they can even influence who is put onto ballot papers and election slates. Lower down the institutional pyramid of finance there are organisations (stock exchanges, Hedge Funds etc.) whose activities are also global. This includes investment possibilities, speculative opportunities and asset stripping manoeuvres. Financial institutions (developed from merchant bank organisations) also originate and circulate financial instruments known as Asset Based Securities (ABS’s), Mortgage Based Securities (MBS’s) and Collatoralised Debt Obligations (CDO’s) among others. This is the parasitic world Rishi and his backers are part of and it is the world they will return to when they have finished their present revolving door stint of self-engrandisement and lucrative office filling in government.

It is also the world which is creating the current financial instability and which is helping fund the present ecological destruction and detrimental climate change. The general 2008 financial crisis, triggered as it was by the collapse of the housing mortgage bubble in the USA, revealed the vast international network of financial instruments (ABS’s; MBS’s ; and CDO’S etc.) then (and still) circulating around the globe. Some people in the financial sector then had long suspected a looming problem and kept quiet about it. However, not even the expert regulators of these ‘instruments’, fully understood their complexity, the amount of leverage based upon them, and the magnitude of defaulting when the bubble burst.

The unravelling of financial speculation in 2008 demonstrated that financial crises, don’t remain within that sector. The 2008 crash caused bankruptcies in industry and commerce, redundancies, unemployment, as well as public sector shrinkage and austerity. This is because the ‘finance sector’ is connected to the general commodity and service money circulation system, the private productive-capital sector and the public sector. It is the tail grown so big that it now routinely manages to wag the dog. Any sizeable future crisis in the finance sector will instigate a general economic and social crisis and visa versa. The Finance Capital sector are probably quite pleased that one of their own has grabbed hold of power in the UK. Using this power may help to mitigate any eventual financial backlash and make it easier for them to be bailed out again. Welcome citizens of the UK to the world of Rishi Rich!

Despite their culpability, those in the financial sector were massively bailed out in 2008 and their losses made good or simply written off. This, as much as anything, demonstrated the power and influence of the finance sector over the economic and political classes. The election of Rishi Sunak to Prime Minister in the UK demonstrates this power to influence yet again. Few in the banking and financial sector – including Rishi then and now – thought they had done anything wrong and have continued doing what they did before. Consequently, another financial crisis lies ahead – only it’s timing is uncertain! Meanwhile, that sector carries on granting itself huge bonuses for selling unstable financial instruments, and naive speculators (including pension funds) within ‘the system’ continue to buy them. They also actively peddle political promises through their agents in the political sphere of capitalism and hope that we buy into those.

Roy Ratcliffe (November 2022)

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CLASS TRIUMPHS OVER ETHNICITY?

The election of a dark skinned male immigrant, Rishi Sunak to leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister in the UK, follows the slightly earlier ascension of a pale skinned son of a former immigrant family, Charles Windsor (formerly Sax-Coburg) to leader of the UK’s royal household. October 2022 appears to some to be a moment of modern egalitarian fairness, but of course it is not. Both families, originating outside of the country and now occupying the two top positions of power and wealth in the United Kingdom, are also among the richest men residing within the borders of this tiny Island in the North Sea. Class has triumphed over ethnic origins yet again, as it did during the colonial period.

The Conservative Party, long the political wing of the British establishment elites who made Britain ‘great’ (sic) on the backs of centuries of dark-skinned slavery from Africa and the ruination of the masses on the Indian sub continent, has apparently – in the form of its MP’s – turned over a new leaf. Or has it? Patriarchy and class have long remained the defining features of exploitation and oppression and Charles and Richi demonstrate that it still does. For all wealth ultimately accrues from the, labour, taxes, rents or purchases expended by ordinary people no matter by what convoluted or hidden route the wealth finds it’s way into the pockets of the rich and super-rich.

And of course, despite the deliberately distracting gloss of elite propaganda, ordinary people have been gradually impoverished during the very same years as Rishi’s family and Charles’ family have gradually become steadily richer. Moreover, if one followed the partly hidden or disguised income streams of these two families, (from profits, rents and purchases) it would reveal a definite economic connection between the two extreme outcomes of extreme poverty and extreme wealth.

