The Negation of Negation

Reality doesn’t feel good

We live in truly horrible times. Capitalism is eating us all alive, wealth and resources are being sucked out of the the land and its people at an alarming rate. Indeed, Matt Tiabbi’s Vampire Squid is busy sucking everything the rest of us need even just to survive out of us. Drug companies don’t want you to get better, they want you to survive until the next shot of the palliative they have designed so you can keep pushing at the neoliberal wheel, charities that help the poor treat the symptoms but are legally bound not to go for the cause because that would be political. Bluntly, even if you’re doing alright at the moment, it’s a shit show for the desperate majority. Things are much worse if you live in the global south. In the other half of the globe we can hold on to what little illusion of plenty is left, but even here the inequities are growing and social mobility came to a halt many years ago.

It’s as if life in early 21st century Earth were a game of monopoly where most of us live on a board where every square is charging rent, there are several go to jail squares, and passing go does not give you $200 but instead a hard kick somewhere sensitive that brings tears to the eyes. We’ve been conned into thinking There is no alternative to what we have now.

We’ve also been sold an approach that is nothing more than another commodity at base. That’s how the world we live in now works. Most every solution that gets out there is limited and turned into a way of channelling the anger into places where it can be expressed but not acted upon. The idea of working collectively to solve problems without some wealthy individual holding the purse strings seems odd. Simple solidarity is now a commodity and the concept of caring for others because they are our friends and neighbours is alien. When people try to make something happen a smiling politician will vomit comforting word salad and make it seem alright for five minutes until the chance of change is quietly buried at a cross roads with a stake in its poor heart.

So, give up then? Turn to a life of crime or hedonism and don’t plan on living long? Or call this clear analysis cynical and carry on donating to Oxfam?

Escaping the vampire castle

We live in an abusive relationship. While all the suffering, depredation and rapine goes on our abuser is telling us everything is fine as long as we carry on and do what they say. The reality doesn’t make it into the news bulletins unless it supports the idiot consensus or the current batch of war mongering.

Despite this I don’t believe there is any reason to despair. The first thing you need to to is be clear about how things work. That doesn’t make things hopeless, however. Our owners tore up the post-war consensus that kept us quiet. In the UK there was a cynical phrase from the cradle to the grave, which was the surface promise of the welfare state. It meant abdicating responsibility to our betters, and no-one saw the trap. Our owners already look after themselves from the cradle to the grave, we were supposed to accept their largesse and do what they told us to. The UK’s class-riven society hid itself in a cloak of egalitarianism, but the real power relations never went away. If you watch any documentaries about that period the poshness of most of the accents is very noticeable. We will give you the things you need to survive as long as you shut up and don’t rock the boat.

The key lie we have been sold is scarcity. In fact we live in abundance. The defining feature of capitalism is that it has managed to abolish scarcity. The great wealth some people have comes from this lack of scarcity. What capitalism did was socialise how things were made, but the ownership of the products remained that of the individual capitalist. The wealth and power got funnelled to a very small number of people. However, there are a couple of things that stop the socialisation of ownership this being realised.

  • The anarchy of production. I talked about this in the TINA disease. We have warehouses full of fidget spinners and shortages of things we actually need. It doesn’t matter that companies might be very efficient internally, the market makes anarchy, and not the good kind. In the UK Creating markets in services like health, transport, water and power has created decades of under investment, and short-sighted decisions that have ended up costing ridiculous amounts so that share holders can take dividends and pocket subsidies. Behind the neoliberal nonsense about private enterprise being more efficient we see the casino mentality and public bailout we have all come to know and love. This isn’t singing the praises of the old nationalised industries, they were badly run in many cases, new organisational forms with democratic control and accountability will also be needed.
  • Distribution for profit. Why do we make enough food for eleven billion people, there are only seven billion of us, and people are starving? Simply, capitalist logic means that food is destroyed so that profit is preserved. We’ve all seen pictures of supermarkets spraying the food they’re about to throw away with bleach to stop people eating it. We need to rid ourselves of this nonsense. It’s not just food, it’s also having equipment that wears out quickly and the cost of repair is more than buying a new one. Food is the most obvious example but there are others, such as housing.

The old Marxists used to say that if we had a planned economy this wouldn’t happen. This was mocked because the systems back in the early 20th century were poor at doing this, and the organisational models uses were centralised ones that removed local autonomy from the decision making processes. The interesting thing now is, if you look at the big supermarkets and distribution networks like Amazon, we have the basis for a planned economy that works very well already. The problems around working with demand and unpredictable changes have been dealt with very successfully. Taking workers’ control and creating democratic accountability wouldn’t be that difficult if the will was there.

