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This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate
by Naomi Klein
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.50

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful study of capitalism's effects on our environment, 2 Dec 2014
Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine and No Logo, has written another challenging book. In this one, she shows how capitalism is destroying our environment.

The capitalist cartel the EU plays a leading role in this destruction. It took Canada to court over its renewable energy programme because it included support for local jobs, which is illegal under World Trade Organization rules, as protectionist and discriminatory. The EU’s Emissions Trading System gave windfall profits of more than $32 billion to electricity companies in Britain, Germany, Spain and Italy, in just five years.

The EU also promotes privatisation, under which we have given Virgin Trains £3 billion subsidies since the 1990s. In 2010, Virgin Trains gave £18 million dividends to Richard Branson and his Virgin Group. So workers subsidise the oligarchs, who some think will save us. The EU’s TTIP is yet more proof that the EU backs the corporations against the peoples of Europe’s nations.

The U.S. BlueGreen Alliance of trade unions and environmentalists estimated that investing $40 billion a year in public transit and high-speed rail for six years would create more than 3.7 million jobs. A 2011 study by Smart Growth America found that such investment creates 31 per cent more jobs per dollar than investment in building new roads and bridges.

Investing $1.3 billion (the amount Canada gives as subsidies to oil and gas companies) would create 17-20,000 jobs in Canadian renewable energy, public transit or energy efficiency – six to eight times as many jobs as that money creates in the oil and gas sector. So we need to invest in public transport, and in upgrading buildings to make them energy-efficient. We need a form of society in which long-term public planning achieves the use of natural resources to maximise human welfare, not private profit.

She calls for practical alternative development models yet makes not a single mention of Cuba. As Oxfam’s Duncan Green pointed out in his useful book From poverty to power, “Cuba was the only country in the world that managed to live within its environmental footprint while achieving high levels of human development. This was probably due to its unique combination of sound environmental management, excellent health and education provision.” The World Wildlife Fund said that Cuba led the world in minimising its ecological footprint. Cuba was the only country in the world that had both a quality of life above the World Wildlife Fund threshold of 0.8 on the Human Development Index and a sustainable ecological footprint. So Cuba met its people’s needs using reasonably low levels of natural resources.


Private Island: Why Britain Now Belongs to Someone Else
Private Island: Why Britain Now Belongs to Someone Else
by James Meek
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.39

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful survey of the sell-off of Britain, 2 Dec 2014
Novelist and journalist James Meek outlines how foreign companies have taken over much of our infrastructure. This book comprises a series of studies – the post, the railways, water, energy, health and housing. He states, “It is not racism that makes the foreign identity of some of the owners of our privatised infrastructure objectionable. It’s the selling of taxation powers to foreign governments over whom we have even less democratic control than our own.”

Thatcher is to blame for letting foreign companies seize our national assets. Her aim was ‘to secure free movement of capital throughout the Community’. With that came the free movement of goods and the free movement of labour. Now the EU imposes these Thatcherite free trade policies on its members, and with TTIP wants to impose them on the whole world.

Royal Mail posties get on average £11.64 an hour in London. The privatised Dutch mail company TNT pays £7.10, on zero-hours contracts.

Meek points out that the West Coast Main Line is not on the West Coast and is not a line. It is a network of routes between London and Glasgow connecting them to Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and other cities. Railtrack paid its shareholders £3.8 billion in dividends and interest over five years, and then collapsed. The Railtrack fiasco “is a story, too, with wider implications about the kind of country that Britain has become: a country that has lost faith in its ability to design, make and build useful things, a country where the few who do still have that ability are underpaid, unrecognised, and unadmired.”

Water, like rail, was starved of investment before privatisation and still starved now. Governments have cut flood defences and encouraged building in flood-prone areas.

EDF, the French company, now one of the big six, owns the nuclear plants that provide a sixth of our electricity. Nuclear power has a seventh of the carbon emissions of gas per watt. But the EU wants a fifth of our power stations to close by the 2020s. A Labour energy minister said, “We couldn’t buy a French power station, and they could buy ours.” The EU’s competition authority took the decision on EDF’s bid. The EU forbade Britain’s competition authority to do so. Now foreign-owned electricity companies collect flat-rate taxes that hit the poorest hardest.

Our NHS is not safe in Labour’s hands. It introduced foundation trusts, and gave millions to private companies to run specialist clinics.

By 2012, only 1.7 million houses were still in council hands. Housing associations owned 2.4 million. 76 per cent of all bank loans go to property, 64 per cent of that to residential mortgages.

In Tower Hamlets, a fifth of all households are waiting for social housing. 10,000 are waiting for a one-bedroom flat, only 840 of which became available in 2012-13. Increasing demand does not lead to increased supply but to higher prices and rents. House prices tripled between 1997 and 2008. Average private-sector rents across England and Wales increased to a record £770 in October.
The government skewed the housing market by restricting supply (cutting two-thirds of the grant to housing associations to build) and by raising prices (through Help to Buy, which offers well-off people cheap loans to overbid for overpriced houses).