The question outstanding is this; will the membership of the Conservative Party and the general population of the UK be as reconciled to the sudden ascendancy of these two upper class myopic parasites as are a majority of the Tory MPs? After all the general population are not trying to keep their seats in Parliament nor hoping for a royal medal or appointment. My guess is that they will not. Indeed, given the nature of elite directed UK education where the issues of class have been painted out of the narrative on poverty (as it has in all European countries), whilst the invention of race in past justification for ‘empire building’ has still not been rooted out in some sections of society. Indeed, residual racism (along with sexism) is still firmly lodged in many individual brains and its associated attitudes are still institutionally entrenched in many organisations.

This inheritance track of patriarchy, empire and poverty has for decades been causing recurring problems and divisions among many of the poor and oppressed, most of whom have not yet fully understood the main source of their problems. In fact it is the existence of class structures and class rule that makes people all over the globe poor and oppressed not the colour of a person’s skin or the their gender. But by having a lack of understanding people can be prone to the misdirection of their anger onto other victims of the system rather than on the real perpetrators. I therefore suggest in the coming period (even before any new election) there will be a hidden or sometimes open anger based upon Sunnak’s ethnicity rather than his class position and that the ones targeted by that anger will be members of the working class who share the same ethnicity.

In previous decades, dark-skinned working people have been frequently scapegoated by pale-skinned racists for existential problems and there is now a growing tendency for pale – skinned working people to be scapegoated by darker skinned working people for their continued existential problems. So the problems facing working people in the coming period remain essentially the same but now even more care must be taken to raise the class nature of the problems facing humanity at every opportunity. Activist’s should not be suckered into blaming social problems on ethnicity or gender and omitting or blurring the glaring social and economic distinctions based on class.

In this sense the social ascendancy in 2022 of Charles and Richi as two of the UK’s richest men promoted to the pinnacle of the English establishment is the most glaring and naked example of the maneuvering that elite class rule is prepared to undergo to maintain its position of wealth and domination.

Roy Ratcliffe (October 2022)

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UK: TORIES AT WAR – AGAIN!

It is tempting this month to just pour scorn on the debacle that continues to spiral downward among the governing British Conservative Party, but that would be to miss a more important dimension to the events here and elsewhere. The ridiculous coming and going of Chancellors and Prime Ministers in quick succession is actually only a surface political phenomenon in 2022. Of course, the new ‘behind the scenes’ wars and open scuffles between elements of the Tory New Guard, are not at all like the ones during the 1960’s to 2, 000’s, that the Tory Old Guard used to quietly manage resignations and demotions over whisky at a Gentleman’s Club. Many of these Old Guard, one-nation Tories had a slight modicum of concern for the poor and downtrodden.

But that was a post Second World War, one-nation Tory and Labour sensibility, which the New Guard, upstarts lack. So, this new generation of college groomed conservatives (financial and career politicians) have worked their way into the Conservative Party in order to jump the queue for lucrative government posts. Coming well after the old guard had retired, these subsequent young Tories do not have the cultured patience to wait their turn at the golden ‘trough’ nor the sensitivity to resign if they are exposed as being incompetent or corrupt. Just remember Cameron’s reluctance to resign over his Brexit miscalculations, May’s reluctance over her failed Brexit negotiations, Boris’s reluctance to resign over Party Gate fiascos and Lizzi’s reluctance to leave office over recent crippling Mortgage Rate rises. All four (and a few lesser incumbents – such as Cummings and Kwasi) had to be levered for days or weeks out of office by their own Conservative Party colleagues. These New Guard Tories clearly have no shame and have to be practically bulldozed away from their stipends at number 10.

