Notes On The News
by Gwydion M Williams
- Manchester – Reaping the Whirlwind!
- It’s Wahhabism, Stupid
- Bitcoins Bite Back!
- Facebook – Sheep Don’t Pay the Shepherd!
- May’s Toryism: ‘Feed the Rich’ Corporatism
- A World Without Bolsheviks?
Manchester – Reaping the Whirlwind!
Evil losers, yes. I agree with what President Trump said about the Manchester bomber. But why should a young man be desperate enough for suicidal mass murder, when there is enough for a decent life for everyone?
Maybe because of a culture that only cares about the lucky and rich. And an economy that denies a decent life to many.
In the 1940s, the West was scared of both Fascism and Leninism. So they made sure there would be a decent life for everyone. But the War Babies and Baby Boomers who’d grown up in this secure life failed to understand it. Correctly, they demanded sexual freedom. Also illegal drugs, which I’d see as wrong. For certain, they were massively wrong in their fear of the interventionist state that had made their comfortable lives possible.
Hippies became Yuppies, and then got worse. Most of them failed to learn, voting for Thatcher. Cheering when she took an axe to the roots of the way of life they had enjoyed. Switching to Blair since he was anti-tax and anti-state, but championed the sexual and social freedoms they now saw as normal.
War Babies and Baby Boomers are now elderly. Most vote Tory. People under 50 – people born after 1967 – have been wiser and are enthused by Corbyn. But it will take a lot of work to restore the good jobs that we once had. Meantime there are a lot of losers.
I’m no apologist for evil or hatred. Normal people can live with suffering. A handful of admirable people gain inner strength. A weak minority become evil, but might have stayed OK in better times. So an evil loser blows up girls playing at being ‘Dangerous Women’[A]. Other evil losers threaten or attack Muslims whose world-vision is very different from the terrorists.
Of course there are many sorts of evil. London houses a section of the Russian Mafia, and other criminal nasties who prefer Tories to Labour. At first sight, the Manchester bombing did come at an amazingly convenient time for anyone worried by the prospect of a Labour victory, or a messy election with no clear winner. Who knows what they could fix?
Or maybe Daesh had a clear understanding of the issues. They want a polarised world in which the Sunni Islamic majority accept their version of Wahhabis, an extremist 18th century creed. Idiots like UKIP feed this very nicely, obviously: but have repelled most voters.
For really bad community relations, you need bigotry and injustice packaged with the appearance of niceness, which has always been the Tory game. As in 1964, when local Tories won a safe Labour seat with the slogan ‘if you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Labour’[B]. It has always been left to Labour to root out such attitudes. The Tories cast a slur upon all immigrants, while also letting in more and even adopting a few non-white candidates who are securely part of the elite.
Starting with Operation Desert Storm in 1991, the West has been humiliating secular Arab regimes. Causing vast numbers of Arab and Muslim deaths, mostly of innocents. Probably Daesh as sectarian Sunni are not bothered by a dozen or more Shia Yemenis including children dying every day.[C] But most Muslims are appalled by the Western government’s preference for continuing chaos and death, not tolerating governments they can’t push around.
Thankfully, Labour’s opinion-poll rise has continued. The ‘Post-Boomers’ show wisdom and compassion.
Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabist brand of Islam ought to be at war with the West. Its elite are notoriously hypocrites. But even hypocrites believe in something, however weakly and corruptly.
In ten or twenty years’ time, when veterans of the Western intelligence find it safe to speak freely, we may learn some amazing truths. (Just as everything the left said about the Vietnam War was later confirmed.) But we already know that the Saudis have pushed a version of Islam which would lead any spirited believer to either irregular warfare or to outright terrorism against non-military targets. (Or both, which may have been true of the Manchester Bomber.)
The Saudi regime needed Western protection when socialism was making the running in the Arab world. When Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990, they could have negotiated him out by paying off the gigantic debts from his war against Iran. But Thatcher and Bush Senior saw it as a wonderful opportunity to ‘normalise’ the Arab World. The Saudi regime had a clear choice: trust to ‘the God of their Fathers’ or to the visible power of the USA. And we all know what they chose. But meantime they had pushed a world-wide doctrine that suggested that all such compromises were Hateful to God.
