Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez exposes the Lobbyists

Not that it is not common knowledge, but , Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, achieves a nice little acknowledgment of the sickness which permeates the US of A.

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Gregor Gysi, Rudolf Bahro, And Socialism is too Utopian for the Socialists

Reading Gregor Gysi’s autobiography, “Ein Leben ist zu Wenig”, at the moment and there is an interesting bit where he discusses Rudolf Bahro’s speech at the SED “Sonderparteitag” on the 16.12.1989, which the comrades booed, and he, Gysi, saw as an example of the difficult relationship between being  pragmatic and being utopian.

In the speech Bahro advocated zero percent growth and a “social-ecological” restructuring of society. As expected the “realist” Gysi seems to agree with the majority of his comrades who rejected Bahro’s ideas as being “Weltfremd” and esoteric. Although, it remains difficult to understand what exactly they were aiming for with their “return” to basic democratic ideas and a “real socialist programme”.

Nevertheless, this is not about debating whether the Federal Republic of Germany today is a fairer society than it was before 1989. When Gysi goes on to praise growth as being something positive when it means an improvement in the quality of our lives, he appears to be missing something fundamental. When Bahro is talking about growth he is talking about economic growth and he is right to condem it.

Why he was right to do so is shown admirably by David Harvey in his book ‘Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism’. However, even an observant pre-teen schoolboy in Glasgow in the 60s realised that on a planet with finite resources, infinite growth is not possible. Unfortunately, the evidence would appear to suggest that the the “pragmatists” continue to hold sway over the planet and that they will continue to do so until their idiocy ushers in armaggedon and it can only be hoped that if nuclear wars and the ecological and environmental “Super-Gau” has any survivors, those survivors might be both pragmatic and utopian.

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Weather Chaos in the United Kingdom

My writing away from the keyboard is generally limited to taking notes. However, a conscious decision that the drivel in the mainsteam media is just not worth the links led me to formulate this latest post on a piece of paper, which I am now typing into the blog.

‘The Guardian’ tells us of how snow and ice is causing chaos in the United Kingdom. It is a familiar story wrought with pathos and patriotic piffle, a story of sturdy Brits spending the night in their cars, while a compatriot eats snow from the roof of his vehicle, a benificiary of Para, or SAS survival training, no doubt, to fight the dehydration caused through minus 50 c temperatures. Trains and flights are being cancelled, but everywhere a brave blighty is pulling together and showing that Dunkirk spirit all over again.

Then there is the story of the Jamaica Inn on Bodmin Moor where 140 people “including a child with a heart condition” are jammed into bedrooms, or sleeping on makeshift beds in the residents’ lounge and where staff are serving food and drinks all night. A service, no doubt, but is it newsworthy, and is it a charity? After all, it is what happens all over Central Europe every winter. Although, the story of the man “eating snow” is a cracker.

No, it is not newsworthy, and the real news? British weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, or British personnel manning Saudi control centres as the pilots head off to bomb children in Yemen. Then there is the ongoing ethnic cleansing in Palestine and the fact that the West is really interested in Venuzuela’s oil. Of course, the real news is not going to get into the daily drivel and as all and sundry get a bit tired of “Brexshit”, or hearing about Prince William’s toothache, or his grandpa getting behind the wheel at the age of 97 without a driving licence, a day after the silly old bugger had caused an accident, they had to come up with something.

At this time of the year that something just had to be the “mass” of snow they got and which they are not used to and roll on the summer when there will be no need to mention the homeless, who can revel in the hottest weather for a thousand years. Of course, by then it might just be a Brexshit Britain where Uncle Sam has made his first moves on the NHS and the City of London is running riot cleaning the planet’s dirty money. A Britain where the vestiges of manufacturing, apart from the arms industry, has bolted across the channel and where, with food standards plummeting, our plucky stormtroopers have to content themselves with a big plate of additives and colouring for their din-dins.

