Sunday, 20 April 2008

The fascist pope

Some years ago when I was a student at 'red' Essex University I went to a lecture by a member of the Maoist Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso). The Shining Path is the popular name for the Communist Party of Peru. He told us about the Party, and the forthcoming revolution in Peru, and informed us proudly that during a recent papal visit they had "defeated the fascist pope".

Looking back this seems almost like another lifetime although it was only 25 years ago. The great thing about Essex University at that time was its internationalism and its radicalism. There were a large number of foreign students and as a result I met people from all over the world, many of whom would have been in great danger in their own countries had they expressed the views they were able to express at Essex. We also had speakers from all over the globe. We had fierce debates about international politics. One in particular that sticks in my mind, about the IRA and a united Ireland, took place in the large lecture theatre. It was attended by about 1000 students, with people crammed on the steps, not bad in a University with just over 3000 undergraduate students! What has happened now to all that passion and energy?

Anyway I digress. I was talking about the fascist Pope, and of course I was reminded of that talk by a member of the Shining Path, by Pope Benedict's visit to the USA. The Pope, formerly known a Joseph Ratzinger, was a fascist - in fact he was a Nazi. No doubt he will claim that he was a young lad and forced to join the Hitler Youth - but did he have to? Did everybody then? I wonder.

Even if young Joseph was a reluctant fascist he has certainly made up for it by becoming a consummate reactionary and hypocrite. Witness his recent comments in the US where he tried to blame the huge US catholic priest paedophile scandal on American society, thus absolving the Catholic Church of blame. How the Americans took this insult I'm not sure. I think it is much more likely that the culture of the Catholic Church is to blame for this scandal. After all enforced chastity, sexual repression, secrecy, and hatred of homosexuality are all features of Catholicism.

And then there's the fact that the Catholic Church has a long track record of giving aid and succor to fascists. They have supported Mussolini in Italy, Hitler in Germany and Franco in Spain. Other fascist movements around the world, including France and Ireland, have had intimate connections with the Catholic Church.

In 1939 Pope Pius XII wrote an infamous letter to Berlin:

"To the Illustrious Adolf Hitler, Fuhrer and Chancellor of the Germain Reich! Here at the beginning of our Pontificate We wish to assure you that We remain devoted to the spiritual welfare of the German people entrusted to your leadership........"

The many connections between Catholicism and fascism are well documented in Christopher Hitchen's excellent book God is Not Great. What Pope Benedict reminds us is that since 1939 not a lot has changed........

Mr 10%

Gordon's at it again - bashing the poor..........

Here are the headlines from the 8th April on the BBC:-

"Ministers are coming under increasing pressure to rethink scrapping the lowest 10p rate of income tax, amid warnings it will hurt low earners.

The Commons Treasury committee said childless single people earning under £18,500 would lose up to £232 a year.

Some 73 Labour MPs have signed motions expressing concerns, among them David Hamilton, MP for Midlothian, who warned Gordon Brown could face a rebellion.

Treasury Minister Jane Kennedy said the government would not reverse the move.

She told the BBC's Newsnight programme: "I can't see us reversing this tax change at all."

This tax change was introduced by Gordon himself, when he was chancellor, in last years budget, to cheers from New Labour backbenchers. Now those same backbenchers are threatening to vote the measure down - which is odd because they had an opportunity when the budget was introduced - so why didn't they take it then?

What Gordon's change shows is that New Labour have now totally abandoned their traditional supporters in the working class. Yet another betrayal in the long years of betrayal from a New Labour government.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

The great renewable energy swiz

Are you, like me, one of many people in the UK who would like to generate electricity in your own home? We now have the technology to generate energy locally by means of solar panels and wind turbines and the technology is improving all the time. The government is committed to having 15% of the UK's energy needs fulfilled by renewables by 2020 - so you would think that they'd be working hard to help people like you and me move into renewable energy. Not so. The New Labour government seems to be trying to do its best to strangle the UK renewables industry.

Why is this happening? New Labour is tied firmly to its friends in big business and that includes the energy companies. In addition, New Labour has fallen hook, line and sinker for the mythology of nuclear power. BERR (the Department of Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform) is pretty much owned by the nuclear lobby, just as the old MAFF was controlled by the pesticide companies and agribusinesses.

The last thing these people want is for you and I to be able to generate our own power when we could be paying exorbitant bills to them so that they can generate big profits. So now we find ourselves in the absurd position that, while countries like Germany are pressing ahead with relatively massive development in renewables, we are just scratching the surface. This is another one of the growing list of reasons why New labour are going to lose the next general election.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Hoist with his own petard

There has been a certain amount of hand wringing recently in the commons and the political press about Gordon Brown. We are told that Gordon needs to do something to revive the flagging fortunes of New Labour. And that after showing signs of toning down unpopular Blairite 'reforms' its now full steam ahead with the Blairite 'reform' agenda.

But Gordon has no room for manouvre. He was the co-architect of New Labour which essentially is about following a reactionary right wing free market agenda. Labour is no longer a party of the centre-left or even the centre. It is a party of the centre-right. Even some Labour MPs seem not to have grasped this yet.

So where is there for Gordon to go? He has nailed his colours firmly to the mast of big business and the CBI. But there lies his problem - for no matter what he does to appease New Labour's pals and paymasters they will never be satisfied. Hence the recent climb-down by Alastair darling on non-domicile taxation. The CBI know that if Gordon won't deliver for them the Tories will anyway - so they can continue to put the boot in with impunity. All Gordon can do is squirm - all the way to defeat at the next general election.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Welcome to post-democratic Britain

We are living in a post-democratic society. Of course we still have elections, in the same way that we have had for a century or so. But the important fact is that those elections can't change anything - not anything that really matters anyway. Over the past 20 years or so - lets say since the demise of the Soviet Union - big business and its political allies and servants have been working on a giant stitch-up.

At the heart of the stitch-up is the European Union which we were always told was designed for our social and economic benefit. But more than anything else the EU is here to further the political and economic wishes of big business. As a result the EU has adopted a neoliberal economic agenda which benefits businesses and the rich at the expense of communities and working people. When I say 'economic agenda' this is really a right-wing free market political agenda. But the agenda is never pursued openly and is always disguised as 'reform'.

The agenda is bolstered in the EU by a series of directives which promote (nay require) privatisation of public services - why do you think you are losing your post office? But the point, as far as UK democracy is concerned, is that because this legislation has been adopted at an EU level - it cannot be undone at a UK level. This means that even if a UK government were elected with the objective of preserving post offices as a vital public service - it would be unable to do so.

Add to this the fact that all three main political parties have also succumbed to neoliberal economics and you have a situation which means that nothing can change - hence the end of democracy, other than a form of window dressing which helps to give a veneer of legitimacy to the ongoing stitch-up.

The point about these changes is that they have been brought about dishonestly. People in Europe have never been asked - 'Do you want privatisation of public services?' - that is because they would have answered with a resounding 'NO!'. Hence we are offered 'choice' instead. Ministers talk about the 'independent sector' in relation to the NHS because they dare not mention the words 'private sector'. This is all part of the culture of deception.

One day soon we are going to wake up and find that we are paying an awful lot more for services which deliver less for us. Those services will no longer be designed to help us. They will there to make profits for the big corporations that run them. We will be reduced to the status of mere customers rather than citizens entitled to receive medical treatment (for example).

If we want to stop this from happening we are going to have to start getting very bolshy about the what is happening, we are going to have to get politically active and we are going to have to re-capture or replace the Labour Party. The sooner the fightback starts the better because the going is getting tougher all the time. Get involved!