Furthermore, these Tory Downing Street upstarts are the mirror image of the other new guard upstarts in control of the privatised utilities, such as electricity, gas, water, petroleum, telephones and big-businesses such as tech firms, banks, footballers, comedians, musicians, TV and film celebrities with their tax evading foreign accounts. Greedy revolving door bankers in financial institutions in particular also have direct and indirect power over politicians. All these new-generation high-paid, pro-capitalist grasper’s are shameless citizens, who have little or no regard for the ‘dire straits’ of those ‘left behind’ in the wake of their neo-liberal profit-making and advantage-taking. With millions or billions stashed away, increased food and housing costs are no inconvenience to such obscenely greedy people. Unsurprisingly, these same citizens display no serious regard or shame for the huge carbon footprint their bloated life styles stamp on the planet everywhere they land, take off or take root.

The Tory Party is now split between a few new guard upstart personality based factions, the remnants of the one-nation groupies and the new Red Wall Tories occupying former Labour seats. Over the last few months all three or four shifting alliances of Conservatives have openly demonstrated that their prime concern has been with their own personal futures either with regard to access to government posts or with the safety of their own seats in Parliament. They have not even tried to pretend that their prime concern was for the welfare of the country as a whole or to ensure that all the low paid public and private paid workers have enough to feed, house and keep themselves warm into the next decade or so. Nor have they tried, on behalf of the younger generation, to put in place socio-economic adjustments in order to reduce carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions. Maintaining humane standards of social and hospital care are also clearly the last thing on their minds. With an 80 seat majority, personal advantage overwhelmingly in mind and untroubled by guilt or shame, the Tory MP’s can keep this leadership farce going as long as they like.

Sadly, none of the other political parties in the UK seem to have bothered to address these important issues comprehensively either. The British Labour Party, who are joyfully making the most of the Tory debacle, are still not outlining in any detail how they would even maintain a moderate standard of living for all citizens, let alone an improved one for the most desperate. After the previous New Labour ‘stable governments’ of Blair and Brown, Starmer (the knight in tarnished Armour) promise this week to bring a ‘stable government’ to the UK, may not seem very enticing to those with a memory recalling dodgy documents and the Labour endorsed Putin-like war on Iraq. The Greens and the Liberals, lack the personnel to create a government by themselves so if successful in any election would need to compromise with any other party which did not have an overwhelming majority.

In any case, any new government in future, will experience the financial power lurking behind the so-called sovereignty of Parliament. As the last weeks or so have emphasised it is the global financial sector, who pull the strings, or push the rods connected directly or indirectly to the hands and wallets of all politicians. This financial ‘influence’ is exerted whether politicians are in or out of Parliament, Congress or any other seat of representation. Any political movement or party not prepared to campaign for taking on and restricting the power and influence of this sector of capitalism, will be hog tied and helpless. Not one of the contenders for political power in the UK (or elsewhere as far as I can judge) have even discussed whether the financial sector should be brought under social control, let alone how to achieve this. Consequently, if elected, they (and the rest of us) will still be subject to the whims and needs of the lords of mammon.

Thankfully, a new generation of young citizens, in the UK, Europe, Iran, America, India and elsewhere, have also emerged who are already active in supporting struggles against racial and gender prejudice and for human rights, animal rights and the right to clean air, clean water and unpolluted land for every geographical part of life on earth. I offer them an important paragraph or two of warning that they will definitely not hear from the mainstream media. This concerns the social, economic, climate and ecological crises maturing within the global economy and which is heading toward us like a succession of unstoppable tsunamis. It is important to remember that whether during boom, recession or slump, large-scale societies need a high degree of discipline to allow their extensive divisions of labour to be integrated fully and to function effectively.

Moreover, whilst mass societies exist, that level of discipline can only be achieved in one of two ways. A: By voluntary discipline; in which case the socio-economic distribution of goods and services needs to be fair enough to satisfy every citizen and worker to be supportive of it. If that condition for voluntary support is lacking, then discipline will need to be attained by; B: Force; in which case an authoritarian regime, with an armed enforcement agency will be employed to ensure the needed socio-economic discipline. This latter situation has happened many times before during times of war or extreme crisis and it has always ended with large-scale tragic and inhumane results.