So, we have an interesting situation:

  • Human needs can easily be met without changing how we do things that much.
  • Resolving the anarchy of production will make dealing with the climate crisis much easier and even possible.

It may be rough and difficult, but it’s all very possible. The cynical blaming of individuals will not fix anything, there needs to be a collective response, and it can happen. We live in times where we have been atomised and separated from one another for many years, but things change.

Part of the point of taking these toys away from their owners, by the way, is to make them meet people’s needs even better than they do already. The needs become the why of the organisation instead of profit.

How does change happen

Change comes from different forces in society in conflict with each other producing what eventually gets called history. The somewhat silly view that it’s all great men (and a few women) making decisions that change the world isn’t in fact the case. An individual may be able to shape what happens if they’re in the right place at the right time, but they don’t make those things appear by magic. Opportunities to change things come and go. Laws are only meaningful if someone enforces them.

Cradle to the grave is long over. The old complacency is being beaten out of us by people with very short memories who forget they are a tiny minority. It’s deeply sad that the forces that will cause change, the material conditions, are built on human suffering, but there’s nothing we can do about that in the macrocosm. In the microcosm there’s nothing stopping you working with charities, or campaigning to prevent health service cuts. How else to start rebuilding the sense of solidarity? How else to help people realise who actually has the power and they don’t need to ask permission?

Do things but with your eyes open. If someone seems ready to engage then engage. Remember that a clear eyed view of how society works puts you at odds with the consensus. Acting like you’re from Mars won’t win anyone over. Remember the old saying that most people need to hear something several times from different sources before they might start to change their minds. Be the person that lives on the other side of this as best you can and work in solidarity with others. Demonstrate what democracy actually looks like.

New structures and ways of doing things should come from the people who need them. For example, when Iraq fell, the local people elected their own councils and started to govern themselves. The first thing the US invaders did was remove these councils and appoint people they knew would toe their line. This is why the Iraqi government, and the now defunct Afghan one, have no legitimacy. They didn’t come from the people they rule over and the change was forced upon them. Without the participation of people who know what they need and why structures have no legitimacy. This is why the war lords started doing their own thing – it was the only way to ensure they had a voice. This is the irony of how the UK is governed: everybody knows a government that has a thumping majority and yet no mandate is illegitimate and nobody knows how to fix it.

I can see we need to create co-ops for housing and health that go around the politicians and leave us in control. They need to be structured so speculators can’t buy them and use them to screw people over. The old top down structures based on city councils are too easily broken and sold off to spivs and speculators. I have no idea how you would do this, and that’s fine. It would only be a start. The same goes for food autonomy and other things I think are necessary and important, other people might not agree.

There is no point in having a detailled programme worked out to every line. That’s a recipe for paralysis. The new ways of doing things will come from doing them, there is no one-size-fits-all answer, just what people find when they look. The key thing is to take initiative, and not be blinded by the old way of doing things. Please, no more calling for or demands for the useless political class. We need to take back control, but properly, this time. We need to go around the existing structures that are designed to stop us and demonstrate they are in fact a pantomime irrelevance and have been for a very long time.

Externalities and Affordances


In the study of economics, at least in the current made up nonsense of economics, an externality is a factor outside of an enterprise that isn’t something the enterprise need concern itself with. For example, profit comes from coal mining, using the local river to wash the coal and fill the river with dust that kills the fish is an externality. The microcosm of the mine is viewed solely on its own terms and is making a profit and working fine. The macrocosm of the surrounding environment does not figure in any calculations. Downstream does not exist.

This willful ignorance is part of the human condition. It’s also, when you think about it, just the way animal populations behave. The future doesn’t exist for a deer that’s eating all of the vegetation. Without predators there will be a collapse. We are lucky, we can observe and think things through, we can think of better ways of doing things.

It’s also been said, but I haven’t yet researched this, that all capitalist profit comes from abusing externalities. The enclosure of the commons that began the accumulation of capital in the hands of a few, the industrial wastelands where dumping waste carelessly into a lake caused an ecocide and so on being the results of this. The profits from the processes were made, and the damage carried by everyone else.

As we sit now at the beginning of the phase change for the climate this forcing externalities is becoming ever more obvious, but it’s not hard to see that it goes way back to the beginnings of the industrial revolution and the processes that had to happen as a precursor to it.


