Syria

Quote

First posted on Liam Carr – Politics from a Socialist Perspective

The Government has been defeated in the commons as MPs voted against going to war in Syria. The Lib Dems voted with the Tories to defeat Labour’s logical amendment to wait for evidence from the UN before acting. If the Tory whips had supported the amendment then the motion as amended would have been passed, but instead Cameron showed both arrogance and an unwillingness to compromise by ordering the Coalition MPs to vote against the amendment.

A lot has been said about Iraq and leaning from past mistakes, Tony Blair has been criticised again for the way the Country was taken to war without a commons vote. A stark contrast can be made between two aspects of Tony Blair’s legacy; one is the minimum wage, and the other, is that a Prime Minister may never send our armed forces to intervene in another country without a Parliamentary debate. The first was was achieved through triumph, the second through disaster.

Ed Miliband has shown real leadership quality in these past few days. He has proved it possible to shift the debate and set government policy while sitting on the opposition benches. On this occasion, he acted quickly and decisively. He was statesmanlike, in contrast to Cameron and Osborne, who were sniggering and joking while a debating if bombs should be dropped on another country. Gove completely lost the plot after the vote, screeching ‘traitors’ at the rebels.

In the end, MPs have listened to the public.  Many will have had hundreds of letters and e-mails from constituents who are understandably not keen for our armed forces to be drawn into another conflict, at a time when the Government are sacking soldiers.

Ed Miliband, the Labour Party, and any Lib Dems and Tories who rebelled, deserve credit for their strength of character. Sometimes what happens in Westminster really does matter.

We have seen images of unimaginable suffering from Syria; the brutal reality is that civilians and children have been deliberately gassed. Now the UK Government must work for a political solution in Syria, and quickly sort humanitarian aid to prevent further suffering.

Thought and prayers remain with the Syrian people.

Wealth, Grandiose Delusions and Narcissistic Behaviour

Quote

There is nothing new in the idea that power corrupts. It is well understood. Money and wealth can give an individual a sense of self importance beyond reality. Those in power exert their muscle by creating wars and creating panic. They control the media and abuse the power. But they do not “own” the planet. Without the labour, skills and knowledge of working people to extract and use the earth’s resources, and  without due respect given to the earth and natural resources, their power is paper thin. Given the opportunity to speak the truth, the people will soon expose ‘The Emperor who has No Clothes”. 

Study finds Wealth gives rise to a sense of Entitlement and Narcissistic Behavior

Originally published here  By Eric W Dolan

Climbing the economic ladder can influence basic psychological processes within an individual.

According to a new study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin this month, wealth tends to increase a person’s sense of entitlement, which in turn can lead to narcissistic behaviors.

Paul Piff of the University of California at Berkeley told PsyPost “there is something about wealth that gives rise to a sense of entitlement, a sense that one deserves more good things in life than others, which in turn gives rise to an increased or inflated sense of self-importance, vanity, grandiosity, and omnipotence (narcissism).”

“Narcissism is a multi-faceted and complex construct, but that wealth is specifically associated with it suggests that as a person’s level of privilege rises, that person becomes increasingly self-focused – in a sense, becoming the center of their own world and worldview,” he explained.

“The studies in the paper measure narcissism in a whole host of ways, including measuring how likely someone is to stare at their reflection in a mirror (wealthier people do that more often). Even students who come from wealth, but have done little to create their own wealth (yet), report more entitlement. This suggests that wealth shapes an ideology of self-interest and entitlement that’s transferred culturally from one generation to the next.”

Piff conducted five experiments to investigate the associations between social class, entitlement, and narcissism.

The first experiment consisted of a survey that measured levels of entitlement and socioeconomic status. Piff found higher social class was associated with an increased sense of entitlement. Upper-class individuals were more likely to believe they deserved special treatment and feel entitled to “more of everything.” They were also more likely to believe that if they on the Titanic, they would deserve to be on the first lifeboat.

In the second and third experiments, Piff used other surveys with different measures of entitlement and socioeconomic status to confirm his initial findings.