The Holocaust in Rovno: The Massacre at Sosenki Forest, November 1941 (Palgrave Pivot)
The Holocaust in Rovno: The Massacre at Sosenki Forest, November 1941 (Palgrave Pivot)
by Jeffrey Burds
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £46.41

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, harrowing study of a genocidal massacre., 7 Nov 2014
This book describes the massacre of some 23,500 Jewish men, women and children in Sosenski Forest, outside Rovno, in Volhynia, Ukraine, on 7-9 November 1941.

The Nazis and their allies created “a popular hate culture of the Żydokomuna, the alleged ‘Jewish-Communist conspiracy’ that was used to justify genocide against Jews as part of the German-Ukrainian war of resistance against Soviet power.”

The Sosenski Forest massacre “was one of dozens of similar German-sponsored large-scale anti-Jewish killing operations perpetrated in Soviet zones that marked the first autumn and winter of World War II in the East.” There were 64 massacres, including the one at Babi Yar.

“In Ukraine alone, more than 441,414 Jews were killed in a four-month period, from September to December 1941 – largely shot by special German units supported by far more numerous units of local collaborationist police. Throughout the Soviet East, adding the Baltics, Russia and Rumania, the number of murdered Jews in large Aktionen rises to over 650,000, nearly one in four of all Jews killed in the Holocaust in the East.”

Burds notes, “the overwhelming majority were massacred at designated killing sites in or near their own homes by predominantly local ethnic nationalist militias who played the central role in their executions.”

In 1942, the SS employed in Ukraine 15,000 Germans and 238,000 Ukrainian police. As Alfred Reiber noted, “The destruction of the Jewish population of Ukraine, reduced from 870,000 to 17,000, could not have been accomplished without the aid of the local population, because the Germans lacked the manpower to reach all of the communities that were annihilated, especially in the remote villages.”

Similarly, as Hubert van Tuyll pointed out, “The holocaust in eastern Poland could not have been accomplished without the active participation of hundreds of thousands of locals recruited by the Nazis to control and then slaughter Jews in the field.” The same was true in Latvia, where in 1941 alone, 72,000 of Latvia’s 80,000 Jews were massacred.


Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century
Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century
by Geoffrey Parker
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary study of the 17th century, 7 Nov 2014
This extraordinary book presents the 17th-century’s wars and revolutions and shows how changes in the climate affected the world in these years.

In 1643-1715, there were fewer sunspots, that is, fewer eruptions of extra solar energy, in 70 years than in one year now. El Niño now happens once every five years, but in the mid-17th century it happened far more often: 1638, 1639, 1641, 1642, 1646, 1648, 1650, 1651, 1652, 1659, 1660 and 1661.

The mid-17th century had the coldest spell of weather for 1,000 years. 1641 was the third coldest summer in the northern hemisphere in the last 600 years, and 1643 the tenth coldest. This Little Ice Age killed a third of the world’s people.

1638-44 also saw a record 12 volcanic eruptions around the Pacific. Parker explains this by pointing out, “in ‘normal’ years, when easterly winds prevail, the Pacific stands some 24 inches higher off the Asian than off the American coast, whereas in El Niño years, when westerly winds prevail, those levels reverse. The movement of such a huge volume of water places enormous pressure on the edges of the earth’s tectonic plates around the Pacific periphery, where the most violent and most active volcanoes in the world are located, and this may trigger a spate of eruptions. If this hypothesis is true, it creates a deadly cycle: Reduced solar energy received on earth lowers temperatures, which increases the risk of more, and more severe, El Niño events. El Niño events may trigger volcanic eruptions around the Pacific that throw sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere, which further reduces the solar energy received on earth. El Niño activity becomes twice as likely after a major volcanic eruption.”

These climate events wrecked harvests, causing hunger and therefore disease, and destabilising most of the world’s countries.


Fear of Knowledge: Against Relativism and Constructivism
Fear of Knowledge: Against Relativism and Constructivism
by Paul Boghossian
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine demolition of the case for relativism, 7 Nov 2014
In this brilliant little book, Paul Boghossian, Silver Professor of Philosophy at New York University, demolishes the case for relativism, the notion that there is no such thing as objective truth.

He cites Thomas Nagel: “the claim ‘Everything is subjective’ must be nonsense, for it would itself have to be either subjective or objective. But it can’t be objective, since in that case it would be false if true. And it can’t be subjective, because then it would not rule out any objective claim, including the claim that it is objectively false.”

Boghossian points out that relativism can’t claim to be true: “any considerations against the objective validity of a type of reasoning are inevitably attempts to offer reasons against it, and these must be rationally assessed.”

He asks, “Wouldn’t anyone promoting the view that epistemic reasons never move people to belief need to represent himself as having come to that view precisely because it is justified by the appropriate considerations?”

He sums up, “we have no option but to think that there are absolute, practice-independent facts about what beliefs it would be most reasonable to have under fixed evidential conditions.”

