Notes on Trump 17

1. Gallup approval Republican/Conservative Republican 82%/87% (day 324, Dec 4-10). Recovered from recent decline.

2. USA today fully joins the chorus:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/12/12/trump-lows-ever-hit-rock-bottom-editorials-debates/945947001/

and congratulates itself on being welcomed aboard by the rest of the maistream media:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/12/13/readers-calm-down-trump-not-conservatives/948317001/

At one level the editorial reflects the shift in focus to Trump’s sexism (on which there is nothing to say that wasn’t said during the 2016 primaries and election). There is no mention at all of Russia or “obstruction of justice”, but this seems only a little bit ahead of others in the mainstream who are still claiming they expect some dramatic exposure of “obstruction of justice”, but rather forlornly and seem to have basically given up on their being some collusion that Trump is supposed to have been trying to prevent justice being done about.

The immediate focus is on the drama about Trump having accused a Democrat Senator of “begging” him for campaign donations and said she “would be willing to do anything for them”. Naturally the liberal media interprets this as a “slut shaming slur” (since it plainly does not hint at collusion with Russia or hatred of immigrants and muslims or efforts to rob from the poor to benefit the rich, what else could it be?)

Curiously however USAToday actually mentions:

And as is the case with all of Trump’s digital provocations, the president’s words were deliberate. He pours the gasoline of sexist language and lights the match gleefully knowing how it will burst into flame in a country reeling from the #MeToo moment.   

So it must have at least crossed their minds that a deliberate effort by Trump to invite liberals to “burst into flame” must be seen by Trump as having some benefit to Trump. Did the thought process stop there? Did it actually occur to them that the perceived benefit would be that Trump’s base would interpret the same words as being about the corruption of campaign donations and would be further entrenched in both that view and their general hostility to the media by insistence that it was a sexist slur?

No doubt such a deliberate strategy is contemptible. But why not just thoughtfully analyse it? Why burst into flames as directed?

Anyway, the two articles are well worth a look to understand that the media just are not going to be able to avoid continuing down this path that leads nowhere.

(Other recent efforts have included “Pocohontas” as a derogatory nickname for Senator Elizabeth Warren as a slur on native Americans rather than an allusion to the story that she once sought benefits by unsupported claims to have native American ancestry).

Even the Democrat leadership is not quite as carried away by total tactical ineptitude as the Editorial Board of USA Today, which concludes:

It is a shock that only six Democratic senators are calling for our unstable president to resign.

3. USA Today also continued its tradition of publishing opposing views, with this statement from the Republican National Committee. It is also worth reading to understand how reasonably Trump’s supporters are successfully able to portray themselves in contrast to his opponents.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/12/12/rnc-democrats-response-laughable-editorials-debates/108551938/

 4. Alabama results are being spun in various directions. Some key points:

4.1 40% turnout is huge for a special election (expectations given the unusual interest were for a very high 25%).

4.2 Less than 2% were for write in candidates. That was from GOP supporters unwilling to vote for either a disgusting GOP candidate or a Democrat and was enough to tip the election (49.9%/48.9%). But it was only enough because of the huge turnout, which would have reflected enormous Democrat mobilization (especially among Alabama blacks who would not usually bother voting in elections where they can have no impact). Presumably even larger Democrat mobilization than is obvious since GOP turnout would have relatively declined as the more common response to disgusting GOP candidate would have been to not vote rather than vote for a write in that could not win as both have identical effect in throwing it to the Democrat.

4.3 As Vox said:

Sometimes you get bad luck

In the Alabama race, Senate Republicans suffered fundamentally from bad timing.

If the allegations of sexual misconduct against Roy Moore had surfaced during the primary, he likely would have lost to either Luther Strange or Mo Brooks, either of whom likely would have beaten Jones. If the allegations about Moore’s misconduct had surfaced after the general election, he might have been forced from office, but Alabama’s Republican governor would have appointed his replacement. Having this information come out during the window between the primary and the general election was a fluke, and absent that fluke, it’s hard to imagine Jones winning.

https://www.vox.com/2017/12/12/16766840/alabama-senate-election-results-moore-jones
Such “flukes” rarely turnout to be coincidence. Vox pretends that Roy Moore could only have been forced from office if the charges had surfaced after the election. Actually if the charges that “surfaced” decades later and after the primaries were true, the GOP Senate leadership would have been delighted to join with Democrats in removing Roy Moore from the Senate and replacing him with a GOP Senator of their choice after an ethics investigation as they explicitly announced when they failed to persuade him to stand down. So the charges HAD to “surface” PRECISELY when they did to actually have any impact on partisan politics. That does not mean they are not true. But only Democrats will pretend to believe it was a “fluke”. Others will investigate. Whoever arranged the timing clearly intended to risk Roy Moore winning in the hope that a Democrat rather than a Republican would become and remain Senator for a solid GOP State. There will be a lot more of this stuff with the total breakdown of mainstream politics.