In the fourth experiment, Piff discovered that upper-class individuals were more likely to look at their own reflections in a mirror, even when controlling for self-consciousness. The final experiment found that exposing upper-class individuals to egalitarian values reduced entitlement and decreased narcissism.

“Lots of important caveats to be aware of, including the fact that we are measuring correlations and averages across groups of people, which means that there are of course many exceptions to the patterns we document,” Piff told PsyPost. “Also, simple interventions can reduce narcissism among the wealthy, suggesting their narcissism is neither innate nor fixed. When wealthier participants in one study were asked to think about three benefits of treating others as equals, they subsequently became less narcissistic. Egalitarian values can reduce narcissism. The implications of this are fairly profound, I think.”

The Berkeley researcher has received a great deal of attention for his studies on how wealth influences behavior. His previous research found upper-class individuals were more likely to lie and cheat when gambling, cut people off when driving, and endorse unethical behavior in the workplace.

See also:

MPs were told, “Don’t Back Bloodshed.” Ed Miliband didn’t. Common Sense Prevails.

Quote

Don’t Back Bloodshed: Stop the War

UPDATE: David Cameron has climbed down, as Ed Miliband and Labour Party have killed Commons Vote on Military Action (Huffington Post)

“Labour have killed Thursday’s Commons vote on whether Britain should intervene militarily in Syria, with David Cameron now forced to return to the United Nations for a Security Council resolution.

On Wednesday evening, Huffington Post exclusively revealed that Labour planned to vote against the Government’s motion, with a senior Labour source telling the HuffPost “as it’s framed at the moment” the government motion – which is yet to be published – was too broad and could not be supported.

Following revelations that Labour would not support the motion, the Government revealed that Thursday’s vote will no longer authorise military action pending fresh efforts to achieve a Security Council resolution in the United Nations.”

This strong leadership from Ed Miliband is very welcome, and his decision to call for Labour not to support the call for a war in Syria, is the right and moral decision. It is clear   Ed Miliband is no Tony Blair, who had called for decisive military action. We must all be thankful that Ed Miliband and the Labour Party have taken a decision for common sense. We should, however be ready to question the motives of David Cameron and how UK Media paved the way to war coalition.

Michael Meacher ( MP ) writes:

The breaking news that Miliband has decided that Labour will tomorrow vote against the Government’s motion for an almost immediate attack on Syria will not only be greeted with heartfelt relief across most of the country, it will also be recognised as an act of courage and statesmanship that shows his mettle as a leader.   The pressures for conformity with the joint US-UK establishment at a climactic moment like this on the potential edge of war cannot be overstated.   It singles out Ed Miliband as a man of inner strength and integrity who can take the gritty decisions when they are most needed, and this is undoubtedly one of those times.

Roger Bagley wrote in The Morning Star, Don’t Back Bloodshed.

Peace campaigners (had) warned MPs against being hoodwinked into supporting a disastrous military adventure in Syria during Thursday’s emergency recall of Parliament.

MPs would be given a vote on a “clear government motion” on the response to chemical weapons attacks in Syria, he announced.

Mr Cameron claimed in a TV interview that “no decision has yet been taken” on military action.

He refused to say what would happen if MPs were to vote against his motion.

But Mr Cameron’s aides sought in advance to justify military action by claiming that Britain and the US already possessed evidence that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons.

Stop the War campaigners announced a protest outside Downing Street at 5pm today, warning that “any attack on Syria can only inflame an already disastrous civil war.”

Left Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn predicted that military action would have “incalculable consequences” for Syria and the whole Middle East.

“Goodness knows how many more deaths there will be as a result,” he declared.

Warmonger Tony Blair stoked up the flames of conflict today by demanding decisive military action.

Journalists goaded Mr Cameron’s spokesman by asking if there would be a dossier of “evidence” along the lines of the “dodgy dossier” used by former PM Blair to justify the Iraq war.

The spokesman was cagey, insisting only that the British government was “looking at a range of evidence” on the use of chemical weapons.