And he concludes, “The intuitive view is that there is a way things are that is independent of human opinion, and that we are capable of arriving at belief about how things are that is objectively reasonable, binding on anyone capable of appreciating the relevant evidence regardless of their social or cultural perspective.”


Visions of Freedom: Havana, Washington, Pretoria, and the Struggle for Southern Africa, 1976-1991 (New Cold War History)
Visions of Freedom: Havana, Washington, Pretoria, and the Struggle for Southern Africa, 1976-1991 (New Cold War History)
by Piero Gleijeses
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £25.45

5.0 out of 5 stars A splendid, well-researched study of the struggle against apartheid, 4 Nov 2014
Piero Gleijeses wrote ‘Conflicting missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959-1976’. This book continues the story. It is a magnificent account of the struggle against apartheid: Cuba, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), Namibia’s South West African People’s Organisation (SWAPO), and South Africa’s African National Congress, against the South African apartheid regime and its allies the US and British governments.

The CIA admitted, “Castro’s shadow looms large because social and economic conditions throughout Latin America invite opposition to ruling authority and encourage agitation for radical change.” US intelligence analysts accurately noted of Castro: “He has no intention of subordinating himself to Soviet discipline and direction, and he has increasingly disagreed with Soviet concepts, strategies and theories.”

Gleijeses writes, “Washington urged Pretoria to intervene. On October 14 [1975], South African troops invaded Angola, transforming the civil war into an international conflict. As the South Africans raced toward Luanda, MPLA resistance crumbled; they would have seized the capital had not Castro decided on November 4 to respond to the MPLA’s appeals for troops. The evidence is clear – even though many scholars continue to distort it – the South Africans invaded first, and the Cubans responded. The Cuban forces, despite their initial inferiority in numbers and weapons, halted the South African onslaught. The official South African historian of the war writes, ‘The Cubans rarely surrendered and, quite simply, fought cheerfully until death.’”

Carter and Brzezinski both lied that Cuba was involved in the Katangan invasion of Zaire in 1978. They falsely accused Castro of lying.

In May 1978, South African forces massacred more than 600 Namibian refugees, who were under the protection of the UN High Commission for Refugees, in Cassinga in southern Angola.

In Angola, three organisations fought for power – the MPLA, the FNLA and UNITA. The FNLA, the US consul general in Luanda observed, ‘was totally corrupt’. Jonas Savimbi, UNITA’s leader, was ‘a monster whose lust for power had brought appalling misery to his people’, as Marrack Goulding, the British Ambassador in Luanda, judged. Steve Weissman, a staff member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Africa, admitted, “We wanted to hurt Cuba, and we wanted to help people who wanted to hurt Cuba. When Savimbi said that he was ‘fighting for freedom against Cuba’ - this was his trump card. It was impossible to counter it. Savimbi had one redeeming quality: he killed Cubans.”

“the Cuban soldiers, armed by the Soviet Union, protected the MPLA government and thereby protected SWAPO and the ANC. Even the CIA acknowledged that the Cuban troops were ‘necessary to preserve Angolan independence’.”

In Namibia, “SWAPO, South African officials lamented, would win any free elections; therefore, the UN-supervised elections that the international community demanded were a non-starter.”

Gleijeses writes, “Without Moscow, Cuban could not have kept tens of thousands of soldiers in Angola for more than a decade. Without Moscow, the Angolan army would have been virtually without weapons. ‘The two great achievements of the USSR in Angola,’ a senior Angolan officer remarked, ‘were to give the weapons to our army and to aid Cuba.’ Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos told Castro in December 1988, ‘The Soviet Union helped Angola and helped Cuba to help Angola.’

“The engine was Cuba. It was the Cubans who pushed the Soviets to help Angola. It was they who stood guard in Angola for many long years, thousands of miles from home, to prevent the South Africans from overthrowing the MPLA government. It was they who in 1988, with the reinforcements Castro sent against Gorbachev’s wishes, forced the South African army out of Angola. It was they who forced Pretoria to abandon Savimbi and hold free elections in Namibia – which SWAPO won. In the words of Nelson Mandela, the Cuban victory over the South African army in southern Angola in 1988 ‘destroyed the myth of the invincibility of the white oppressor … [and] inspired the fighting masses of South Africa.’ This was Cuba’s contribution to what Castro has called ‘the most beautiful cause’ – the struggle against racial oppression in southern Africa. Humiliating one superpower and repeatedly defying the other, Cuba changed the course of history in southern Africa.” Mandela summed up, “Cuito Cuanavale was the turning point for the liberation of our continent – and of my people – from the scourge of apartheid.”

Gleijeses ends this splendid book by quoting what Mandela said when he visited Cuba in 1991, “We come here with a sense of the great debt that is owed the people of Cuba. What other country can point to a record of greater selflessness than Cuba has displayed in its relations to Africa?”


The Establishment: And how they get away with it
The Establishment: And how they get away with it
by Owen Jones
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.50

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful social study, but hopeless about what to do about the problems facing us., 28 Oct 2014
Owen Jones, author of ‘Chavs: the demonization of the working class’, has turned his attention from the British working class to the ruling class. This is another social study of great interest.