“Abd al-Wahhab [18th century founder of Wahhabist], despised ‘the decorous, arty, tobacco smoking, hashish imbibing, drum pounding Egyptian and Ottoman nobility who travelled across Arabia to pray at Mecca.’
“In Abd al-Wahhab’s view, these were not Muslims; they were imposters masquerading as Muslims. Nor, indeed, did he find the behaviour of local Bedouin Arabs much better. They aggravated Abd al-Wahhab by their honouring of saints, by their erecting of tombstones, and their ‘superstition’ (e.g. revering graves or places that were deemed particularly imbued with the divine)…
“Abd al-Wahhab demanded conformity — a conformity that was to be demonstrated in physical and tangible ways. He argued that all Muslims must individually pledge their allegiance to a single Muslim leader (a Caliph, if there were one). Those who would not conform to this view should be killed, their wives and daughters violated, and their possessions confiscated, he wrote. The list of apostates meriting death included the Shiite, Sufis and other Muslim denominations, whom Abd al-Wahhab did not consider to be Muslim at all…
“In 1815, Wahhabi forces were crushed by the Egyptians (acting on the Ottoman’s behalf) in a decisive battle. In 1818, the Ottomans captured and destroyed the Wahhabi capital of Dariyah. The first Saudi state was no more. The few remaining Wahhabis withdrew into the desert to regroup, and there they remained, quiescent for most of the 19th century.
“It is not hard to understand how the founding of the Islamic State by ISIS in contemporary Iraq might resonate amongst those who recall this history. Indeed, the ethos of 18th century Wahhabism did not just wither in Nejd, but it roared back into life when the Ottoman Empire collapsed amongst the chaos of World War I.”[D]
The West think it clever to cultivate this reactionary version of Islam, which sells them cheap oil and buys expensive weapons. Their peculiar version of Islam was labelled ‘Fundamentalist’ and viewed as being as docile and timid as the right-wing and highly inaccurate ‘Fundamentalist’ Christians ‘in the USA.
The West’s hatred is reserved for a rival vision of ‘Real Islam’: that of Iran. Which has regular elections in which genuine rivals fight for popular approval. Which favours irregular warfare against Israel rather than attacks on Soft Targets in the West.
As I said, sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.
The hacker attack on vital NHS services might not have happened without Tory cuts:
“How did it get so far? In the case of the NHS, the answer is chronic underfunding. The service runs elderly versions of Windows not only in some desktop systems, which are relatively easy to patch, but also embedded in unwieldy equipment like MRI machines… Health secretary Jeremy Hunt looks unlikely to emerge with much credit, having reportedly axed the NHS’s Windows service contract in 2015 and gone AWOL during the crisis.”[E]
But that’s only half of it. The web – which until recently was controlled at root by the US government – has been allowed to flourish with minimum supervision or protection against crime. War Babies and Baby Boomers mostly had a naïve view: the less regulation, the better.
Dangerous software can be a bigger threat than dangerous drivers. But though no one questions the need for Driver Licences, a ‘Web Passport’ is seen as oppressive. And there was wide approval of bitcoins spreading as a supposedly untraceable currency outside state control.
‘Bitcoins’ are unique software entities. A complex system of decentralised file-sharing ensures that each individual bitcoin has a single owner at any one time. They can be bought, sold, or used in payment without revealing who’s involved. The details are complex, but my general knowledge of computing[F] and past ‘uncrackable’ secret codes makes me think that they are not as secure as advertised. With certainty, I would not use them for anything I thought the CIA would be serious about suppressing, supposing I were doing any such thing. But they have been convenient for all sorts of low-level criminality that the CIA tolerates. Maybe allows it so as to be able to trace bitcoin use by more serious targets.