So young people, do support the outspoken campaigns for a general increased level of socio-economic fairness and justice for humanity alongside your other important single issue campaigns. The former are important for their own sake. However, such general campaigns are also important to create the preconditions for resisting and also transcending any future tendencies among any elites and their supporters (left, right or centre) to institute authoritarian solutions to the coming economic, social, ecological and climate crises.

Roy Ratcliffe (October 2022)

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QUASI (and KWASI) GOVERNMENTS.

Well, Kwasi Kwarteng, the latest Chancellor of the Exchequer of the latest ‘quasi’ UK government, did not last very long did he? By the way, I am using the term ‘quasi’ in the normal manner used in dictionaries; to describe something that vaguely ‘resembles what it is supposed to be, but actually it is not’. This has been an apt description of UK governments for decades.

The governments of Thatcher, Blair, Brown, Cameron, May, Johnson and now Truss have all tried to convince the people of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that they were governing for all of our citizens, when in fact they were not. Pretending to be a government for all whilst actually being a government for a particular class, is thus nothing new. It has been the general posture for UK (and other) governments since soon after the end of the Second World War.

However, this latest pretense, by the Liz and Kwasi duo has been nakedly exposed far quicker than was the case for previous UK governments. Boris spent months denying reality (party gate, Brexit problems) not days. The very radical measures the Kwasi duo proposed to enrich the rich have backfired spectacularly. The proposals caused the gnomes in the financial markets to hedge their investments by pushing up the borrowing costs in various areas of financial investment.

The radical ‘vision’ the Liz and Kwasi team were pursuing was one which they hoped would solve the long term problem of social inequality and economic instability within all neo-liberal democracies. In real terms, the poor are generally getting poorer, the taxes paid by the working and lower middle classes are falling in real terms along with their wages and salaries. At the same time, the demands and costs on the state for tax funded benefits are rising. There is an obvious long term fiscal gap.

So the ill thought out class-based solution to such wealth inequality – by this less than dynamic duo – was to try to promote economic growth, rather than promote wealth redistribution. Their quasi, Kwasi strategy was to increase the incentives for capitalists to invest in UK production and thus increase UK employment. They convinced each other that the fulfillment of this shared ‘vision’ of high growth would result in increased tax revenue and reduced benefits payments. In their fertile  ‘imagination’ this in turn would reduce the government borrowing costs and lower the so-called fiscal deficit. The trouble was that very few – if any – in the finance markets (particularly the bond markets) believed this ‘vision’ was anything other than a fantasy and so this sector bumped up the borrowing costs for government and everyone else.

The subsequent bond rate hike not only increased the mortgage payments for existing house owners and new house purchasers, (and for other loans, businesses etc.) but also threatened to destabilise the private pension fund industry. For these latter institutions borrow and lend their pension holders savings on the world financial markets in order to increase their funds, whilst ‘earning’ (?) admin fees and expenses. The governments main banker, the Bank of England stepped in and bought some bonds to temporarily reassure the nervous bond holders these assets would be OK, but refused to continue to do so beyond Friday 14th October.

The result was the reluctant government U turns on its so-called mini- budget items and now the sacking of quasi chancellor Kwasi on that very last day. However the damage the visionaries had already caused was irreversible and no matter what happens now, (U – turns or even somersaults), ordinary peoples lives in the UK will quickly get worse. The accelerated process the ‘gang of two’ started is already working its way around the global financial system and will return to the UK in the form of higher costs of living, possible pension losses and further cuts in public services.

Interestingly, I predict that what will be overlooked in all the current chaos, back-biting, recriminations and media blah, blah, blah, is a crucially important fact. It is that once again, as with the Gnomes of Zurich episode, the EEC exchange mechanism fiasco, the 2008 financial collapse, the influencer’s behind the Brexit referendum and this kick in the stomach for Kwasi and slap in the face for a now bemused looking Lizzi, the financial sector in modern capitalist societies can effectively manipulate governments. The dominance of the global finance sector over political, economic and social affairs enables it to influence and even determine social policies despite the intentions of any government, left right or centre.