I came across this term in the past few years in my job writing software. It’s used by the User Experience (UX) specialists to mean the way in which software encourages the user to behave in particular ways, that guide the experience so that it is easy to get what you need from the software without much friction. It promises accurate information entry, and happy customers.

It’s interesting to think about this. If you don’t have a mental model that matches that of the software designer it could easily be a hostile and unforgiving process no matter how much effort they’ve put into designing it. We’ve all seen messages like error 46 at line 5, which are no use to the end user of the software but might have been to the original developer.

We live in an intensely bureaucratic society. There are electronic and physical forms we have to fill in all the time to get anything done. Clever algorithms that are replacing humans in decision making are every bit as biased as the humans were because the assumptions behind the data used to train the algorithms was also biased. In the USA skin colour is never mentioned explicitly, but the ghettoising of people of colour means that algorithms that check addresses and social environment are carrying on the racist assumptions that they are supposed to prevent. We have the same thing on a smaller scale everywhere.

For a UK-based example, children from deprived areas who couldn’t sit exams because of Covid 19 found themselves marked down because of the area they went to school in, not because of anything to do with their actual potential to pass the exams. Let’s also draw a veil over the better-off privately educated children sitting slightly easier exams that still count the same when allocating university places, which has been a scandal for years.

Our owners have done this for several reasons:

  1. Dealing with a complicated mass of individuals is expensive, so reducing them to form filling and a couple of easily managed metrics means they can control us without us even realising or being able to do anything about it if we did.
  2. They control the bureaucracy. This means the rules only affect people like you and me. You can see this arrogance when Covid rules were being applied in a partial and biased way.
  3. You don’t get to see your oppressor, they’re on the other side of the forms, and the poor stooge policing the form has no authority to do anything other than insist it’s filled in correctly, whatever that means.
  4. Reducing people to forms also means their human needs, not addressed by the forms, can be safely sidelined and left unnoticed and unresolved.
  5. You can police people solely by whether or not they have certain documents, and whether those documents have the right things on them. This allows mass discrimination without having to actually deal with the individuals. Suffering can be automated and kept invisible to the people that ultimately cause it.

So we have affordances that lock oppression in at very low cost, and we have affordances for our owners that keep them distant from us. We have affordances that mean no-one has to engage with us as human beings with needs. It’s all very tidy.


The biggest wheeze the owning class came up with was the fiction of the corporation. Originally the idea was a group of people with a common interest, say creating a canal from Liverpool to Leeds, would get together and raise finance to do this mutually beneficial thing. So we had corporations creating and running infrastructure. It also meant that the infrastructure was managed and paid for in a way that benefited the people using it. The recent concept of selling these assets to financial institutions so they can screw us all out of cash wasn’t thought of.

The next step was the idea of limited liability. A corporation has assets, materials etc. that it uses. If it causes some damage or death then only these assets can be used to pay for any repairs. The owners of the corporation are not personally liable and neither are the directors because their only legal concern is making a profit.

I think we can all see where that one is going. We now have corporations that rent everything, own nothing, do enormous damage, and then shut up shop without the people who did the actual rapine facing any consequences. We have long supply chains where the minerals are torn out of the ground in grossly unsustainable ways by poor peasants but the damage isn’t the fault of the companies that buy them, at least those companies like to pretend they have clean hands, but do they?

I have discussed this elsewhere in my review of the book Ecocide

The idiot consensus

Another interesting point is that the post war boom had what seems like eye wateringly high taxes compared with now. If you were a ticket clipping share holder who had no personal income from a job but a lot of what was bluntly called unearned income you paid a lot of tax. Similarly corporations were taxed highly and had to put their profits to work reinvesting in actual research and development or plant because they would be similarly punished with heavy taxation. This was a deliberate forcing of growth to recover from the war.

We have had forty years of financialisation since then. Corporate taxes are far lower, rich individuals’ income is now subject to the pretense they earned it, even if it came from non-productive investments like property. Executive bonuses now depend on share prices so profits are put back into buying shares in the company so they will make their bonuses as the share price rises. This benefits nobody but a tiny number of people who will make money from the rising prices. There is a similar non-productive sea anchor that comes from spinning property prices and forcing the poor into rent and debt peonage.

I have read that there is a balance between financial services that allow the economy to run, and the financialisation that solely works to enrich a very few people gambling (or pretending to gamble – if they lose we pay through bailouts) with shares and property. The figures I saw suggested this balance was reached as long ago as the 1970s, at least in the UK. All the subsequent growth has done is act like a parasite on what might be called the real economy and caused crashes from speculative bubbles.