He presents much useful information about Britain today. Paul Staines, aka Tory blogger Guido Fawkes, said, “We’ve had nearly a century of universal suffrage now, and what happens is capital finds ways to protect itself from – you know – the voters.” Democracy is a threat to capital, and capital’s unaccountable and destructive power is a threat to democracy.

In 1979, 6 per cent of the nation’s income went to the richest 1 per cent, now 14 per cent goes to them. In 2000, the average FTSE 100 CEO got 40 times more than an ordinary worker, by 2011, 185 times more. The combined wealth of the richest 1,000 Britons is nearly £520 billion.

The Bank of England noted that quantitative easing cost the poorest tenth of the population £779 each, while the richest tenth got a £322,000 raise in their assets’ value.

By 2013, foreign investors owned 53.2 per cent of British shares. In 1973, foreign owners owned 7 per cent of top British firms, by 2012, 41 per cent. We are a residential tax haven: in the first half of 2011, overseas investors bought 60 per cent of new-build homes in central London. We need to curb foreign ownership of residential property.

In 2012, the big 6 energy firms got £3.7 billion profit, up 73 per cent on 2009; more than half went to shareholders in dividends, not into investment. EU law allows firms to set up anywhere in the EU (including its many tax havens) without paying taxes. The National Audit Office revealed that one in five large British firms paid no corporation tax in 2013.

The poorest 10 per cent pay 43 per cent of their income in tax. The richest 10 per cent pay, supposedly, 35 per cent. Real disposable incomes fell in all English regions except London from 2003 onwards. From 2004, the wages of the poorer half stagnated, and the poorest third’s fell.

One MP admitted of the expenses scandal, “The informal approach was big pay rises were politically impossible, so make it up through the expenses.” A 2012 study found that 46 of the top 50 publicly traded firms – 92 per cent - had a British parliamentarian as a director or shareholder. This was the highest proportion in any of the 48 nations studied – the next highest was 16 per cent.

There are a million more people registered as self-employed since 2000. Their income has fallen by 20 per cent since 2006, and nearly 90 per cent who became self-employed after the crash work for fewer than 30 hours a week. Of course, they get no sick pay, paid holidays or pensions.

Polls show that the British people back radical policies: 70 per cent of us back public ownership of energy companies, two thirds want the railways and the Royal Mail renationalised, and 60 per cent back a 75 per cent tax on those getting more than £1 million a year. Interestingly, on many issues, UKIP voters are even more radical than the rest of us: 78 per cent backed public ownership of energy companies, 73 per cent wanted the railways renationalised, 50 per cent backed rent controls, and 40 per cent backed controls on the prices of food and groceries.

The then BBC journalist Paul Mason wrote, “By enshrining in national and international law the need for balanced budgets and near-zero structural deficits, the eurozone has outlawed expansionary fiscal policies.” The EU has torn up the European Social Model and embraced ‘austerity’ (that is, poverty) policies.

Spectator editor Fraser Nelson noted that the EU was an insurance policy against any government deviating from ‘austerity’. He gloated that the European Court of Justice had allowed NHS patients to be treated privately in Europe at the government’s expense, and that EU laws prevented governments from backing the car industry or renationalising the railways.

Since 2001, governments have spent on new railway infrastructure, to make up for the private rail companies’ failure to do so. Between 2007 and 2011, the government gave the five largest rail companies nearly £3 billion. The companies made operating profits of more than £500 million, nearly all paid out as dividends to shareholders.

In 2006, the government paid private treatment centres an average 11 per cent more per operation than NHS hospitals, which proved that its aim was to subsidise private providers, not to cut costs. Labour’s PFI projects were worth £54.7 billion, but the taxpayer will end up paying £310 billion. In 2012, the government announced a £1.5 billion bailout of PFI hospitals, while the profit went to the privateers.

So Jones presents a picture of a country mired in depression. But what does he propose we do? He urges us to build the so-called People’s Assemblies, powerless talking shops, mini-parliaments, mini-regional assemblies, meeting now and then to listen to the usual suspects telling them what to think. This is a deliberate turning away from the only tried and tested form of organisation that workers have created, our trade unions. We need instead to recruit to, build, and work in our unions.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 3, 2014 2:35 PM GMT


The Contradictions of Austerity: The Socio-Economic Costs of the Neoliberal Baltic Model (Routledge Studies in the European Economy)
The Contradictions of Austerity: The Socio-Economic Costs of the Neoliberal Baltic Model (Routledge Studies in the European Economy)
by James Galbraith
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £80.88