Low-level criminality includes ‘Ransomware’: encoding a user’s files and then demanding a payment to free them. But as with all blackmail, getting the payment safely is tricky:
“Ransomware schemes have become a lot more effective since the invention of Bitcoin in 2009. Conventional payment networks like Visa and MasterCard make it difficult to accept payments without revealing your identity. Bitcoin makes that a lot easier. So the past four years have seen a surge in ransomware schemes striking unsuspecting PC users.”[G]
Time for a few more regulations?
“Facebook’s profits have jumped in the first three months of the year, as the social network closes in on two billion users, according to its latest results.
“The number of people using Facebook each month increased to 1.94 billion, of which nearly 1.3 billion use it daily, the company said.
“The US tech giant reported profits of just over $3bn (£2.4bn) in the first quarter, a 76% rise year-on-year.
“However, it warned that growth in ad revenues would slow down.
“The company has also come under sustained pressure in recent weeks over its handling of hate speech, child abuse and self-harm on the social network.
“On Wednesday, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg announced it was hiring 3,000 extra people to moderate content on the site.”[H]
And they pay hardly any taxes, benefiting from the various legal loopholes that the Tories find it mysteriously impossible to close.[I] But that’s not the main issue. What people don’t understand is that a free service is less nice than it seems:
“People need to understand that they are the product of Facebook and not the customer, according to media theorist and writer Douglas Rushkoff.
“Speaking at the inaugural Hello Etsy conference in Berlin, the author of Program or Be Programmed said: ‘Ask a kid what Facebook is for and they’ll answer ‘it’s there to help me make friends’.
“Facebook’s boardroom isn’t talking about how to make Johnny more friends. It’s talking about how to monetise Johnny’s social graph.’
“He added: ‘Ask yourself who is paying for Facebook. Usually the people who are paying are the customers. Advertisers are the ones who are paying. If you don’t know who the customer of the product you are using is, you don’t know what the product is for. We are not the customers of Facebook, we are the product. Facebook is selling us to advertisers.’”[J]
Which is not going to stop me using Facebook. I don’t see the New Right as plotting to create a new fascism: Libertarian notions are not wholly phony. And most commercial outfits have no very large aims.Very little understanding of the social and political forces at work outside of their immediate experience. At worst they are banal and greedy, not malignant.
But something like Facebook should be made a public utility, not run for profit. A notion that will be resisted by those who have been convinced that the state is their enemy, and that there is an ‘invisible hand’ that will stop commercial outfits doing anything too bad. Slow to learn.
“In Britain, the state is back
“The three main parties are proposing very different policies. Yet they have a common thread: a more intrusive role for government…
“Theresa May’s manifesto … is most interesting, and not just because she is on course for victory on June 8th. For it reveals a Tory leader whose instincts are more interventionist than any predecessor since Edward Heath in 1965-75. To deal with complaints about energy prices, she joins Labour in proposing price caps. She promises a new generation of council houses, although she is cagey about how to finance it. She also backs a higher minimum wage, albeit smaller than Labour’s.
“Mrs May is promising not just to retain all EU rights for workers after Brexit, but to add to them. Her manifesto includes several digs at business, including demands for more transparency on executive pay and some form of worker representation on boards… The biggest example of her interference in the market concerns immigration (see next story). She restates the target of cutting the net figure below 100,000, from almost three times that today, and she makes clear that the cost of policing lower EU migration must fall on employers.”[K]
That’s from The Economist, and I’d suppose that Tory promises to normal people will once again turn out to mean little. But it is true that New Right ideology is less and less credible.
But Britain is also not what it was. Parasitic finance has become increasingly important, and now overshadows manufacturing in what was once ‘the workshop of the world’.
“Four out of five people work in service industries.
“This covers everything from bank workers to plumbers and restaurant staff – the businesses that provide work for customers, but which don’t manufacture things.
“These service sector jobs have grown over time: 20 years ago they made up less than three-quarters of employment.”[L]
A century ago, Tsarist Russia fell into a chaos from which Global Leninism later emerged. Western writers are using this centenary to say foolish things about it.