We have an idiot consensus that happily carries on with this fantasy. Our banks have been rendered too big to fail. The services we all need have been privatised so that their new owners can make money from things the rest of us need to survive. Somehow this engine of inequality and ecocide running along is deemed to be fine, even though by any human measure it is not.

New affordances

What do people actually need?

Let me quote myself from my Eco Socialism or Annihilation article.

In order to say we live in a world that is equitable, moral, and worth defending everybody must have unfettered access to these five things:

  1. Decent shelter
  2. Food autonomy
  3. Health care
  4. Education
  5. Meaningful work

Mixed in with this there must also be the democratic ownership and control of resources by the people who need and use them. The nonsense of nationalisation as it was originally done still kept the old structures of hierarchical companies. Rethinking how things are organised is a fundamental part of this. Otherwise it’s back to creating systems that can easily be stolen and sold again. Making it almost impossible to undo this work by organising it so that undoing it cannot be done is paramount. The organisations that provide the things we need must be incredibly democratic and well run, and also incredibly difficult to steal from us again.

We need affordances that give us the five pillars of human dignity without any fuss or ceremony. We also need to start undoing the damage caused by unthinking bureaucracy. Capitalism is perfectly logical in its own narrow terms. You can’t reform it, if you remove the corporation’s immunity and start working on ensuring the five are everybody’s without fear or favour then most of modern capitalism, with its silly market fetish and redirection of resources into the pockets of the few will be undone. As I discussed in the TINA disease the artificial scarcity from capitalist productive anarchy would have to be brought to an end. If they still need it, we can let our former owners build themselves a casino to play their bloody games in without beggaring the rest of us.

Thinking Downstream

In the first place we need a philosophical shift to always think of the downstream for whatever you do. For example, one of the things Trump did was relieve mine owners of the obligation to stop waste getting into the water table because it was burdensome and made it hard to make money mining. The obvious idea, of maybe doing something else that wasn’t so destructive never entered their tiny minds. Downstream destruction is their problem, whoever they are, and for some reason this went unchallenged.

Similarly, in the UK, the Environment Agency isn’t allowed to pursue cases that may damage growth. Plus it’s also tiny compared with the size it should be. Yet no-one questions this.

Look for the downstream, look for who is affected by what you do, and make sure everything still works properly. This is simple humanity and it isn’t even hard to do. We need to let go of the idiot consensus and create a new one that includes all of us. We must make sure all of us have the affordances we need to live a decent life. We must stop listening to the short sighted fools who pretend there is no downstream, no macrocosm that needs attention.

Emotional labour and the paradox of ownership

The late, lamented, David Graeber talked about emotional labour in his book Bullshit Jobs. We live in a society that’s in thrall to ownership. If you own an enterprise, or are a director of it, you don’t have to make any effort to understand what your employees want, or even think. On the other hand, they have to understand you, because in a real sense their lives depend on it and you could discard them if you felt like it.

Of course, this is taking the idea to an extreme that’s probably not been as evident since Victorian times. But if you think how power hierarchies work it’s a very cogent thing. If you look how corporations work, with the lower-ranking employees scurrying around to avoid offending their masters and avoid showing initiative that could result in being wrong, it’s still very apparent. Particularly now, when trade unions and collective approaches to running society have been so traduced and neutered compared to the ridiculous cult of the individual and the leader.

It also explains why so-called leaders in corporations are always bemoaning how they can’t get people to own problems and solve them for the company. Well, bluntly, why the fuck should you? The owners keep the rewards and you get the ulcers. Doesn’t sound like a good deal to me.

This forced, insincere, emotional labour, pretending to give a shit about what some dickhead boss wants, is at least part of what Marx called alienation. I believe that it’s what is causing the rising tide of mental illness in the West.

Marx pointed out to us that we are slaves. Wage slaves. Instead of being fully owned like the chattel of old, we rent our labour out for fixed periods of time in exchange for tokens that we can use to get the necessities of life. If you aren’t a member of the owning class (and very few people are) then this is where you sit despite all the freedoms you have on paper. As an individual you have very little power. This is why our society makes a cult of the individual, it means the powerful few keep control while the rest of us wander around with nothing. The freedom you have is the freedom to own things, or the freedom to starve if you don’t and can’t get to place where you can rent your labour to someone who does.

The paradox

If you’re human you can’t help being emotionally involved with the enterprise you work for. You identify with it, and even feel that you want it to succeed. This is why being made redundant can hurt so much, part of your humanity is being thrown away by people who don’t value it. It’s also why the saying it’s not personal, it’s business is such a load of crap. It’s personal all right, business won’t work without both kinds of labour. Now we arrive at the point of the title of this essay: the paradox of ownership.