All the evidence “leads us to believe that this is the work of the Assad regime,” he claimed.

Asked whether Britain would wait for the UN inspectors’ report, the Downing Street spokesman replied: “All I am going to say is that we are continuing to discuss with our international partners on the next steps.”

Britain’s armed forces were “making contingency plans,” he said.

And he insisted: “Any use of chemical weapons is completely and utterly abhorrent and unacceptable. And the international community needs to respond to that.”

Mr Cameron will preside over a meeting of the National Security Council today, attended by military chiefs.

  • Left Labour MP Katy Clark joined 60 MPs who pressed the government with a cross-party motion demanding that Parliament “should hold a full debate before any British commitment to military action in Syria.” Ms Clark said: “It is an explosive situation and we should proceed with great caution.”
  • Several Tory and Lib Dem chairs of select committees signed the urgent call for a debate, which was drawn up over the holiday weekend by Graham Allen, Labour chair of the constitutional reform committee.
  • Tory chairman of the foreign affairs committee Richard Ottoway voiced cautious support for a missile strike against Syria. But he added: “I think in order to convince a fairly sceptical Parliament of the need for this course of action, they are going to have to be pretty forthcoming with the evidence.”
  • Tory MP John Baron warned that armed intervention could make the situation worse and questions must be answered in tomorrow’s debate. “Verification is important. There have been claims and counter-claims about the use of chemical weapons on both sides,” he said.
  • Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood opposed military action, warning against escalating “an already toxic and dangerous situation.”
  • Labour leader Ed Miliband and shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander appealed to Mr Cameron to explain clearly to Parliament the objectives, the legal basis and the “anticipated effect” of any military action.
  • Mr Alexander said he was “not prepared to write the government a blank cheque” on military action.
  • (Guardian) Diane Abbott may be forced to quit Labour‘s frontbench if Ed Miliband supports military action in Syria, as one of several MPs who are weighing up whether to support their party leaders over the anticipated intervention. 

I have a Dream. Martin Luther King’s speech is still true today.

Quote

Martin Luther King speaks 28th August 1963

I Have a Dream…..

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Martin Luther King Jr. was a great man not because he fought for one group of people, but because he fought for all people .He fought for the poor and disenfranchised. He fought for hose who were being persecuted and bombed.He fought for workers to earn a decent wage. He was more than just a civil rights leader; he was a human rights leader. Somehow I think he would be deeply ashamed of what we have become today. Race ,sex, religion, sexual orientation, none of these matter. We are all brothers and sisters.

The Modern Economics (MMT) – Warren Mosler

Quote

Warren Mosler on Modern Monetary Theory   

This video shows Warren Mosler being interviewed by Marshall Auerback on Modern Monetary Theory. MMT is the alternative to what we usually hear in the mainstream media. Warren discusses the government’s role as issuer of the currency, the meaning of deficits and the job guarantee. He is talking about the US, but there are parallels with the UK

More on MMT:

Preoccupying – David Harvey

Quote

Harvey_Inline

Preoccupying – David Harvey Interview

From The Occupy Times

David Harvey writes extensively on Marxist geography and the political economy and is the author of a number of books, including The Urbanization of Capital, Rebel Cities, and The Enigma of Capital. He is a Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Geography at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York as well as a Director of the Center for Place, Culture and Politics.  He has been teaching Marx’s Capital for almost 40 years; Volumes I and II of his lectures on Marx’s Capital are available to download for free at his website.

Occupied Times:  In 1968, Henri Lefebvre first introduced the concept of “the right to the city’’. He advocated the ‘rescue of man as the main protagonist of the city he has built…the meeting point for collective living.’ You have referred to this collective right – to remake ourselves and our cities – as ‘one of the most precious yet most neglected of our human rights.’ In what ways do you think we have neglected this human right in recent years?

