30 June 2009

The decline of social democracy

The argument that social democracy is only possible in socially homogenous states contains an element of truth but misses the key point. Social gains happen when working people politically fight for them.

The instrument of progress in the first three-quarters of the last century across Europe was the workers movement. Capitalist power, in Northern Europe in particular, found the easiest path to be a compromise with or an acceptance of social democracy. That was especially true in those zones which bordered the old iron curtain: Scandinavia Germany and Austria.

With the demise of reforming left parties (often through self-destruction carried out by the likes of Tony Blair) and the disappearance of the Soviet threat, the balance of power has shifted in favour of capital; and hence workers’ rights are diminishing.

29 June 2009

G20: Police commander blames own officers for misdeeds

The attempt by the police commander Bob Broadhurst to explain away the extensive police violence against demonstrators on 1 April as merely the deeds of inexperienced young officers is disingenuous.

It was Broadhurst who earlier inflamed the situation with his predication of a summer of rage, who gave orders to imprison (i.e. kettle) thousands of peaceful protesters without food, water or toilet facilities, then to baton-charge them and beat them. It was officers under his command who with impunity took off their service numbers so they could assault at will.

Individual officers certainly sometimes went on a frolic of their own, but they did not decide to compulsorily photograph individual demonstrators as the left the street concentration centres, or issue that wholly false press release about the death of Ian Tomlinson.

Quite clearly Broadhurst miscalculated. He though the police violence which he unleashed would be applauded by New Labour and the Daily Mail. Thanks to people-photography he got it wrong – and now the coward wants to blame his own officers.

22 June 2009

What does Heigegger mean practically?

The Cartesian tradition: thinking subjects attempting comprehend things/objects in the world. Heidegger: Dasein (being there) the subject is not behind a glass wall but immersed in activities, which often do not need to be thought about, in an already pre-given world.

The question that any practically minded person is going to ask is: what does this mean in practice?

Outside the field of literature and philosophy, I would say this: Heideggerism results in shifting the emphasis from rational thinking to intuitional feeling and from an attempt at absolute knowledge to relativism, (your truth is as good as mine). Heidegger can be seen as replacing the individual with a zombie-like conception of the human being in the flow-of-life.

Heidegger reveals some important aspects of human existence, but one should avoid over reliance on his philosophy.

17 June 2009

Miliband to keep British torture guidelines secret

Everyone knows the truth: MI6 officers sat around or strolled the corridors while British citizens were being tortured for them. Perhaps curiosity never got the better of these agents and they never peeped in as the finger nails came out; I tend to doubt that.

Miliband lied when he claimed the government never participated in or condoned torture. The truth is that New Labour are as intensely relaxed about electric shocks applied to the genitals as they are about corruption and income inequality.

Next to the crimes which British government ministers, MI6 and its specific agents have committed (all three share culpability) the so-called guidelines under which these people were supposedly operating are almost irrelevant.

16 June 2009

Man tasered three times in Nottingham

It is increasingly clear that, whatever the legitimate uses of tasers as alternatives to live bullets, the weapon is mostly used an instrument of on-the-spot torture.

The truth is that any police service will descend into a band of thugs, unless it is held to account by political and legal authorities. Unfortunately, New Labour, in a bankrupt attempt to outflank the Tories in appearing tough on crime, has been happy to let this descent in thuggery gather pace.

The situation is truly appalling.

Inquiry into the Iraq War

The fact that Gordon Brown’s inquiry into the invasion and occupation of Iraq is to be held in secret renders it meaningless and useless.

It is no secret that Blair took the decision to follow the US politically and militarily first and then searched for a reason later. The claim that Saddam had WMDs was a lie; the original legal advice on the legality of the War was sent back to be changed; and the notion that Blair was acting out of humanitarian concern (even though acting illegally) was shown to be a sick joke by subsequent events in Iraq.

A proper independent inquiry would have one key meaning: it would establish who should properly be Tony Blair’s co-defendants on trial. And precisely for that reason there never will be an independent inquiry into the crime.

15 June 2009

Heidegger on Being

Perhaps the most important thing to understand about Heidegger and Being is this:

The philosophical tradition before Heidegger was based on the so-called Cartesian division of thinkers, subjects; and the external world of things, objects.

Heidegger says we don’t primarily look at the world like this, i.e. through a “glass window;” rather we are there, part of it. He calls this sense of being in the world from the German, Dasein (being-there). We are part of the world which is already a pre-given for us; we, for the most part, act as others do, and we rarely think about what we are doing.

That is Heidegger’s concept of Being in a nutshell.

My own view is that Heidegger’s notion of Dasein is correct but an irrelevant dead end in philosophy. Cartesian still has rich themes to be worked.

11 June 2009

The Alternative Vote

The alternative vote, which is not a system of proportional representation (it would still mean no Green or BNP MPs), usually has one advantage over first past the post: people need not vote tactically. They can vote for their first preference, and if that candidate is eliminated, transfer their vote to another.

That usually works, but not always. In constituency X the first past the post results is as follows.

Centre: 40
Right: 36
Left: 24

The centre candidate has only won perhaps because 10% of left voters have voted tactically for the centre. Without tactical voting the first round would be.

Right: 36
Left: 34
Centre: 30

Under AV the centre candidate is now eliminated and if his vote transfers equally between left and right the right candidate wins.

We can thus see that AV neither leads to proportional representation, nor does it necessarily lead to MPs more closely reflecting voters’ wishes. It’s a marginal improvement, if that.

British thinking and the EU

British thinking on Europe has always been a contradiction.

Euro scepticism is built on the simple emotion that British people don’t like foreigners making their laws for them.

On the other hand there are obvious advantages to being a powerful influence in a powerful EU, as opposed to begging for first satellite status to the US, and getting nothing in return.

Many areas are policy (competition law, consumer protection, the environment, and even immigration and foreign policy) are more effectively dealt with at a pan-European level.

Britain will not be leaving the EU, so it is important that British politicians are effective in fighting for their interests and their designs for Europe, not shuffling off to the sidelines.