5.0 out of 5 stars Fine study of the damage that the EU has done to the Baltic states (and others too!), 7 Oct 2014
This excellent book is a collection of studies of the Baltic states’ political economy. The editors are Jeffrey Sommers and Charles Woolfson. Sommers is Associate Professor of Political Economy and Public Policy in Global Studies and Africology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Woolfson is Professor of Labor Studies at Linköping University, Sweden.
After the 2008 crash, the EU’s ‘austerity’ policies killed off any remnants of the European ‘Social Model’. The President of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, said in 2012 that the European ‘Social Model’ was ‘gone’.
The EU’s shock therapy slashed wages. Its Consolidated Treaty on the Functioning of the EU’s Article 123 stopped national central banks issuing credit, forcing governments to borrow from private banks, to their profit.
During the ‘boom’ years of 2004-08, banks poured money into real estate pushing up property prices. So did EU Structural Funds. Hot money from the east rushed into Baltic offshore banks, pushing up commodity prices.
When the property bubble burst, their governments acted to save the real estate economy, at the expense of the real economy. They used EU and IMF funds to pay foreign debts and bailout banks. The EU told Latvia’s Prime Minister that he could not spend EU money for ‘promoting export industries or to stimulate the economy through increased spending’.
Latvia’s real wages were slashed by 5-8 per cent in 2009 and by 2-6 per cent in 2010, below Greece’s levels. Unemployment reached 17-19 per cent in 2010, youth unemployment more than 30 per cent. Governments cut their spending by 3-8 per cent in 2009 and by 3-7 per cent in 2010. They cut maternity and child allowances, health and unemployment benefits.
In 1991, Latvia had no government debt, no personal debt, no real estate debt and no business debt. Now it is indebted all round, inflating the prices of homes and commercial real estate. Its GDP fell by 25 per cent in 2008-10. 40 per cent were flung into poverty. Since Latvia joined the EU in 2004, poverty has grown hugely, in some estimates by 158 percent. In 2007, it had 75.7 hospital beds per 1,000 people, in 2010, just 53.2, a 30 per cent cut.
1 per cent of the population emigrated every year. The number of homicides in the Baltic States has tripled since the end of the Soviet Union. In January 2009, 10,000 people protested, and 4,000 farmers and 8,000 teachers.
The European Commission admitted (or boasted), ‘austerity’ policies “are likely to aggravate extreme poverty and exacerbate the existing inequality in access to social assistance across local governments.”
Latvia now plays a large part in the global money laundering tax evasion system. Nine billion euros flowed into Latvia in 2012, a quarter from banking and another quarter from the purchase of property. It sold residency, mostly to oligarchs from the east, which gave them access to travel throughout the Schengen Zone.
Since the crisis, all the Baltic governments have enforced the policies that caused the crisis. They have encouraged speculative foreign investment, competing in races to the bottom for wages and tax takes. They have forced wages down and property prices up, slashed taxes on finance and property, and raised taxes on workers. Wages were cut by 3.5 per cent between 2009 and 2012 and by 7 per cent between 2008 and 2011. When taxes on finance and property are cut, cutting the deficit requires cutting public spending.
Erik Reinert and Rainer Kattel (both Professors at Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia) write, “EU enlargement has brought the new EU to a situation where it is difficult to envision any forces that could stop pressure towards lower wages, cuts in social benefits, and so on. The situation in the EU is increasingly similar to the one in Argentina before the great crash (1999-2002). Here a financial crisis combined with a refusal to devalue (which of course in the end had to happen anyway) caused real wages to drop by 40 per cent from peak to bottom.”
They also note, “Just as the free flow of alcohol products from new member countries has induced a collapse in alcohol prices in a country like Sweden, a large-scale free flow of labor may very well have a similar effect on labor process …”
Woolfson and Sommers write, “the high-water mark of social democracy was previously reached at the peak of Soviet power. This timing was no coincidence. … the ideological, if not military threat, of an alternative to economic liberalism had focused Western Europe’s political and economic elites on the project of creating a more congenial capitalist order based on a ‘social compact’ with the then organized working classes. It was the hazard of an ideological alternative to unrestrained capital that provided the opening for worker struggles in Western Europe to succeed in making gains after World War II. …
“Liberalism does not organically evolve toward social democracy, but instead toward the dictatorship of capital and concentration of financial power, as was observed in both mid-nineteenth-century and 1920s Europe, and seemingly today as well. Indeed, rather than social democracy, liberalism’s last stop (if there is one) seems to be located in the iron-grid of austerity. …
“The temporary and relative prosperity of post-war decades is evaporating in an austerity agenda that is reducing millions to penury. The EU, by institutional design, has made its constituent member states vulnerable to economic crisis, and once in crisis, has limited their ability to expedite recovery other than on terms set by those promoting economic competitiveness over social considerations. …
“The crisis that has brought so much economic pain and social dislocation was enabled, in part, by key elements of the European Union’s institutional and political design. …the euro’s debt and inflation requirement, as required by the Maastricht rules, stopped these same countries from advancing the social welfare policies needed to address the fallout from the crisis. …
“To date, the European Union has generated more turbulence than stability. The Maastricht and Lisbon Treaties have served as a Trojan Horse for financial interests seeking to consign Europe’s Social Model to history … Parallel attempts at retaining social protection, labor standards and employment have been weak and ineffectual by comparison, and since 2008, marginalized by the incessant drive for flexibility and the ‘reform’ of labor markets with the ultimate purpose of preserving the European Monetary Union.”
In a postscript, ‘A very Baltic tragedy – the collapse of the Maxima supermarket in Riga, Latvia’, Woolfson and Arunas Juska write, “The current renewed drive by the European Commission towards reducing regulation for business, especially in the aftermath of the crisis, is further justification for long-standing anti-regulatory preferences of neoliberal domestic elites. The results of this combined trajectory are that the significant material costs and human consequences of reckless disregard for public safety in favour of profit are externalized onto the general populace.
“Yet there is a deeper social and political determination that goes to the heart of post-communist society. Neoliberalism in the Baltic states has generated its matching corporate culture, by and large, unrestrained by notions of accountability and social responsibility. But the problem is not just a matter of corporate culture and cost-driven practices. The Maxima episode is the manifestation of a larger cultural deformation that neoliberal attitudes have embedded in the wider social environment of the post-communist Baltic states. Its essence is the sustained violence that results from the free exercise of economic self-interest ‘without limit’. Its manifestations are in the insidious daily attrition of solidarities and social cohesion created by disregard for the welfare of others. This erosion of binding social norms in favour of rampant individualism is most vividly illustrated in the standardized rates of death from ‘external causes’ that are by definition ‘premature and avoidable’. These include transport and motor vehicle accidents, falls, suicides and homicides that in aggregate rates are double and triple those of their Scandinavian neighbors, and for specific indicators such as homicide, approximately five times greater in the three Baltic countries than say in Sweden. After two and a half decades of ‘primitive accumulation’ the neoliberal Baltic states have generated social environments that are characterized by both mortal danger and anti-social behaviour. This is equally so at a collective and at an individual level. Fifty-four lives prematurely and avoidably terminated in Riga on 21 November 2013 attest to this unpalatable fact.”