David Harvey: If the question of what kind of city gets built depends critically on what kind of people we want to be, then the broad failure to openly discuss this relation means that we have abandoned the reshaping of people and their passions to the requirements of capital accumulation. It was, I think, very well understood by planners and policy makers that the suburbanisation of the United States after 1945 would not only help rescue the US from the prospect of a return to the depression conditions of the 1930s by way of a vast expansion of effective demand, but that it would also serve to create a social and political world devoid of revolutionary consciousness or anti-capitalist sentiment. Small wonder that the feminists of the 1960s saw the suburb as their enemy and that the suburban lifestyle became associated with a certain kind of political subjectivity that was class-prejudiced, exclusionary and racist in the extreme.

OT: London is praised as a multicultural city, and perhaps a significant component of the right to the city is the right to coexist. In re-imagining and remaking cities, how can we ensure that a city remade isn’t done so in a way that privileges or discriminates different interests or communities that exist in the city?

DH: There is nothing to ensure it other than social movements, active political engagements and the willingness to fight for one’s place. Conflict in and over the city is a healthy thing, not a pathology that state interventions must control and put down.

OT: We live in a digital age. In many cases, people develop more intimate relationships with people thousands of miles away than they do with their neighbours on the same street. If cities have tended, historically, to develop around shared physical space, how will communicative technologies that undermine the preeminence of physical/spatial communities, affect the future configuration of the city?

DH: The new technologies are a double-edge sword. On the one hand they can function as “weapons of mass distraction” and divert people to believing politics is possible solely in some virtual world. Or, they can be used to inspire and coordinate political action on the streets, in the neighbourhoods and throughout the city. There is no substitute for bodies on the street for political action as we have seen in Cairo, Istanbul, Athens, Sao Paulo, etc. Working together with active street politics, the new technologies can be a fabulous resource.

OT: Writing in ‘Whose Rebel City?’, Neil Grey suggests that in your most recent book, ‘Rebel Cities’, your analysis neglected the autonomous Marxist tradition first developed during in the urban struggles of 1960s and 1970s Italy – characterised by the ‘Take over the City’ slogan; feminist debates around social reproduction; the idea of ‘the social factory’ and so called ‘territorial community activism’ – instead focusing your theory on the absorption of capital and labour surpluses through urbanisation. How do you respond to this criticism? Do you agree that these political practices can serve as outlining models of how inhabitants might re-organise their cities?

DH: I find this criticism strange. To be sure chapter 2 is about the creation of urbanisation through processes of capital accumulation, but chapter 5 is devoted to class social movements in the cities. I could not cover all such movements of course and so there are many, such as those associated with the autonomista movement in Italy that are, I am sure, certainly worthy of inclusion. But I did look at the way the houses of the people earlier in the century in Italy complemented the factory council movements and of course took a lot of inspiration from the El Alto story as well as from the Paris Commune and other urban uprisings, while trying to theorise in what ways these could all be understood in the framework of class struggle. So, to say I was only concerned with the absorption of surplus capital is pretty weird and suggests Neil Grey either did not get to the end of the book or was dismissive of it because I did not deal with his particular favourite urban social movement.

I wish, by the way, I had cited Gramsci’s comment on the importance of supplementing the factory councils with ward committees: “The ward committee should also seek to incorporate delegates from other categories of workers living in the ward: waiters, cab drivers, tramway men, railwaymen, road sweepers, private employees, clerks and others. The ward committee should be an expression of the whole of the working class living in the ward, an expression that is legitimate and authoritative, that can enforce a spontaneously delegated discipline that is backed by powers and can order the immediate and complete cessation of all work in the ward.”

OT: On the heels of rapid urbanisation and an ever-inflating property bubble in China, you have spoken of a rising class struggle on the ground that people living in the West just don’t hear about. If we were to look more carefully at the situation in China, what could we learn?

DH: There is a lot more now coming out on China and an increasing recognition of the dangers of both urban asset bubbles of gargantuan proportions (particularly in housing) and a chronic problem of overproduction of urbanisation in response to the crash of export markets in 2008. There is now a lot of nervousness about urban overaccumulation. Theoretically, I understand what is happening but when it will come to a halt I cannot say. And we know there is a lot of urban and industrial unrest in China but it is very difficult to judge how much and of what significance.