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Hannah Arendt and the Freedom to be Free

It is more than a trifle Hegelian, this harking back to the bygone days of yore, and it might be at least expected that Hannah Arendt was not being held hostage by ‘the Phenomenology of the Spirit’. After all, the piece of writing that is about to be referenced was published in 1951, a hundred and forty five years after Georg Wilhelm Friedrich proclaimed, “the end of history.”  However, hark back she does.

It is not that Arendt in ‘Die Freiheit, Frei zu sein’, is wrong when she says that since 1789 it is the French Revolution which determines our understanding what a revolution is. Moreover, her observations are generally spot on and, even if it might be viewed as being a trifle banal, it is still worthwhile to again read that the freedom to be free has always been the domain of a privileged few and that human history is to a large extent the history of this privileged few.

Moreover, what followed 1789, 1848, 1917, and, yes, to some extent, the Weimar Republic, supply more than enough premisses to support her plaidoyer for vigilance when promises of a heaven on earth are being made. However, is it really possible to see the United States in 1951, especially in light of what she writes elsewhere in the essay, as the product of a successful revolution almost two hundred years previously? Remember not only was this being said at the height of McCarthyism, but it was also a time when racism was normal, accepted, insidious, and institutionalised.

For Arendt, it is, and it is in Virgil’s ‘Fourth Eclogue’ that she finds support for her reasoning. It is about renewing Rome, rather than building a new Rome. Or, in 1775 it is about being free and building something new. She almost seems to forget what it was that forced “le peuple”into the streets and onto the barricades in 1789, even if she points out elsewhere in her essay that the freedom to be free, means not only to be free from fear, but first and foremost to be free from hunger and poverty.

Rome was an imperium, it was built on slavery, and the United States? In Arendt, we have, at least here, the epitomy of Marx’s being in society. A Jew fleeing Nazi Germany and finding refuge in the United States in 1941, her essay, ‘the Freedom to be Free’ was published in 1951 in a place where she indeed enjoyed the freedom to be free. In other words, she participated in the domain of a privileged few. That is why, not only is the essay, as an exposé on revolutions, hardly a revelation, but it also fails to understand what revolution, even using her own original criteria, i.e. freedom from poverty and opression, actually is.

Indeed, in ‘The Rebel’, published in the same year, Camus makes exactly the same point when he writes that “all modern revolutions have ended in a reinforcement of the power of the state” (ibid: 146). However, by concluding that the colonial revolt that took place from 1765 to 1783 was a successful revolution, and by referencing Virgil to support that thesis, Arendt offers a definition of revolution that is at best, extremely exclusive and it certainly lacks the universality that a real revolution a priori implies.


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Bowdlerizing Beijing and a reference to Brexit Blighty

After almost three months in a Middle England where “hordes of homeless roam the streets”, it is from ‘Mitteleuropa’ that this morning’s post comes and there will be little reference to Theresa May’s “cherry picking”, or to Jeremy Hunt – whoops, and there was almost a freudian slip from Vienna there – telling all twenty seven EU countries that they shouldn’t “mistake British politeness for weakness” . Still, enough is enough and this blog will leave self-obsessed, in need of a bit of psychoanalysis, Brexit Blighty for the time being.

The real night out here was Thursday and a visit to Vienna’s Burg Theater. Ibsen’s ‘Ein Volksfeind’ (‘an enemy of the people‘) provided the entertainment, even if that entertainment was mostly due to a production which facilitated grins and distraction rather than any real cognitive processing of the content. Of course, there are reasons for that and Henrik Ibsen might be excused for writing something which, while still, of course, relevant, smacks of platitudes. After all, he did write the play in 1882.

Nevertheless, the play is indeed still relevant and, with a central thematic concern of it being political corruption, is there any surprise that a few days ago three scheduled performances were cancelled in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu after some members of the audience at a performance of the play in Beijing  ” shouted out at the performers and called for freedom of speech”?