Counterinsurgency: Exposing the Myths of the New Way of War
Counterinsurgency: Exposing the Myths of the New Way of War
by Douglas Porch
Edition: Paperback
Price: £17.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb analysis of the ghastly futility of colonial wars, 7 Oct 2014
Douglas Porch is Distinguished Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California. He has written a penetrating study of colonial warfare.
He presents studies of the US wars against Vietnam and Iraq, the British wars against the Boers, Ireland, Palestine, Kenya, Malaya, Yemen and Northern Ireland, and the French wars against Syria, Vietnam and Algeria.
Porch writes of these wars, “most proved to be protracted, unlimited, murderous, expensive, total-war assaults on indigenous societies. … the true key to success was pitilessly to target anyone and anything that sustained the insurgency. In this way, colonial warfare simply boiled down to national displacement and ruining the countryside by making it unlivable.”
He points out that “World War II linked counterinsurgency more closely with special operations, which favoured ‘kill or capture’ decapitation strategies and dramatic coups as quixotic solutions to intractable political or strategic problems. … even though special operations and resistance action through intelligence collection, sabotage, disruption, diversion, and popular mobilization had played at best a minimum, even a morally ambiguous, role in the Axis defeat, World War II propelled the myth of the military effectiveness of Wingate-inspired Special Operations Forces (SOF), Lawrencian people’s war, and paratroops into the postwar.”
He notes that “despite its disastrous consequences, Palestine impelled the British tradition of police militarization in small wars, with its concomitant brutalization of counterinsurgency politics and tactics, forward into British operations in Malaya, Kenya, and Northern Ireland.”
For example, in Kenya, from June to December 1953, “20,000 troops swept the reserves, and the ‘Prohibited Areas’ of the Aberdares and Mount Kenya, shooting Africans on sight. … in 1957 the British launched Operation Progress, a program of systematic beatings and horrific tortures in the camps permitted under regulations that allowed guards to use ‘compelling force’ to gain inmate compliance … ”
Porch remarks, “The financial burden combined with the highly publicized violence in the British-run detention camps during the Kenyan Emergency helped to convince Prime Minister Harold Macmillan that the lawless brutality of British counterinsurgency had forfeited Britain’s moral right to rule African colonies.”
Porch also notes that in Cyprus, “32,000 British troops aided by 8,000 mainly Turkish Cypriot auxiliaries deploying deportations, decapitations, torture, pseudo gangs, police violence, and sweeps …” and, again, that “Lieutenant Colonel Colin ‘Mad Mitch’ Mitchell, commander of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders … had entered the Aden Crater against orders and subsequently pacified it with methods that included accusations of wanton killing of Arabs in sadistic ways accompanied by widespread looting by undisciplined troops.”
The British Army’s official report into its actions in Northern Ireland acknowledged, “it could be argued that the Army did make the situation worse by, in practice, alienating the catholic [sic] community in 1970 and 1971.” Porch sums up the British state’s record, “British law, as interpreted in the context of imperial policing, aimed to facilitate and justify official violence, not constrain it” and, “imperial Britain’s small wars retained their dirty, violent, racist character ...”
In general, as Porch observes, “small war dominance institutionalized foreign occupation anchored in minority rule, political and cultural hubris, and economic exploitation, then hearts and minds quickly gave way to the cudgel and machine gun, which was the case following both world wars in a variety of bloody counterinsurgency campaigns that continue through those prosecuted most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Porch quotes the historian Isabel Hull, “Imperialism was war.”
Counterinsurgency resulted in “the institutionalization of collective punishment, torture, resettlement, internment, special night squads/ferret forces/counter gangs, and RAF terror bombing for imperial policing. The key to success was to rebrand these kinetic methods as hearts and minds and prosecute it out of public view. … villages might be bombed from the air, shelled, burned, or imply knocked down, wells poisoned, crops fumigated or destroyed, livestock slaughtered, the wounded executed, and the population displaced. Twice the weight of bombs was dropped in Radfan (Yemen) in the last six months of 1958 than the Luftwaffe had managed to unload on Coventry in November 1940.”
Porch points out, “Protection and isolation of the population from the insurgents usually boiled down to campaigns of counter-terror that included internment without trial, torture, deportation, creating refugee tsunamis, or curfew and concentration camp lockdowns supplemented by calorie control.” He sums up, “COIN [counterinsurgency] is simply updated imperialism: Bacevich quotes an American officer in Iraq who argued that, “With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them,” expressing a view that would have been understood by a nineteenth-century British officer.”