Say if you work for a company that’s very successful, that you put a lot of effort into, and it’s bought by someone, your contribution does not belong to you. Your owner has taken it and turned it into money, but it has nothing to do with you any more. Unless the original or new owners decide to acknowledge you with some kind of thank you (financial or even just verbal) you may not even have a job. You own your labour, and emotional labour in particular is hard, separating your feelings from what you do is damn near impossible.

The ownership of the company and the ownership of the work mean different things. The emotional labour you may have put in is necessary, may even have built something that can be sold by your employer, but if the company is itself sold it’s been taken from you to make a commodity. This is the quintessence of capitalism, everything you have, even the things that make you feel human, perhaps even love, become things.

A company is all of the people who work there, all of the things they did to make it better and help their customers. All the folks you enjoy working with and want to succeed. All that stuff, that human stuff, can be sold from under your feet and you will get nothing unless there is some kind of contract or the owners are willing to share.

A cynic would say that you shouldn’t give too much, if anything, to avoid being hurt. Just the time you’re paid for and that’s that. Is this what will work for you, though? It’s right to want human contact, and right to want to help others. Neither of these things is pathologically bad. However we live in a society with a bad pathology. Where the accident of ownership means you can do what you like to the people that work for you and they can’t do anything about it. An owner isn’t even obliged to understand the thing they own and how it works – think about it, it is absolutely mad when you get down to it. This bad pathology hurts us inside and out, it dehumanises and makes hurting other people seem acceptable. This is why dangerous nonsense like the enterprise destroying concept of shareholder value is acceptable if all you want is to play games with money – what the enterprise does, what value it brings, is overriden by who owns it.

This is why the rest of us need collectivism, and why we need each other. It’s why we need to reject the cult of the individual, the arsehole, and work together on things. It’s also why our owners have spent the last fifty years undermining trade unions, why the legal recourse for discrimination has been so restricted, why things like zero hours contracts have been created, and why the billionaire press is so hell bent on persuading us to hate even the idea of unions or collectivism and be suspicious of each other. The destruction of the post-war consensus was deliberate. It’s now almost impossible to remember what it was like when virtually everyone was in a union of some kind and your employer couldn’t pick on you if they felt like it. It happened so slowly nobody noticed, but the world is fundamentally different.

If an enterprise is sold, then there is a really weird assumption that the workers go with it. But what was sold, really? The mechanical thing. A business is a means of organising people and materials in such a way as you put resources in, turn a handle, and profit comes out of the process the handle initiates. So what the new owner bought was the process and the handle, possibly the brand if there is one. But they didn’t buy the workers, the physical labour was bought. Selling time for the use of your hands doesn’t mean you’re obliged to do the emotional labour as well, that would mean you worked for some kind of cult. So a business being sold generates a deeper conflict in the people that work for it. After all, chattel slavery finally disappeared a long time ago. They didn’t buy your heart, but they like to pretend that they did.

The other strange import from the USA, at least if you live in the UK, is this bollocks about family. Somehow the accidental combination of the people you work with and your employer’s limited largesse has created a family and you’re automatically a member. People you choose to be with vs. people you need to hang out with so you can earn a living. Bosses that assume you will go to out of hours virtual meetings and play pub games with strangers you didn’t choose as friends, whom you may not even like particularly.

When I worked for a big database company and 9/11 happened the billionaire boss sent an email round saying the folks we knew who died trying to take down the planes where all family. Maybe this was the harbinger of a new attitude where we all pull together and the wealth is shared along with the risk etc. etc. Six weeks later he was back firing people and doing all the aggressive stuff the MBAs told him to do to make even more money. It wasn’t a lie, as such, it just wasn’t a sentiment that lasted more than a week. Well, we aren’t dogs, our loyalty isn’t automatically given when someone shows even slight affection, and why should we pretend? Hey billionare narcissist, it’s just business and we don’t love you.

The cult of the individual also serves to isolate us from one another. You can find yourself in a situation and not realise that most of the people you work with feel the same. It’s what Marx talked about, what a class actually is, a group of people united by having the same needs and circumstances having the same perspective on what matters. Our owners are outnumbered and very weak, so they have to pretend our class does not exist. They have to turn us into individuals because it makes us easy to control. They create bureaucracies to hide from us so we can’t see their hands behind the puppet show.