Ibsen has been popular in China among educated elites for a long time and his plays, which often highlight social problems, had been popular. However, with Xi’s state capitalism following hard on the heels of Deng’s “Socialism with Chinese characteristics” , there is no room for freedom of thought, not to mention freedom of speech. It is time to talk about China, but everyone does business with China, and if it is only to be hoped that in Europe certain morals prevail, it can be certain that Beijing is already banking on having Brexit Blighty in its pocket.

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Discourse in England while Hordes of Homeless roam the streets

IMG_6721It is my job to teach academic discourse, but in a world where numpty narratives persevere, cohesion, and sometimes coherence, are employed at best to serve up  nonsense. The flow remains, but irrelevant references reduce what is being communicated to garbage.

And so it is with Patrick Cockburn’s article in the Guardian; alright the point is that Britain has always relied on creating alliances, but the over the top quoting ramblings that include references to Shakespeare, the Stuart monarchy, Napoleon, and Churchill, is not only the product of a person of the crudest half education, the autodidact Historian, it is also typical of the mind-set of a bonkers Britain that genuinely does think it still has a major role to play. It is not that history cannot teach us a lesson, but it really is a little bit like a juvenile delinquent who, after being analyzed by a shrink, decides that his beating up that old man was not really his fault, it was society’s.

In Middle England reality bites! Rentier capitalism is going full swing, six in a little house, all paying about £400 a month rent, doesn’t only give Johnny Moneybags a ridiculous yield on his £100,000 investment, it also means that there is no adequate social housing and homelessness in Leicester is endemic. No, sod the fine Latin words, the academic discourse, it is fucking disgraceful. In the meantime Boris the bimbo continues to live in his government mansion while renting out his own home.

Is a hard Brexit around the corner? Well, methinks, maybe, maybe not. But, really, as sad, as it is, it is just another sad delusional little country and, while I expect us all to suffer a little bit because of Blighty’s shenanigans, Germany, and the rest of Europe, will be a little bit more prepared, and a lot less negatively affected, than it was for war in 1939 …… Oh, and there I must apologise to the hobby Historian, Mr Cockburn.

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If England was as England seems

In barmy  Britain, and universal credit, which, with its’ built-in delays of 42 days, will leave vulnerable people penniless, is just around the corner. Will leave them penniless? Well, of course, they don’t have two pennies to rub together as it is. So, already living from hand to mouth, they will have to go 42 days with nada de nada. Not to worry though and there is always Wonga et al and the money for nothing people are on hand to keep the crazy cycle going.

It started at Stansted Airport and, at least for foreign exchange, Moneycorp seem to have some sort of ATM monopoly there. No fees and competitive rates we are told and did ego spot them asking for 1.40€ for a pound? Might have done and more than one person is wondering why MoneyCorp is allowed to operate ATMs with atrocious exchange rates? rentier capitalism gone astray and the journey moves to middle England.

The rooms have been divided up, there are six people sharing a house that was meant for a family of three or four. House of multiple occupancy it’s called and Eastern Europeans are glad they have their 100 pounds a week bed. So that is six hundred pounds a week rent for a property that cost 100,000 pounds. Well, not quite up to Wonga standards, but that is the sort of yield that proves capitalism works for somebody.

After all, it really is about supply and demand and there are all these foreign students who are paying top dollar for an extremely poor product and who also need somewhere to stay. You really wonder and hope that it will all go belly up in the not too distant future, but sort of fear that first there is the Brexit and if those clowns really get their way?

Well, Trump’s America will get the NHS, health and safety, along with food standards, will go to pot, there will be deregulation, no regulation, poorer standards, no standards. Take it, or leave it, while the roller coaster rumbles on in the Land of Hope and Glory and the ‘Daily Mail’, royal family, ‘Can’t Pay, We’ll take it Away’,’football’s coming home’ narrative binds all together. A harking back to Kipling and

If England was what England seems
An’ not the England of our dreams,
But only putty, brass, an’ paint,
‘Ow quick we’d drop ‘er! But she ain’t!”

Not to matter that it was shit then and it is shit now and it can be believed, England really is as England seems.

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