He also shows how counterinsurgency is counter-productive: “Not only did the exemplary violence of COIN bolster insurgent fortunes, be they Zionists, FLN, IRA, or now, it seems, Taliban. But also, harsh tactics undermined support for COIN among populations at home shocked that counterinsurgent crusades promoted in the name of freedom, fair play, or liberté justified open-ended states of exception, torture, targeted killings, night raids, drone and air strikes, indefinite internment, a suspension of legality, and alliances with unsavoury, corrupt, and illegitimate local actors, even disappearances and massacres in the name of national security. Nations that acquiesce to counterinsurgency ‘wars on terror’ because the threat seems credible and the enemy weak and easily overcome must realize that small wars are long, dirty affairs fought most often in remote places among people little inclined to see the arrival of Western forces as liberation. Even when they are achieved, military victories in small wars seldom come at an acceptable political, diplomatic, legal, moral, and financial cost.”
Porch points to the consequences of COIN: “Because the Algerian insurrection was classified as a criminal conspiracy, POWs had no right to humane treatment. Many captured FLN were initially guillotined or simply disappeared, while the civilian population was subject to reprisals, relocation, collective punishment to include wholesale massacres of villages, and other refinements of martial law. Nor did it take long for colonial violence anchored in the freebooter mentality developed in the French colonial military to reach the French mainland. What was called the ‘Algerianization’ of the French state began when Maurice Papon, later convicted for having deported Jews to Germany during World War II, was brought back from Constantine, Algeria, in 1958 to serve as Paris Prefect of Police. Under Papon, colonial police techniques like arbitrary arrest, curfews for Muslim workers in France, the creation of massive detention centers, systematic violence, assassinations, torture, and general brutality that weakened the rule of law steadily escalated into the so-called Paris ‘police riots’ of October 17, 1961 in which scores of Algerian migrant workers were killed. Police violence was not only limited to Muslim workers in France, but was also aimed at the growing opposition to de Gaulle’s government from unions, the media, and the anti-war movement – for instance, nine people protesting right-wing OAS violence died at the hands of Papon’s police in February 1962.”
Porch concludes, “French counterinsurgents succeeded in uniting much of Algeria’s Muslim population behind the Front de libération nationale (FLN) by the war’s end. … French COIN tactics helped to transform FLN from a minor conspiracy into the vanguard of a people’s war.”
As he notes, “the insurgent is viewed as a coward and an assassin, an ‘enemy of all mankind’, not a soldier who enjoys the protection of the laws of war. The counterinsurgent, on the other hand, is protecting society, and so is performing an honourable function even as he mobilizes dishonourable means. Those who criticize counterinsurgency methods are branded as hypocrites, ingrates, fellow travellers, enemies of Western civilization and so on – in short, allies of subversion.”
Advocates of COIN argue that it failed only because the army mutinied (the French in Algeria, the US in Vietnam), but actually the army mutinied because COIN failed. Or they argue that it failed only because the civilian government, or the people, or the media were too weak to see it through, when actually the civilian government, the people, and the media stopped wanting to see it through because COIN failed. “COIN offers a doctrine of escapism for many relevant personalities and institutions – a flight from democratic civilian control, even from modernity, into an anachronistic, romanticized, Orientalist vision that projects quintessentially Western values, and Western prejudices, onto non-Western societies.”
The ideas of David Galula, an army major who took his ideas from France’s disastrous war against Algeria, inspired the US Army’s policy document FM 3-24. US General David Petraeus’ “FM 3-24: Counterinsurgency of 2006 replicates the righteousness of nineteenth-century imperialists when it brands the enemies of coalition occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan as ‘elusive, unethical and indiscriminate foes’ organized in an insurgency ‘characterized by violence, immortality, distrust and deceit’.” Porch comments, “populations of those countries who not for the first time have endured invasions and occupations by outsiders who employ indiscriminate violence, justified by trumped up security threats, and followed by occupations based on governance pacts with opportunists or sectarian and political rivals may perhaps be forgiven for failing to draw the stark moral distinctions that appear so obvious to the authors of FM 3-24.” The Pentagon spends $4.7 billion a year on PR.
“The 2012 National Defense Authorization Act has enshrined provisions that have been evolving under the previous administration of George W. Bush that undermine civil liberties – most notably, it authorizes indefinite detention of terrorist suspects; it outsources prosecution of terrorist suspects to military tribunals, stripping federal courts of most terrorist cases; finally, it bans detainees at Guantanamo from being transferred to jails on the US mainland or to friendly or allied nations who might take them.”
Porch brings his study right up to date, pointing out that, “Whatever their tactical benefits or moral justifications, SOF [Special Operations Forces] and drone attacks have served to spread anti-America sentiment and roiled the strategic relationship with Pakistan and now it seems with Yemen as well.”
He warns us, “as had been the case in post-Great War Afghanistan and Iraq, airpower proved to be no substitute for troops on the ground.” He concludes, “Small wars must end as a precondition for prosperity and so that a nation may embrace its epoch.”