The efforts of any future government, Labour, Liberal or Green, – or their equivalents in any country – which does not successfully take on and reduce the absolute and relative power of the financial sector will be deflected, damaged or destroyed by it. Those who promote the idea of campaigning for alternative governments rather than alternative economic systems either have not understood the depth and breadth of the crisis the present system is in or are deliberately misleading their fellow citizens.

First of all, sustained growth is currently impossible because this system based upon capitalism already has a global crisis of relative overproduction. There is already too much global productive capacity for those who can globally afford to buy it. That is why there is a global recession. Secondly, even if that was not the case, future high growth would still be undesirable.

This is because the source of all economic activity, the natural rhythm of the planet; its climate, its ecology, its rainfall and sunshine patterns, its natural method of insect pollination, its water, air and soil quality and its reliance upon many key species to keep the system of nature in balance, have all been substantially undermined by decades of profit-driven growth. In the 21st century, the only rational medium to long term solution for humanity to work toward – in any country – is obvious. It is to switch to a socio-economic system of equitable and sustainable subsistence production.

Further decades of continuous economic growth is neither possible or sustainable. The world needs a system where human satisfaction and pleasure comes from social and community well-being and from saving and nurturing the quality and quantity of all ‘life on earth’. Whereas, working to gain satisfaction from achieving power over others and amassing the greatest possible accumulation of individual wealth is a recipe for even greater social antagonisms and further extinctions.

Roy Ratcliffe (October 2022)

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WOMENS’ RIGHTS IN IRAN.

I hope, that the courageous young women and men who have begun to valiantly rebel against the authoritarian male dominated regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran have started to realise that male control over women is no different in essence whether it wears a religious form of clothing, a military uniform or a business suit. Whether, the males in power, read, the Torah, the New Testament, the Qu’ran, the Business News, the Police Gazette, the Musical Express, Hollywood Gossip journals or Military Manuals, male culture is about extreme control, particularly, (but not exclusively), of women. Putting a different set of men in power changes nothing as was glaringly discovered not long ago in Egypt.

The continuing street protests in Iran have been triggered by the death in custody of young women who have quite rightly asserted their rights as human beings to dress and act how they see fit, not how some wealthy, influential or dogmatic male elite dictate. Young women in Iran, as everywhere, are quite capable of making sensible decisions on issues concerning themselves. Their struggle there and elsewhere should be supported. Let us hope they are soon successful in being rid of the so-called morality brigades. However, I suggest this frustration and anger with how young women are being treated by those in power in Iran goes much deeper and wider than simply over keeping their hair covered.

Patriarchy in its various inhumane guises, from Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Israel, Turkey, Yemen, Russia, China, Europe, Africa, America, Asia or the global South has also no idea how to solve the many basic economic, social and climate problems facing humanity. Indeed, I suggest the protests in Iran are best viewed as part of a long-running, global feeling of oppression, exploitation and disrespect, which keeps on surfacing. It has done so in the Arab Spring Uprisings, the Yellow Vest disturbances, the Me Too movement, the Anti-Vax protests etc. and the current organised workers strikes here in the UK.

The situation now facing humanity transcends purely local and national boundaries; there is an ascending spiral of authoritarian administered inhumanity and crisis around the planet. The current economic systems are not only globally failing to maintain the health of the planet but failing everybody outside of the ruling elites and a few fortunate families. The only reflex that elite males around the globe have left to jerk them into action is to utilise the Dark Side power of their armed police and military to control their citizens. Beating citizens into passive submission whenever they protest is now standard operating procedure for regimes everywhere. Thus it is not the type of men (or women) in charge that needs changing, but the entire system which allows such symptoms to persist.

The Bright Side of humanity is the spirit of solidarity and mutual support ordinary people can give each other in the coming struggles. Beating people into submission will no longer work, because the stakes are much too high and much too global. Humanity faces an existential crisis for which the nihilistic brutality being simultaneously unleashed upon Ukraine by Putin’s mob and the young women of Iran by its gang of Clerics are terrible precursors of elite culpability, but the growing resistance to this elite domination and destruction of nature and of people is also a precursor of better things to come.