4.4 Presumably both parties will try to insulate themselves by careful candidate vetting so the temporary success of this tactic in Alabama obscures whatever trends may otherwise be indicated by the result. But I see nothing that contradicts my expectations of large Democrat gains in 2018 elections (with strong Democrat divisions in the primaries) and large Trumpist gains in GOP primaries.

4.5 The effectiveness of party splits in swinging results is highlighted by the (genuine fluke) that 2% write-ins tipped the result. Both Bannon supporters and GOP incumbents are blaming each other for the defeat. Neither can blame Trump as he opposed Roy Moore in the primaries and did what he could to avoid a Democrat victory in the election (and has gone on to pretend that he opposed Roy Moore because he was less likely to win rather than because he was more likely to be a loose cannon after what was then assumed to be an inevitable GOP victory in a solid GOP State). This actually strengthens Trump’s position as arbiter of GOP contests.

4.6 GOP incumbents who choose to split in 2020 will know that they will be throwing it to Democrats so can only do so as part of a long term effort to build an alternative party. Same applies on Democrat side.

5. Trump not as bad as Obama in Iraq so hailed as good.

http://www.bostonherald.com/news/columnists/tom_shattuck/2017/12/shattuck_trump_s_leadership_military_support_enabled_us_to

6. Here’s a reminder of the efforts to derail Trump on sexism in 2016. I accidentally followed the link while reading that Bernie Sanders has less tactical nous than I thought and is joining the current chorus in an encore.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-recorded-having-extremely-lewd-conversation-about-women-in-2005/2016/10/07/3b9ce776-8cb4-11e6-bf8a-3d26847eeed4_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_trumptape-404pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&tid=a_inl&utm_term=.e6a36d2a3f22

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/bernie-sanders-donald-trump-resign-us-president-sexual-harassment-allegations-accusers-women-a8110676.html

http://www.factcheck.org/2017/12/trumps-rare-apology/

7. World Trade Organization going nowhere.

https://www.politico.com/story/2017/12/14/trump-end-world-trade-organization-224810
8. Rolling Stone simultaneously denies and illustrates that Trump’s “resistance” has been left with no time or capacity for reflection (thus confirming to them that he has no strategy and is not even aware that this lack has mysteriously reduced his opponents to gibbering).

Though he probably doesn’t realize it, Trump benefits from doing so many bizarre and ridiculous things that they steal attention from each other. In many cases, the most egregious things he says are conveniently timed to take attention away from more serious issues – see his recent “Pocahontas” comments overshadowing debate about the tax bill in Congress or the controversy over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Trump has flummoxed academics, journalists and commentators attempting to fit him into the historical context of the presidency. Collectively, we appear unable to decide if Trump is some kind of strategic mastermind or so random and impulsive that even he doesn’t know what he will say or do next.

But if this year is any indication, there is no multidimensional chess strategy playing out in his head. Looking at the Trump presidency day by day shows no strategy or plan of any kind. It looks on paper exactly how it has felt to live through: one crisis after another, with little time for rest or reflection. It is a car that is constantly veering off the road, and we have to fight so hard to keep from going over the edge that it’s not easy to remember where we’ve been.

To illustrate that point, below are just some of the embarrassing, incomprehensible or flat-out stupid things from the first ten months of the Trump presidency that received a great deal of attention, but only for a very short time. This list may seem long, but it’s only the barest sketch of the edifice of madness we now inhabit; a comprehensive one would be the size of a phone book. (Many thanks to TrumpWatch for helping me on this journey.)

https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/the-year-of-being-completely-overwhelmed-by-trump-w513802

Notes on Trump 16

1. Gallup approval Republican/Conservative Republican 78%/84% (day 317, Nov 27 to Dec 3). Starting to decline. Still comfortable for primaries. Perhaps more important is significant decline in total identified as Republicans from 42% at time of November 2016 election to 37% now, a year later:

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/12/04/politics/republican-exodus-poll-democrat/index.html

Presumably this means a higher proportion of registered Republicans entitled to vote at 2018 primaries will be Trumpists since opponents more likely to be leaving. Democrats aren’t doing much to provide a home for those leaving so likely to end up either not voting or supporting a split from GOP in 2020 – both of which tend towards a deadlocked electoral college. (That throws election to House voting by States with Trump likely to have more States than electoral college or House members since support stronger in smaller States).

2. I haven’t studied tax cuts in detail but following points noted:

2.1 Substantial deficit which is main thing he needs for economic climate in 2020. Not unusual for GOP to approve a large deficit pretending that magic will prevent it biting later while making their main theme the need to stop Democrats running deficits. What is unusual is the near unanimity. Most of tea party/koch brothers voted as Trumpists so they are thoroughly intimidated by 2018 (elections as well as primaries). Lots more deficit to come for infrastructure.

2.2 Pretence from opponents that personal cuts only favour the rich may have some impact but based on joining the Republican pretence that tax cuts will expire within the 10 year limit that enables them to go through without Democrat support by pretending to balancing the budget. For next 10 years tax cuts will benefit potential Trump voters more than traditional GOP voters and “elites”. Then it will be time to continue them and further increase the deficit. Most voters will respond based on how things are going for them at time of election, not on what media are telling them now, even if they believe it.