OT: You place the concept you have termed ‘accumulation by dispossession’ at the heart of urbanisation under capitalism. Swathes of London are currently being transformed under the guise of ‘regeneration’, coupled with housing benefit cuts and the new so-called Bedroom Tax. One example of many, would be the hundreds of residents from the Heygate Estate in Elephant & Castle who have lost their homes so that property developers can replace social housing with ‘affordable’ properties. Grassroots campaigns have sprung up to resist these displacements, but they continually face policy and legal constraints. What are your thoughts on the importance and potential pitfalls of a unified movement across the city, or even wider?

DH: I think it vital to unify as far as possible struggles against dispossession across the whole city. But to do so requires an accurate picture of the forms of dispossession occurring and their roots. For example, there is at this time a need to put together a picture of the predatory practices of the property developers and their financial backers on a citywide basis, and initiate a collective citywide struggle to curb and control their practices. Recently, we have seen urban unrest in Brazil that is about transport costs but also against (and this is remarkable given we are talking about Brazil) the stadium-building for the World Cup and the displacement and waste of public resources that is involved, so citywide and cross-city struggles are not impossible. The danger, as always, is that the struggles may fade as people get tired of the fight. The only answer is to keep the struggles going and build organisations that have the capacity to do that (the MST in Brazil is a good example of this even though it is not a distinctively urban struggle).

OT: There is a distinct lack of commonly-owned space in London. Much of the city is privately owned and caters to the panopticon of surveillance, ‘do not trespass’ signage, and a dearth of public space free from market interference. Is it important to seek out and grow community spaces, to allow those resisting the depredations of capitalism to find the space not only to work, but to explore new avenues of creative interaction as well?

DH: The question of liberating spaces controlled by the state and turning them into a commons controlled by the people is, in my opinion, crucial. The rolling back of privatisation of public spaces is also vital and I would hope to see many more movements directed towards such ends.

OT: You have talked about the possibility of a “league of socialist cities” as a powerful way of changing the order of the world. Can you expand on what you mean, and how these could work?

DH: It is a bit of a far-out idea at first sight but there is a lot of benchmarking and best practice communication going on between cities and on some issues, like gun control in the USA, there are cooperative links between urban administrations that can have progressive results. I see no reason why such practices cannot build further into organised urban resistance to neoliberal practices. I think a coordinated response across urban administration in the UK to the so-called bedroom tax would be a possibility that would echo the way the struggle over the poll tax unfolded earlier. We have in fact done things of this sort but we don’t analyse them fully afterwards and appreciate their possibilities.

OT: Civil unrest is becoming a more recurrent feature of urban life in London, as it is for cities around the world, among them Athens, Madrid, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Bogotá, Rio de Janeiro and, most recently, Stockholm. Are riots (not just protests and organised social movements) now part of a toolkit to reclaim the right to the city? What can those here in the financial capital of the world learn from these struggles in other cities?

DH: Since inviting me to comment on these questions we have Istanbul. When you look at the global situation you sense there is a volcanic situation bubbling beneath the surface of society and you never know when and where it is going to explode next (who would have thought Istanbul, even though it was plain to me on my earlier visit there that there were a lot of discontents). I think we need to prepare ourselves for such eruptions and build as far as we can, infrastructures and organisational forms capable of supporting and developing them into sustainable movements.

OT: Whilst acknowledging the ingrained legitimisation of private property within the concept, what are your views on the efficacy of implementing a land value tax in the UK? Do you think it could achieve any of the equalising effects its proponents advocate?

DH: I think a land value tax could help but it does not, in the end, address the problem of the vast extractions of wealth by a rentier class that has become so very powerful in recent years particularly in major cities like London and New York, for this is a major form of dispossession that needs to be confronted.

Creative Commons LicenceThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

The Case for Public Housing

Quote

When did property ownership become such a major aim in the life of ordinary people? When did living in council owned housing become a stigma? When did mortgages did multi-generation mortgages come to be considered? Who has benefitted? In the light of current levels poverty and homelessness, why did we all go along with it all?