Jeffrey Sachs: The Strange Case of Dr. Shock and Mr. Aid (Counterblasts)
Jeffrey Sachs: The Strange Case of Dr. Shock and Mr. Aid (Counterblasts)
by Japhy Wilson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.40

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent study of the destruction wreaked by this capitalist economist, 1 Oct 2014
Japhy Wilson is a Lecturer in International Political Economy at the University of Manchester. This is a splendid addition to Verso’s Counterblast series, which has analysed such luminaries as Bono, Michael Ignatieff, Bernard Henri Levy and Christopher Hitchens.

Jeffrey Sachs is the world’s highest-profile economist, feted by the UN, special advisor to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, companion to Bono, Madonna and Angelina Jolie on their celebrity trips to Africa, and friend of, and adviser to, Chancellor George Osborne.

But Sachs’ record needs examining. In 1979, Sachs celebrated Thatcher’s ‘success … in reducing real wages’ through ‘high unemployment’. He wrote in 1983, “An economic downturn perceived as permanent should raise productivity, as least-efficient firms and workers are booted out of the productivity data … Until recent years, economic downturns were thought to be transient affairs, giving strong incentive to firms to hoard labour during the cyclical trough. Prime Minister Thatcher’s main accomplishment in this regard seems to have been to convince firms that high unemployment and slow growth will be present for the long haul.”

Sachs wrote that he is ‘not in the slightest against the accumulation of wealth, even vast wealth’ and that he is ‘not recommending a “class war”. There is no case for equalizing incomes.” Actually, he has done nothing but recommend class war – against the working class.

His shock and awe attack on the Bolivian economy in 1985 increased unemployment from 20 per cent to 30 per cent by 1987, and cut wages by 40 per cent. He helped to justify and impose similar destruction in Poland and Russia. Sachs wrote in 1990, “Western observers should not over dramatise lay-offs and bankruptcies. Poland, like the rest of Eastern Europe, now has too little unemployment, not too much.”

Boris Yeltsin imposed Sachs’ infamous ‘shock therapy’ on Russia, backed by the EU. (The European Commission’s Forward Studies Unit proposed a ‘benign’ Pinochet-style dictatorship for Russia.) When Russia’s parliament opposed Yeltsin, he dissolved it and sent the tanks in to crush its opposition to his dictatorial rule.

Sachs’ policies caused the worst economic and social devastation ever suffered by a modern country in peacetime. Between 1991 and 1998, Russia’s GDP fell by 43.3 per cent, national income by more than 50 per cent (compared to 27 per cent in the Great Depression in the USA), and capital investment by 78 per cent. More than 80 per cent of Russia’s firms went bust and 70,000 factories closed.

In 1995, pay and pensions were both less than half 1990’s level. By 2000, 70 per cent of the population were in poverty. In 1989, lifespans had been 66 for men and 75 for women; by 2008, they were 62 and 74. Russia’s vice president Alexander Rutskoy denounced Yeltsin’s programme as ‘economic genocide’. The Russian people called the effects ‘catastroika’.

After these ‘achievements’, Sachs turned to Africa. From the early 1980s, Africa was subjected to Sachs-style economic liberalisation. The result? Average incomes in sub-Saharan Africa fell by about 20 percent in the 1980s, leaving the average African poorer than she was in 1970. Between 1981 and 2001, the number of people below the international poverty line doubled.

But recently, Sachs has claimed that he has changed and now wants to end poverty and save Africa through his Millennium Villages Project. Wilson spent several weeks finding out about the Project’s model village, Ruhiira in Uganda. He found that most funds went to the best-off and that the poor stayed poor.

Wilson sums up, “Just as shock therapy had eventually destroyed the reputation of Dr Shock, so the Millennium Villages Project was now dismantling the identity of Mr Aid.”


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