It is possible to be cautiously optimistic  because the historical record indicates that elites frequently direct the socio-economic system they are in control of into a cul-de-sac which is both damaging and destructive to a majority of those living within it. And at that point (and beyond), a struggle begins between those who control the system (crudely the rich) and those who are suffering from it (crudely the poor). We are beyond that point. Global humanity is now stuck in such a literal as well as metaphorical dead end and the pressure for change is building up.

In previous periods of history, such struggles between rich and poor, took place within particular countries because the main means of production and consumption were located within each separate country so the struggle was mostly resolved there. Those in previous generations who lived by exploiting Slaves and Serfs (the rich) were fought against by the poor and their supporters. Therefore, those previous forms of enforced poverty, oppression and exploitation were ended in different countries at different times.

This time the socio-economic system is global and the struggle is between those who live only by working precariously (when they can) and those who can live without ever working. That is to say the struggle is once again between the rich and the poor but this time it is not only the majority of people that are being economically, physically or emotionally damaged by the current mode of production. Indeed, many are also dying in wars of annexation or between rival elites, or from  floods, fires and from lack of even the basic means to live.

This epoch the struggle is also radically different because the air, the climate, the water, the land, the trees, the insects, the birds and the animals are also being seriously damaged and even destroyed by the same elite controlled economic system. This list of sufferers are not just abstract entities, but the very mineral and organic foundations of all forms of life on earth. So the struggles against female oppression in Iran and everywhere, as the struggle against racism everywhere, needs to become part of the struggle between rich and poor everywhere and not just against inhumane things but for a healthy planet.

For humanity to survive humanely, the 21st struggle for human rights now needs to include rights for all human beings; female, male, dark skinned, light skinned and all the earths life forms from Aphids to Zebra. This struggle for humanity to become what it can become if it acts as a fully cooperating species, rather than as groups or gangs of ruthless cut throat competitors, begins exactly where we are – and it begins now! However, we should not forget that it also exists where we are not and all these other struggles need at least our intellectual if not practical support.

We also need to constantly remember that such revolutionary struggles now also needs to be on behalf of every living thing that has contributed to life on this amazing blue dot situated in the midst of a vast spiral galaxy.

Roy Ratcliffe (October 2022)

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MAD, BAD & DANGEROUS.

As a description of a political leadership in the 21st century, the above title could be applied to the leaders of any number of countries addicted to the capitalist mode of production. Trump, Bolsonaro, Erdogan, Assad, bin Salmon, Putin or any number of other global southern leaders spring to mind. However, this week (3 March 2022) it was used by Martin Wolf to describe Liz Truss Kwasi Kwarteng and the latest gang of incompetent UK cabinet members. I have often heard the expression that ‘a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing’, particularly when it is in the minds of arrogant persons. This is because they often think their partial understanding gives them more wisdom than the average person. This danger has been evident for a long time within the British political class in general and among the last few Tory governments in particular,. However, this last week or so it has surfaced with a vengeance.

Nevertheless, although these particular elite representatives of humanity are certainly dangerous and perhaps bad, it is not actually madness that is being displayed by all the above named characters. It is the perceived class interests of the global rich which have clashed with the general interests of the rest of their populations. Historically all ruling elites have had to present their own particular interests as the same as the interests of the general population. In most cases they are definitely not. In the case of the UK this autumn, these interests have clashed sharply and crudely.

The new Tory gang of two were true to their class agenda in deciding to enrich the already super rich by cutting their tax burdens and letting them pay themselves as much as they see fit. However, being superficial dabblers the Liz/Kwasi crew did not foresee the repercussions of interest rate increases and the knock on effect of increased mortgage rates and payments. This decision then became a below-the-belt blow to the middle class mortgage holders in general and in particular those who are also Tory voters. In this case, the interests of the rich clashed too openly and savagely with the interests of the British middle class. Although, they have now done a mini ‘U’ turn on their supposedly mini budget, this will, not be enough to regain any misplaced trust they had within their own party, nor will it regain any misplaced trust the general public had in Tory governments. This particular conservative coterie from the UK ruling elite are dead politically even though like zombies they still haunt the corridors of UK power.