This is also where the whining about people wanting free stuff comes from: nope, workers demand recognition of who they are and what they do. Their interests do not coincide with the owners. In fact the owners’ interests don’t necessarily coincide with those of the enterprises they own, they just want the profit and don’t care how it happens. This is why capitalism is destroying the planet – profit-driven ownership, rather than stewardship, is a very stupid idea when it becomes world-spanning monopolies that are wrecking the environment.

But if you look carefully it’s pretty easy to see, and then the paradox resolves itself by taking the ownership back from the people who only ever borrowed it, whatever they may pretend to.

The great reckoning

Various loons on Facebook and Twitter a pushing yet another narrative where they promote a helplessness in the people that follow it. They call it the great reset. Essentially Covid and the climate crisis are a deliberate thing that comes from yet another inaginary cabal far away and a great many people are going to die to keep the cabal in power.

Like a lot of these narratives you can’t do anything about it. It’s related to the whole QAnon farce, where shadowy forces are taking over the world. Lunacy with a nice side-order of anti-semitism and hate directed at places where it can do no harm to the established order.

To be honest, I don’t want to talk about this any more than I already have. It’s brain-melting rubbish designed to keep you afraid and passive. You can google it if you want to go down the rabbit hole.

Instead, what do we actually have?

As I live in the UK, let’s start there:

  1. We now have the highest per-capita Covid death rate in the world, largely down to idiots trying to save christmas and not even attempting to implement a zero Covid strategy. More infections also mean more opportunities for the virus to mutate, which is a great win, for the virus. At the time of writing over 1,000 people a day are dying.
  2. A government department openly and blatantly bullied the people who work there to keep turning up for work even if they’d been told to isolate. People were also ordered to turn off the track and trace app or ignore it.
  3. Brexit restrictions mean that food is rotting before it gets delivered, but the government is trying to spin that into a story about Covid even though there weren’t any problems last year when there wasn’t any Brexit paperwork.
  4. Our crony-driven government still doesn’t have a working track and trace system, which makes even attempting zero Covid almost impossible. It has managed to channel millions to its failed private sector friends, though.
  5. Thousands of jobs in the fishing industry are probably already lost due to Brexit.
  6. The benefits system, in particular the murderous farce that is Universal Credit, pays too little, discriminates against people with larger families, and is designed to trap people in poverty. Who can forget the picture of the former minister exhulting when the former Chancellor announced even greater cuts? UC was temporarily increased to help people during the pandemic, and it has been reduced again even though the pandemic hasn’t gone away.
  7. UC is structured to give the money to the male partner in any relationship. This is because the fruit loop in charge wanted to keep families together, no count has yet been made of the number of women killed or injured because they couldn’t escape abusive partners. It also infantilises women, which is an amusing irony for a man who married money.
  8. There is evidence that 130,000 people may have had their lives shortened by inadequate benefits and benefit sanctions. This is disputed, but what is not disuputed is that it has cost lives, the argument is about how many. The department stopped collecting the figures to make it harder to work out.
  9. Our leaders continue to allow the supply of weapons to the ongoing war in the Yemen, despite being asked to stop and recently being able to vote on the policy. The humanitarian disaster is entirely man made, and our rulers’ bloody hands are all over it, including our arms-dealer queen.

These are merely a few examples of the ongoing murderous catalogue of actions and policies, from the bogus nonsense that they called austerity to the hard-faced attacks on the poor that have resulted in the deaths of thousands, both in the UK and elsewhere in the world. We are losing our jobs, having our health service privatised under our noses. We have been lied to over and over again, about everything, no-one believes a word our leaders say any more.

9/11 caused the death of around 3,000 people. The benefit “reforms” have already cost around 40 times that before we even start adding in the Covid deaths. People at the bottom of the socio-economic pile in this country are dying at an unprecedented rate, particularly if they are BAME people, who tend to be clustered in low-paying, low-status jobs where employers are particularly nasty.

The Western powers wrecked Afganistan over 9/11. So where is the outrage here? Why aren’t we going to war with these killers? Why are they still walking free, their lies unchallenged?

The killer isn’t at the gate. The killer lives in your house and eats at your table. You let them in, and let them lie to you and sing you to sleep.

The Great Reckoning

We need a great reckoning, forget the nonsense about the reset, or the racist crap about the replacement of white people with what is in fact their descendents who may have darker skin.

Every one of the dead should be counted, every politician involved in their deaths should be accountable.

Some people say that you sometimes have to make decisions that may result in resources being allocated in a way that means people will die and it’s unavoidable.

That’s true, but not in this case.

