BBC News – Newsnight – Capitalism ‘nothing to do with responsibility’

Definitely worth watching from a great historian.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said the UK must “build a better economy” that is fair and worthwhile.

Deputy PM Nick Clegg and Labour leader Ed Miliband have also made speeches on the faults of unrestrained free markets.

But, the Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm told Newsnight’s Jeremy Paxman that capitalism was concerned only with growth and making profit, not responsibility.

via BBC News – Newsnight – Capitalism ‘nothing to do with responsibility’.

Socialism isn’t dead because it was never alive

Berlin WallThe 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall has been a poignant reminder of how seemingly indestructible tyrannical power can be overthrown by popular movements peacefully. It’s also given liberal commentators the chance to “remind” us all of how “unworkable” socialism is. A prime example was a recent BBC phone-in held by Nicky Campbell on the question of “Is socialism dead?“.

It’s typical of the mainstream media to frame the issue in this way. It is unimaginable for example that the BBC would ask the question “Has corporate capitalism failed?” or even “Has liberal democracy failed?”. The debate was at least a fairly open one with many people pointing to the absurdity of the original premise. The question Campbell should have been asking wasn’t whether socialism was dead or not. It should have been, “Why hasn’t socialism been realised yet?”.

The collapse of communism is frequently cited by liberal commentators and the right as “proof” that socialism doesn’t work. But you don’t have to be a political scientist to see that communism had absolutely nothing to do with socialism. Whichever particular brand of socialism you believe in, two of the most fundamental characteristics of a truly socialist system are worker control of the means of production and redistribution of wealth. The communist system had absolutely none of this. The East German system was – like corporate-capitalism in fact – run by a greedy elite who espoused socialist principles of solidarity and equality but practiced none of them. In reality, East German state-communism had more in common with corporate-capitalism than socialism.

The fall of the Berlin Wall was a victory for a brutally oppressed people against a totalitarian regime. By helping remove the fraud of communist “socialism” from the world map, it was one of the biggest victories of the 20th Century for those who believe in genuine socialism.

A financial coup d’état

That’s not the opinion of some left-wing loony. It’s the opinion of Democratic congresswoman Marcy Kaptur who says Wall Street has effectively taken over the US Congress and Federal Reserve. An excellent interview here on Bill Moyers with her and former IMF Economic Chief Simon Johnson (hardly Marxists either of them).

BILL MOYERS: So, Simon, what happens now? If we’re going to avert a depression and the next calamity, what needs to be done?

SIMON JOHNSON: Well, I think you have to keep at it, Bill. I mean, that’s the lesson from previous generations of Americans, who have really confronted entrenched power like this. You have to keep at it. And you mustn’t be satisfied. When the Administration says, ‘Okay, we fixed it. Don’t worry. We did some technical tweaking on capital requirements, for example, in the banks.’ You have to say, ‘No, that’s not true. Let’s look at what’s happening, let’s follow it through.’

The smaller they are the bigger they fall

In times of crisis there are always winners and losers and the financial crisis has been a triumph for a big business. For small businesses however, it has been a disaster as this BBC report illustrates. It shows how small business owners in the USA are now being denied credit by banks and even having existing agreements withdrawn. Large corporations on the other hand continue to borrow at will and as we’ve seen with the bailouts, even receive huge handouts from the Government.

I listened to a retrospective on the BSE (mad cows disease) crisis last week and one of the points that came out was that it was wonderful for large farming conglomerates. The collapse in the market for British Beef devastated small farmers in the UK, most either going bankrupt or committing suicide.

Such crisis help big business flush out small competitors and leave consumers at the mercy of a handful of corporate giants who reap even greater profits in the aftermath and reduce both commercial diversity and choice for the consumer.

The legacy of the financial crisis will be concentration of financial power in an even smaller number of hands.

Capitalism: A Love Story review

The Guardian today reviewed Michael Moore’s latest film “Capitalism: A Love Story” premiered at the Venice film festival and gave it 4 stars. Sounds like a return to form for Moore although I think his last film “Sicko” was also pretty good, if a little sluggish in places. I’m glad to hear from the review that Moore points out that Goldman Sachs – one of the biggest culprits he identifies for the financial crisis – was Obama’s biggest private sponsor during the election.

Plane crazy

One thing you hear American politicians and businessmen talking about is “free trade”. What they actually mean is “free trade – as long as it doesn’t compete with us.” To make sure that this principle is applied, they’ve taken over organizations such as the World Trade Organization to get their way. Oh, and they might occasionally blow-up your country – with or without the UN.

A perfect illustration of this is The World Trade Organization (WTO) decision to rule that the European Union has broken the law by subsidizing Airbus to develop the next generation of airliners. But it’s perfectly OK for Boeing to receive subsidies from the American Government.

The “war of necessity” over a pipeline

TAPI Pipeline route

TAPI Pipeline route

8 years and 64,000 troops from 41 countries later, the Taliban are still going strong in Afghanistan. Just this evening, a car bomb has killed 40 in Kandahar adding to the rapidly growing death toll of  Western soldiers and Afghanis dying in this needless conflict. The Guardian reports that this year, 295 troops have now been killed already this year compared to 294 in the whole of 2008. As is common with the Western media, no mention is made of how many Afghanis may have been killed. Obama is calling it a “war of necessity” and it’s clear that his credo of “change we can believe in” stops squarely when it comes to Afghanistan. He is still espousing the tired justification that those who attacked the USA on 9-11 were trained by the Taliban in Afghanistan and are planning to do so again. In reality, this “war of necessity” is nothing but a war for control of an oil pipeline.

Afghanistan has always been a huge strategic geo-political prize because of it’s proximity to energy producing states in the Gulf and Central Asia. The stakes have been risen even more however by the construction of the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline known as TAPI due to open in 2014. The pipeline will pass through Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

Even the BBC theorized as far back as 2001 that the pipeline was the motivating factor behind the invasion. It suggested:

  • Given the increasing importance of finding and exploiting new sources of fossil fuel, governments like those of the US and the UK are enormously keen to gain influence in the Central Asian region in order to secure those supplies for the West
  • In order to achieve that, and get those energy supplies moving out of Central Asia, they need to set up a pro-western government in Afghanistan.

In typically liberal style however, the BBC concludes that you’re probably insane for believing these theories by stating:

But the argument that these are the main motivations behind US actions, not the desire to stamp out international terrorism, will probably find support mainly among those who already have a fondness for conspiracy theories.

Meanwhile Noam Chomsky’s theory is that the pipeline will remove regional dependence on Iran for oil and thus isolate the country even further – suiting US political motives in the region.

The Americans have coveted the pipeline for quite some time now. US interest in the pipeline stretches back to 1998 when, as Patrick Martin writes:

The Afghanistan pipeline route was pushed by the US-based Unocal oil company, which engaged in intensive negotiations with the Taliban regime. These talks, however, ended in disarray in 1998, as US relations with Afghanistan were inflamed by the bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, for which Osama bin Laden was held responsible. In August 1998, the Clinton administration launched cruise missile attacks on alleged bin Laden training camps in eastern Afghanistan. The US government demanded that the Taliban hand over bin Laden and imposed economic sanctions. The pipeline talks languished.

It’s quite possible that Unicol and the Bush administration saw 9-11 as the perfect opportunity to “settle” this languishing of talks once and for all by simply invading the country. As Michael Hart and Antoni Negri state in their book Empire, “All empires go to war over natural resources”. That’s why its Afghanistan and not New Zealand that’s been pounded with bombs for the last 8 years.