The Establishment Consensus is that while the mainstream world was peacefully engaged in Trench Warfare and Great War massacres (including Russian pogroms against Jews), the vicious Bolsheviks grabbed power from the new Western-style Russian Republic. Don’t mention the war, which the Western-style Republic was still fighting. Don’t mention that one of Lenin’s first acts, later reversed, was to confirm an idealistic left-wing abolition of the Death Penalty. Or that they casually released rebellious right-wing officers who later became vicious and deadly enemies. Instead, call them wasteful fanatics who inflicted needless suffering on Russia and the rest of the world for decades after 1917.
I’ve not seen anyone ask what was likely to happen if the Bolsheviks hadn’t won. If they’d lost the Civil War, they might still have been blamed for the vicious anti-Semitic White Guard regime that was the only serious alternative. But they also might have chosen to accept the moderate February Revolution of 1917 as the last word. Might have remained a Loyal Opposition to the largely-socialist government led by Kerensky.
(This was, incidentally, the line of Zinoviev and Kamenev, the two most notable Jews among the Old Bolsheviks. Bronstein, hidden behind his Slavonic pen-name Trotsky, was at that time a very new Bolshevik.[M] One of the idiocies of anti-Semites is that they rant about Jewish involvement: fail to note that left-wingers of Jewish origin acted as individuals and were mostly moderates.)
Without the Bolshevik Revolution, could Kerensky have produced a stable and democratic Russia? By 1933, most independent countries between Berlin and Moscow had dictatorial right-wing regimes:
- Italy’s Constitutional Monarchy made Mussolini dictator in 1922
- Germany’s well-intentioned Weimar Republic failed. Their parliament freely made Hitler dictator. Legally speaking, he was the 13th[N]
- Pilsudski, liberator of Poland, later made himself dictator. His regime was hostile to Jews, though they remained citizens.
- Spain polarised, had a civil war and Fascism won.
- Portugal had something similar to Fascism even before World War One.
Beyond this, a lot of the freedoms the West now see as natural were strongly opposed before World War Two. The Soviet victory did a lot to make them the ‘new normal’.[O]
“The UK’s richest 1,000 people ‘kept calm and carried on making billions’ amid the Brexit vote of 2016, according to the Sunday Times Rich List.
“Their wealth rose by 14% over the past year to a record £658bn, it shows.”[P]
As part of the massively pro-Tory coverage of the election, the BBC present history that is not so much biased as untrue:
“Guide to the parties: Conservatives
“Formed in the 1830s as a right-of-centre party, in favour of capitalism, free enterprise and minimal intervention by government.”[Q]
Toryism went back to the 1680s. It was traditionalist, mostly Church of England and represented landed interests. They defended the protectionist Corn Laws against demands for Free Trade: under Peel they split on the issue and his supporters became Liberals. Tories passed various Factory Acts against strong Liberal opposition.
I made a formal complaint. Nothing is fixed, as of 31st May.
I found it baffling that the failure of British Airways’ administrative system caused all flights to be stopped, even though the aircraft themselves were fine.
On that, the whole security scare resulting from Western aggression against Arabs since 1991 means that without careful computer-run checks, no one is allowed to fly.
And why was the system so vulnerable? Cuts based on New Right ideology:
“BA chief executive Alex Cruz … said the IT failure was not due to technical staff being outsourced from the UK to India…
“Mick Rix from the GMB union … told BBC Radio 4: ‘Why didn’t the back-up kick in? Basically because there’s been an absolute brain drain out of the company.’”[R]
Previous Newsnotes can be found at the Labour Affairs website, http://labouraffairsmagazine.com/past-issues/. And at my own website, https://longrevolution.wordpress.com/newsnotes-historic/.
[A]The concert blown up was part of a ‘Dangerous Woman Tour’
[J]http://www.wired.co.uk/article/doug-rushkoff-hello-etsy Emphasis added.
[N]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Chancellors_of_Germany#Weimar lists twelve previous Chancellors between 1919 and 1933. Two of them served two terms.