  • There are other places in the world where the UN hasn’t come into a nominally rich country to feed poor children.
  • There are other places in the world that correctly implemented track and trace and zero Covid strategies and have almost no cases now.
  • Others didn’t take the austerity pill and their economies recovered very quickly
  • There are other places where an advisory referendum is advisory
  • A large majority of the population want to see their NHS properly funded, not cut past the bone and sold
  • Other countries haven’t had the number of food banks go from a half dozen to out number the number of McDonalds in 10 years

There is no excuse for this, but at the moment our owners think they won’t face any consequences.

We need to start campaigning to disabuse them of that delusion.

The great reckoning needs to happen, or all of the nonsense about unity and healing is no more than hot air.

Footnote (March 2021) Naomi Klein has a great article on the Great Reset from the perpsective of the Davos group. A group which has itself made just about everything far worse.

The strange cost of victory

Centrists often tweet at me saying that supporting the Corbyn project was a mistake. Blair is the only Labour leader who consistently won elections, and, of course, socialism won’t work.

Just saying stop talking bollocks doesn’t help. Everyone who knows realises that Corbyn was sabotaged and it’s hard to say what might have happened if there had been a fair election and the poor man hadn’t been continually undermined by factions in his own party. Of course, that was never going to happen and it’s not worth arguing about. The curious double think, where the sabotage is ignored and Corbyn’s Labour were always going to fail because some pundit said so, is part of the story these folks tell.

The other thing they do is harp on about Blair’s victories. But was it though? Let’s think about this some more.

All the way back in 279 BCE a king won a battle. His name was Pyrrhus. His victory was so memorable that it has become a phrase often used in English, as in Pyrrhic victory, this being victory that costs so much you have little left. This short piece will look at some of the lasting consequences of the Blair regime and question whether the winning so much lauded by some centrists was anything of the sort. After all, it is predicated on Blair being some kind of progressive, and even that is now easily recognised as debatable.

Labour was founded in part by the trade unions. They were unhappy with not having enough of a voice in the British Parliament and wanted a party they could have direct input into. This relationship was often used by Tories to pretend that Labour was beholden to the unions. The answer to this is so what? If you think about it, is it any different from being beholden to the people who think they own everything and everybody like the Tories? Who controls the trade unions, at least in theory? Their members. So in reality is there a divide with working class people as preached by our dead from the neck up media?

Thatcher defeated the miners and the other strong unions (Railways and Engineering) by using extreme violence and in part a variety of anti trade union legislation that her goverment introduced. Earlier Tory governments had tried to introduce similar legislation this and were roundly trounced in the late 70’s.

So, one of the things that Labour promised to its founders was a repeal of the legislation when it got back into power.

This never happened and has been conveniently forgotten.

The recent lack of support for the teaching unions over the attempts to force schools to open during the pandemic is more of the same. Support for trade unionists is dubious and partial at best, the middle class centrists who now run the party are terrified of people working collectively to protect themselves because they don’t understand it, it’s not sufficiently aspirational.

So, when we’re talking about winning with Blair this is the first win.

Next, let’s talk about the organisation of the NHS. Thatcher inherited a monolithic organisation that was run nationally and financed centrally. It was not something that could easily be privatised. That said, there are strategies and techniques in place that allow the break up of such monolithic organisations. These are very similar to ones used by businesses that are planning to off shore their manufacturing arm.

  • Create a management layer that splits the comissioning of the work
    from the doing of the work
  • Break large national organisation into smaller regional ones
  • Allow external companies to bid for pieces of work now they are small
    enough to be manageable.
  • Transfer the staff to the external companies so they lose their rights
    and are cheaper to employ. In the case of the NHS this is how
    companies can make money from a service that was designed to not have any kind of surplus, by attacking workers’ pay and conditions.

This is broadly what happened to the NHS. It’s why we now have a whole bunch of care commissions and service delivery groups in the NHS. It’s why there is a market in the NHS, allegedly to foster competition, but in fact to give external companies a way to take over the operations. A useful side effect of this is it’s easy to make cuts and give the reconstituted bureacratic layers less money to work with without it being too obvious. The tories also played games with VAT so on paper external companies were cheaper, because they could reclaim their tax, when the NHS itself was not able to. This effectively gave the external companies a 20% subsidy. As well as this, of course, the delivery parts of the NHS were never intended to make a profit. So if you allocate the same or less funds to a private company that is intended to make one the service will suffer. This isn’t rocket science.

