"There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in"
(Leonard Cohen)
"Ignore all proffered rules and create your own, suitable for what you want to say"
(Michael Moorcock)
"Look for your own. Do not do what someone else could do as well as you. Do not say, do not write what someone else could say, could write as well as you. Care for nothing in yourself but what you feel exists nowhere else. And, out of yourself create, impatiently or patiently, the most irreplaceable of beings."
(Andre Gide)
"I want my place, my own place, my true place in the world, my proper sphere, my thing which Nature intended me to perform when she fashioned me thus awry, and which I have vainly sought all my life-time."
(Nathaniel Hawthorne)
“A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.”
(Franz Kafka)
"All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated"
(John Donne)
“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”
(Robert J. Hanlon)
"Life is beautiful, but the world is hell"
(Harold Pinter)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Latin America rebels against war on drugs

Seemingly an insatiable demand in the west
EXTRACT: Communists, however, unambiguously call for the full legalisation of all drugs - not just marijuana. For us that is the only real ‘game-changer.’ Not because we naively believe that legalisation is some sort of magic wand that will instantly usher in a Nirvana of perfectly adjusted, non-alienated individuals. We fully recognise the danger of drugs, both legal and illegal. Why do some people drink so much alcohol that it endangers their health? It has something to do with the society we live in - an alienated and grossly unequal one.

No, our call for legalisation is principally motivated by the desire not to make a bad situation worse. Huge swathes of the population are criminalised by the current prohibitive drugs laws and for communists that is unacceptable, morally and rationally. All serious evidence and research, plus plain empirical observation, informs us that the legalisation of drugs would be far less harmful than the present regime. Portugal, where drugs have been decriminalised, has not seen an increase in use - rather, the opposite.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Climate change: Entering the Danger Zone

Pollution and production for the sake of production
EXTRACT: Capitalism, in reality, is a system uniquely designed not to cope with the ecological crisis that is so obviously gripping the planet. Given its very nature, predicated on production for production’s sake - not on the basis of satisfying rational human need - it is constantly throwing more fuel on the fire. Contrary to a relatively widespread view, capitalism is not the result of countless individual actions taken by ‘bad’ or ‘greedy’ people. Instead it is a form of uncontrolled human relation based on the self-expansion of exchange-value, and this inner dynamic imposes itself on its personifications - ie, the capitalists, who ultimately are slaves to capital just as we in the working class are.

Yes, obviously, other past social-economic systems damaged various aspects of the environment - deforestation under the Romans and so on. But capitalism does it on a vaster and more terrifying scale. It is a destructive and wasteful mode of production, which seeks only to make profit - anywhere, anyhow and by any means necessary. Left to itself, capitalism will ‘industrialise’ to the point of self-destruction, making the air unbreathable and the rivers dead with toxic sludge. Conversely, it will effectively leave underdeveloped whole areas of the globe, where it calculates no profit can reasonably be made.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Fear and Harassment as the Norm

Stuart Hall: part of the establishment 

EXTRACT: But the Hall revelations should really cause some on the left to rethink their absurd idea - eagerly endorsed by some radical feminists and mendacious, pro-imperialist, mainstream journalists - that the Socialist Workers Party has an ingrained ‘rape culture’ that makes it a more ‘unsafe space’ than the likes of the BBC, perhaps deserving to be no-platformed like the ‘Nazi’ British National Party.

Frankly, this is a crazy notion. Yes, the comrade Delta case was appallingly botched by the SWP’s leadership. For that the organisation needs to be severely criticised and that is what we in the Weekly Worker, among others, have done. But the idea of ostracising the SWP or even driving it out of workers’ movement is a fundamental mistake that can only empower the trade union bureaucracy and all those with an anti-left agenda. The prime reason for the Delta debacle, if truth be told, was the SWP’s ingrained bureaucratic centralism - not its institutionalised ‘misogyny’ or nonsense like that (women formed a majority on the disputes committee that cleared comrade Delta, for instance). Its authoritarian culture privileged certain comrades, making them unaccountable and essentially beyond criticism.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

On the fiver

EXTRACT: Then, of course, there were Churchill’s odious social views - notably his support for a particularly foul brand of eugenics. The “improvement of the British breed is my aim in life”, he wrote to his cousin, Ivor Guest, on January 19 1899. As a young politician entering parliament in 1901, Churchill saw the mentally disabled as a threat to the vigour and virility of British society. The stock must not be diluted. Thus as home secretary he was in favour of the confinement, segregation and sterilisation of the “feeble-minded” and others - including “idiots”, “imbeciles” and “moral defectives”. He proposed in 1910 that 100,000 “degenerate” Britons should be “forcibly sterilised and others put in labour camps to halt the decline of the British race”.

As for “tramps and wastrels”, he said a year later, there “ought to be proper labour colonies where they could be sent for considerable periods and made to realise their duty to the state”. Very liberal. Unsurprisingly, Churchill eagerly endorsed Dr HC Sharp’s charming booklet, The sterilisation of degenerates. Sharp was a member of the US Indiana Reformatory and issued an apocalyptic warning that “the degenerate class” was reproducing more quickly than the general population and thus threatening the “purity of the race”. In 1907 Indiana passed a eugenics law making sterilisation mandatory for those individuals in state custody deemed to be “mentally unfit” - other states followed suit and in the end more than 65,000 individuals were forcibly sterilised (nor were they allowed to marry). Naturally, Churchill was impressed, writing to home office officials asking them to investigate the possibility of introducing the “Indiana law” to Britain. He remained frustrated on this point. The 1913 Mental Deficiency Act rejected compulsory sterilisation in favour of confinement in special institutions. Bloody do-gooders.

Austerity Myth Debunked

Down, down, down
EXTRACT: Last week, quite wonderfully, also saw the debunking of a central myth promulgated by fiscal conservatives and hawks everywhere - not just the hapless Osborne. First published in American Economic Review - a supposedly peer-reviewed and prestigious academic journal dating back to 1911 - the seminal 2010 paper, ‘Growth in a time of debt’ by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, looked at 20 advanced economies since 1945. Both former IMF employees, they argued that, when “gross external debt” reaches 90% or more of GDP, then a country’s average growth rate collapses to -0.1%. Conversely, when debt was below 90% of GDP, you had growth rates between 3% and 4%. Inevitably, this conclusion has been cited by everyone from the IMF, World Bank, European Central Bank and the Euro group to Angela Merkel and, of course, George Osborne to justify programmes of ‘fiscal consolidation’ and vicious austerity, creating human misery on an enormous scale.

There was only one problem with Reinhart’s and Rogoff’s paper - it was total bunk. Researchers from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst found a simple coding error that omitted several countries from a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet of historical data - a few rows left out of an equation to average the values in a column. Almost a schoolboy error. As a result of this statistical mistake in the original calculations, it is now abundantly clear that the 90% ‘debt cliff’ does not exist. Simply put, Reinhart and Rogoff confused cause and effect: countries have high debt levels because they have slow growth rather than having slow growth because they are heavily indebted. You surely do not have to be a genius to realise that.