Sarah Glynn’s article looks back at the change in housing over the last hundred years or so.

The Case for Public Housing

By Sarah Glynn, Occupy Times

A home is such a basic need that the provision of adequate and decent housing should be a fundamental requirement of a fair society. But what do we require of a home beyond sound and safe shelter that can accommodate our household in a reasonably convenient location? Security of tenure is a vital basis for secure lives, and affordability is crucial. We may also need the option to move without penalty as and when circumstances demand. And most of us enjoy the opportunity to personalise our home.

public3

These should be the major considerations behind any housing policy, but increasingly they have become subservient to a free market politics that views housing as a major source of wealth and investment. None of the basic requirements listed above are dependent on home ownership – in fact affordability and moving house can be easier if you are not a homeowner.

Politicians like to claim that homeownership is a ‘natural’ aspiration, but it has been deliberately cultivated and subsidised by our capitalist society. As successive politicians have argued, homeownership encourages people to identify with conservative ideas about private property, and workers tied to a home and a mortgage are less likely to risk taking part in strike action.

One hundred years ago, almost everyone in the UK rented their homes, but they rented them from private landlords who sought to extract maximum profits. For working-class people, that meant dreadful, overcrowded conditions, insecure tenancies, and extortionate rents. State-subsidised council housing was brought in after the First World War because the private system wasn’t working – and because the government feared the growth of revolutionary ideas if they weren’t seen to be doing something about it. By the end of the 1970s, one third of households in the UK – and over half in Scotland – lived in publicly-owned, state-subsidised rented housing, and living conditions had undergone a massive improvement. But these developments were not without problems. An emphasis on quantity over quality meant housing estates were often poorly designed, serviced and maintained; and problems were compounded by distant, bureaucratic management.

Meanwhile, homeownership grew even more significantly, becoming associated with higher social standing. Investment in private property took on a growing role in national and household economics. Home owners used their property wealth to climb the economic ladder, leaving renters behind in relative poverty. Three decades of neoliberal free market policies have sold off the best council homes, restricted funding for those that remain, and created a disastrous property bubble. Private renting is again on the rise, along with all the problems that made public housing necessary in the first place. Landlords are amassing easy money as tenants hand over ever higher proportions of their income in rent. Housing benefits only serve to subsidise the landlords.

It needn’t have been like this. Public housing can provide everything that we want from a home, and fiscal rules can be drawn up so that homeowners do not gain a financial advantage over those who rent. Well considered and resourced housing policies can make a substantial contribution to a fairer, more equal society. In 1960s Sweden, a combination of regulations and subsidies ensured that tenants were not penalised with respect to owner occupiers; in modern Helsinki, 80% of land is publicly owned and half of homes are subsidised rented houses, which are often indistinguishable from their privately owned neighbours; and even in the UK there have been successful experiments in tenant management.

Public housing in the UK has been given bad press because vested interests did not want it to be too successful. Inadequate funding and bad management ensured its second class status. Its increasingly “safety net” role has led to it being stigmatised as poor housing for poor people. And there have been some spectacular failures. However, despite all this, the majority of schemes provided good homes that made a real difference to working-class living standards. And if we learn from past mistakes, we could see public housing playing an even more significant role in the future. There is no reason why we couldn’t plan for good quality, well-subsidised public housing for all who want it. This might seem extravagant, but it would be an investment in better life chances and a more cohesive and equal society. This time we could construct a system of local management, incorporating tenant involvement. Public housing also offers the possibility of co-ordinated planning, taking account of all the other things that make a community, and making efficient use of green technologies.

Public housing satisfies urgent practical needs as well as offering opportunities for a much more holistic approach to creating fairer and more sustainable communities.

By Sarah Glynn | sarahglynn.net

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
– See more at: http://theoccupiedtimes.org/?p=11971#sthash.1imXPAAp.dpuf

See also: Uniting the People – Houses for People, not Profiteers