26 November 2008

What Darling should do

Chancellor Darling is not wrong to increase government debt in this recession in an attempt to increase the money supply and demand in the British economy because today unprecedented levels of private debt, secured against collapsing asset prices, threatens wide scale bankruptcy and destitution for working people interlinked with mass insolvency for companies.

However Darling also threatens to reboot the economy with the same virus which inflicted the recession in the first place, namely private debt for consumer spending. Would you advise a vulnerable, but still solvent, neighbour in the present climate to spend to the hilt or save for the stormy days ahead? Yet Darling’s VAT reduction prompts such people to spend.

Instead, Darling should consider two steps. One is to be far bolder in promoting immediate direct government investment in the economy for which we need a National Enterprise Board. Second, he must consider a huge devaluation in sterling (and yes some inflation) to lessen the amount of debt.

25 November 2008

Censorship for teenagers

Do you really think a young person can be 17 years and 364 days, living in your censored and sanitised world, and then become an adult the following day? Do you really believe that prohibition can prevent a teenage boys interest pornography?

The answer lies in the exact opposite of what you want to do. Dont disempower and guilt-trip your teenage children, but allow them to explore their sexuality. Make sure they have the information to understand pornography; they will never understand the role of pornography unless they have seen and experienced it.

Most adult people recognise something which opponents of pornography want to deny, namely that nobody can control the content of his or her sexual fantasies. To take one example: a person may be excited by watching humiliation and corporal punishment, but would never contemplate realising that fantasy. That is how it is for a well-balanced adult, but that distinction has to be learnt in the teenage years.

Those who try to suppress their sexual fantasies will never succeed and will never understand the proper distinction between a fantasy wish and a wish that he or she wants to realise. Such people are the dangerous ones.

Pornography, despite its ugliness and dangers, is not just a source of enjoyment for many, but also a tool for understanding oneself.

Indeed

This article errs in blaming viewing pornography rather than an inability on the part of a few to control the distinction between fantasy and committing serious crime.

Most people recognise something, which opponents of pornography want to deny, namely that nobody can control the content of his or her sexual fantasies. A large number of ‘healthy’ people, quite beyond their will, are excited by watching violence, humiliation and forced sex, but on account of their normal developed moral sense would never contemplate realising any such fantasies.

Those who hopelessly try to suppress their sexual fantasies and shun the imagery they crave will never succeed in understanding themselves and will never comprehend the proper distinction between a fantasy wish and a wish that he or she wants to realise.

Only by openness with regard to sexual fantasy can we even start to address the problem which afflicts a tiny minority of people who can’t control what they do. Pornography is not just a source of enjoyment, but also is a means of self-understanding.

21 November 2008

The BNP membership list

The online publication of the full membership list of the BNP with addresses, comments and other contact details provides an unaccustomed level of precision in politics. Behind the lists of bland English surnames on the spreadsheet, we have a precise cartography of the purveyors of hate dotted across the country. Now in our hands is concrete proof of the small, yet significant, hold of organised fascism throughout Britain.

I did what everyone else did: I scoured the list for the places where I had lived in England and where my family and friends live. Though necessary - the left needs to know the identity of these people - there is something unpleasant in this kind of voyeurism. The snooping resembles the searches in Eastern Europe to discover which neighbours, colleagues and acquaintances were informers. Vile though the ideas and purposes of these British fascists certainly are, we are nonetheless invading the privacy of neighbours who have personally done us no harm.

The key issue, though, is clear. The information is now in the public domain and the left needs it in the struggle against fascism.

18 November 2008

Economic Crisis in Britain

Newspaper commentators make a good job of explaining the current economic crisis, but they fail, naturally enough, to connect their explanations into a class analysis.

Even a reduction of ten percent of UK output would not of itself cause very much hardship in Britain if income and wealth were not so unequally distributed. Only by understanding working class debt can the dimensions of socio-economic crisis can be grasped.

New Labour presided over a regime in which capital flowed into Britain, bolstering the value of sterling, to fund working class spending. The houses, cars, etc. were paid for only in part through wages, but, thanks to credit, the disposable income was much higher. One effect of this high expenditure was to drive up house prices leading many to re-mortgage in order to fund further expenditure, which in turn drove up house prices further.

The boom ended when finance capital saw the value of its security (the house, earning potential of the worker) could not guarantee the credit advanced. By the autumn of 2008 the withdrawal of credit (its sterling value secured by the tax payer through bank bailouts) led to a Britain characterised by recession, growing unemployment and falling house prices. Workers face mortgages and other credit bills they can’t pay as their income and assets decline. The end of the road is re-possession and destitution.

Let us be clear: today and in the coming years many working people have, and will continue to have, absolutely nothing, or less than nothing. How is any of this the outcome of Blair’s stakeholder society?

Credit for consumption makes little sense unless you believe that your income will keep on rising. The myth of eternal economic growth was peddled by New Labour in the 90s and early 2000s who argued that a flexible workforce and low wages were boosting the economy. What in fact was boosting Britain just as much was the inflow of capital to finance consumer credit. Two illusions of wealth were rising house prices and cheap holidays; Mediterranean holidays paid for by an overvalued pound caused by the purchase of sterling to lend to consumers. (Buying property at home and abroad along with foreign holiday were the topics of endless TV programmes ‘Brits abroad’ and the like)

Blair pulled it off for a while. Profits rose and capital had the additional ability to secure interest from workers as they bought their houses and partied on credit. For all but the poorest in Britain it seemed as if the country were booming. Everything could be had on the ‘never-never’ housing, education, holidays and through PFI even hospitals and the London Underground.

7 November 2008

The Glenrothes by-election in Scotland

Labour’s success in the Glenrothes by-election signals a profound change in the configuration of British politics.

The summer of 2008 marked the nadir of the collapse of the New Labour coalition which came to office in 1997. I earlier analysed the death of that coalition in the following piece:

http://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=d88xqxn_141dgqxtxhh&hl=en_GB

By the summer of 2008 Labour had relinquished much of its working class support, not simply on account of Brown’s continued focus on the concerns of Middle England, but because of hostile economic measures which directly impacted on the working class: removal of the ten pence tax band and inaction in the face of rising fuel bills and corporate profits. Across the working class the question was posed: what does New Labour stand for? Labour support plummeted and votes dissipated in all directions. The low point was another Scottish by-election, Glasgow East, lost in July to the SNP.

The financial crisis of October 2008, ushering in recession, altered the pieces on the chessboard. Brown after his habitual dithering rose to the occasion and used public money to nationalise banking debt and reliquidify finance capital in order to prevent a financial meltdown, an act taken to bolster capitalism and in the immediate interest of all social classes.

Two consequences result. First, in the face of recession, rising unemployment and repossessions, the working class is moving in a pro-Labour direction for self-protection, though whether Labour will offer more than cold comfort is debatable. For vulnerable working people gambling with dandy Cameron in England or Salmond in Scotland is now less of an option. Hence Brown’s success in the Glenrothes election.

Second, the perception that the London government could ‘solve’ the banking crisis undercut the nationalism of the SNP. In the ongoing identification battle of Scotland whether a nation in its own right or a sub-unit of a greater Britain, it was the latter that was strengthen against the former. Hence Brown’s success in the Glenrothes election.

That Brown prevented a meltdown of support in the working class does not mean that he has yet convinced Middle England to vote for him over Cameron in 2010. Much depends on how Cameron re-orients his propaganda in the next two years of recession.