The so-called NHS deficit (which means chronic underfunding in plain English) almost exactly matches the cost of the bogus internal market. This is no coincidence as extra funds weren’t allocated to pay for it.

Again, undoing the internal market, and removing these reforms were promised and never happened. Blair’s government did put a lot more money into the NHS, but they didn’t undo the privatisation preparations. All the tools and structures to destroy the service and replace it with a US style insurance system with the care being commissioned was left in place. All the Cameron government had to to was pick it up and run with it.

This is the second great win, of course.

Now let’s move on to the next great victory, which is the nonsense that is the Public Finance Initiative (PFI). Blair’s chancellor, Brown, had promised that he would stay within Tory spending targets. Putting aside the nonsense that a country with a sovereign currency could be said to have debt, it means that Brown had a slight quandary, in that Labour had promised to invest in the public sector and particularly the NHS but inherited spending plans that meant it wouldn’t be possible.

PFI, in essence, borrows money in a way that meant it wasn’t technically included in government borrowing. The funds required to, say, rebuild a school or hospital the Tories had neglected so long it was falling down, was turned into a financial contract. The hedge funds or whoever held the contract were entitled to interest several points over the base rate, and the hospitals or schools were obliged to make the payments first before doing anything else. If the payments don’t happen the people who hold the contract would end up owning the thing they had financed.

If you lived in the fantasy world where boom and bust was over, and everyone’s wages will increase forever, and so on this almost seems like a good idea. Of course, anyone with any sense could see it was stupid.

So now, in 2021, we have companies that failed to build hospitals or whatever and went bankrupt. We have new facilities that are technically fantastic but they haven’t been given the funds to employ staff and pay the debt on the buildings, which contributes to the so-called deficit. As usual, the money flowing around the capitalist system in the UK has been diverted into the pockets of those who already have plenty. We have a sovereign currency that means it can effectively just be called into existence, but instead of using that to invest it’s been put into the pockets of the wealthy, as usual.

Brown’s team, at the time, claimed they were rescuing PFI which could, one supposes, now seem very amusing. As usual there is now no sense of consequence or hubris. Brown keeps popping up in the commentariat and expects to be treated as something other than a bumbling has been. So, win number three for Blair (and Brown).

Then we come to the sore question of the 2008 crisis. It was a con driven by the banks to suck money out of the credit bubble by selling it back to themselves and loaning it out again over and over on ever more risky investments after downgrading the risk by lying about it. The boom was fundamentally built on fraud, allowed by the reregulation and massive cutting back of the regulators of the Thatcher era in the UK, and Regan and Clinton in the US, along with most of the other capital markets at the time. Laws put in place to stop rip offs and mis-selling, of setting your customers up to take losses while you hoovered up the money, were repealed or just ignored. Eventually the bubble burst.

Instead of jailing the fraudsters and protecting small investors the banks were bailed out. Their fraud and folly was turned into public debt, and, after being saved, bonuses were still paid. Think about this for a moment.

Win number four.

If you can remember back far enough there were in fact two Iraq wars. The first one drove the Iraqi forces out of Saudi Arabia and then left things hanging for many years (after abandoning people who rebelled against the regime to be murdered by it). So, the Iraqi people were punished for the crime of having a leader who was now out of favour with his former Western sponsors with sanctions. If they wanted to buy medical supplies, or indeed anything useful, with their oil revenues they were first price gouged and then various British and US officials decided whether or not the items could be deemed as having military applications and be denied.

So medical supplies, vaccines for children, cancer treatments and so on were not available to the ordinary Iraqis. A report in the British Medical Journal puts the number of children who died as a result of this policy, alone, at half a million. Labour at the time claimed to have an ethical foreign policy. These are not tears of laughter, they’re just tears.

Win number 5.

So, in summary:

  • Let’s leave anti Trade Union legislation in place
  • Let’s leave NHS provider split in place ready for Cameron
  • Let’s hog tie future generations with PFI idiocy
  • Let’s bail out banks & not prosecute fraud
  • Let’s kill half a million kids with sanctions even before we went to

Win win win win win!

This feels a lot like losing looking back in 2021. We could also talk about how various flagship policies which did actually make some kind of difference to a few people were easily dismantled when Cameron came in. Not discussed here, either, is Brown selling of the UK gold reserves at a massive discount, or his changing the tax regime so that single people on fixed incomes were properly shafted. These are minor wins, obviously.

So, Tony Blair is the only Labour leader who won two elections since the war.

So what?

The boot appeared to be lifted off our necks for a few years, only to make sure it could come back down more firmly later once the ground had been prepared for more misery.