Their replacements whether from the left, right or centre, will fare no better for the little bits of socio-economic knowledge, spread – ever so thinly – across all the political spectrums of the capitalist mode of production globally, is insufficient for them to comprehend that the old/new game is up. The post Second World War political settlement of welfare capitalism in the west, has foundered on its own neo-liberal successes. In the UK Thatcher, with her privatise everything, delayed the inevitable by successfully representing the interests of the rich as being the same as the middle and working classes. British workers being allowed to buy their council houses and shares in privatised gas, electricity and water etc., made it appear that capitalism provided benefits for all. That short-lived mirage created by the pillaging of publicly created utilities, is now over. For decades, an inevitable rift has been growing between the interests of the rich and the increasingly impoverished majority made up of the working classes and the lower middle classes.

In addition, the new Liz/Kwasi gig (plus supporting tribute acts) think they are fooling the people with handing out cheques to help with fuel bills. In fact this money is going directly into the pockets of the beneficiaries of the private utility companies. All the help given to the poor and struggling (as with Covid payments) is actually on its way to help boost the incomes and profits of the already rich. In this way, working people, even when not working, are being cynically turned into rent collecting relay agents for passing on more public wealth to the already obscenely wealthy.

Meanwhile, the current global end-game – as long as it lasts – will be in the form of occasional sporadic growth in production and productivity where fewer and fewer workers will be capable of, but not able to produce more and more goods and services for which there will be fewer and fewer buyers. The super rich already have as many homes, planes, cars, and yachts as they need and are not going to buy more just to employ working people nor will they employ enough ‘domestics’ to compensate for all existing redundancies and those still to come. In many so-called ‘advanced’ countries the working poor and the non-working poor are already stood in long food bank queues and clutching hot water bottles at home to keep warm. Even those in low paid employment will not be eyeing up non essential goods of utility let alone those of relative luxury.

Although the rich and super rich stupidly think they are wonderfully successful when in fact – by their conspicuous consumption – they are actually more than just helping to ruin the planet, they are celebrating and encouraging it! Nevertheless, they are not so stupid as to invest in production ‘growth’, when there is no general economic basis for it. Even during capitalist determined slumps, there will always be a need for considerable economic activity to feed, house and clothe population majorities and this activity may fool those easily fooled (such as those in number ten) but not everyone. For a near subsistence level of economic activity is not the same as capitalist inspired ‘growth’, which requires substantial profits as its motive for production.

Furthermore, modern profit based production methods no longer need huge factories, massive office blocks, numerous docks and mines, thousands of small, farms – all staffed by hundreds and thousands of working people. So the employment numbers game has also changed in this regards also. There may be a few occasional hot spots of economic growth here and there in the future, but with the world in general facing air, land and water pollution, floods, fires, wars, terrorist attacks, extreme climate events, shortages in food, energy and redundant jobs, most people will be hunkering down and when not protesting will, where possible, do their best to just survive.

That most people are at least dimly aware that the post-war, welfare-state game of monopoly capital has changed was evidenced this week here in the UK. Some rich people publicly spoke out saying they did not need or want more tax breaks and that more should be spent on the poor. No doubt some of those along with their more astute political representatives are aware that close to starving people are capable of uprisings and rebellions when things get too bad. So the former may suggest accepting some reforms in order to avoid civil disorder and/or potential revolution.

But here again it is no longer about the banker dishing out more money and the rest of us throwing the dice in an attempt to buy houses and hotels to rent them out for a parasitic income. The monopoly board we are now being invited to play on has itself changed. The economic system is in existential crisis and the ecological imbalance and pollution of the planet means that more and more people are finding themselves stuck in places of deprivation and devastation not places of opportunity.

Roy Ratcliffe (October 2022)

 

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