2.3 Main target seems to be people living in States with higher local tax rates (i.e. Democrats). Removing credit for local tax rates hits them more than potential Trump voters. Result likely to be even bigger disproportion between popular and electoral college votes in 2020 (whether or not Trump wins either). eg New York and California even more solidly Democrat than before with no effect at all on 2020 outcome.

2.4 Corporate tax cuts are part of a world-wide race to the bottom which Australia and other countries will follow. Result general world-wide shift from relying exclusively on monetary measures to running fiscal deficits again – as demanded by central banks, OECD et al. State assuming greater role as the national capitalist in each country as described by Engels. Will intensify both international tensions and eventual crisis but could well postpone it further.

3. Some Fox coverage of Trump becoming somewhat hostile:

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/12/07/trumps-campaign-against-justice-fbi-is-working.html

Highlights difference from liberal meltdown – Fox’s occasional negative coverage is far more “reasonable” and likely to do real damage. Seems like Fox replacing NYT and Wapo as “mainstream” or “authoritative”. Interesting that this example shares liberal assumptions that Mueller inquiry will come up with something very damaging to Trump and is being attacked by Trumpists for that reason. More plausible is that the Hannity types at Fox frothing gives that impression to others working there, but actual situation is Trump wants to keep it going and denouncing it is a good way to ensure liberals and GOP never Trumpists will keep it going.

4. Al Jazeera has an interesting indicator of where some of the “resistance” may head when their current fantasies about impeaching Trump explode:

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/sadly-frankly-donald-trump-171209093723658.html

Starts off with quite sane and sober analysis that they are indeed fantasizing and Trump isn’t going anywhere, with understanding that their fantasies are about a system they support “working” (ie the “rule of law” aka “the authorities” will rescue them from Trump via a coup led by their beloved “intelligence community”).

But then becomes clear that the author shares much of the delusionary mentality about what is actually happening now, and hearkens back to some golden era in 1974 when the system did indeed work and got rid of Nixon (who as all good Democrats remember can be blamed for the Vietnam war started by Kennedy and escalated by Johnson).

Ends up denouncing half the population of USA as fascists who worship Trump!

So that is one direction they could go. Others include just continuing to feel simultaneously smug, superior and impotent.

5. Plausible analysis that Trump doing rather well at the moment:

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/commentary-trumps-good-fortune/

6. Some Fox triumphalism:

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/12/09/media-goes-crazy-over-trump-announcement-on-jerusalem-cnn-s-sloppy-mistake-and-other-journalism-disasters.html

7. Fox joining in the anti-homophobia chorus:

http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2017/12/04/will-msnbc-punish-joy-reid-after-homophobic-past-was-revealed.html

8. Some CNN confusion. I cannot figure out whether it is dawning on them that there isn’t even going to be an obstruction of justice claim and morphing into general outrage about having a President who agrees with most people that the system is corrupt or whether they are actually convinced by some Trumpist frothing against Mueller that they are really onto something and should keep indeed keep going in the same direction as B’rer rabbit keeps telling them not to.

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/12/09/politics/donald-trump-rigged-sick-institutions/index.html

Here’s their understanding of the B’rer rabbit Tar-baby story:

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/12/01/politics/trump-russia-investigation/index.html

Earlier they did not seem at all confused, just utterly convinced that Trump (or his lawyer) acknowledging the obvious that when Trump sacked Flynn for lying and said he didn’t want Flynn charged he knew that Flynn had lied to the FBI – that means they have “got him” for “obstruction of justice”.

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/12/05/politics/trump-russia-defense-in-disarray/index.html

Here’s some background.

Trump’s lawyer mentioned the obvious in a tweet from Trump, that he had sacked Flynn for lying to Vice President and to FBI and did not want him charged. Did not repeat Trump’s remark at the time about some other Flynn issues – presumably Flynn being an unregistered agent of Turkey and being an especially deranged Trumpist. Also did not repeat Trump’s attempt to explain in NBC interview that he knew sacking Comey would prolong the “Russia thing”.

Trump’s lawyer then explained the obvious to Axios:

  • Dowd: “The tweet did not admit obstruction. That is an ignorant and arrogant assertion.”

Axios duly ran with that as “Exclusive: Trump lawyer claims the President cannot obstruct justice”.

https://www.axios.com/exclusive-trump-lawyer-claims-the-president-cannot-obstruct-justice-2514742663.html

Lots of solemn analysis followed in which fantasists tried to convince themselves that the Chief Executive officer responsible for taking care that the laws of the United States shall be enforced is prohibited from expressing an opinion about any case.

Some actually noticed that is absurd and correctly stated that President can and does give directions to and hire and fire law enforcement officers and allocate resources and priorities and issue pardons, not just make suggestions – so that “obstruction of justice” would require a “corrupt intention”.

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/12/04/politics/obstruction-of-justice-president/index.html

But that gets buried in liberal coverage because we all know that anything Trump does is inherently corrupt and they also KNOW deep in their souls that the truth is out there somewhere and Mueller will discover it because Trump won the election by colluding with the Kremlin and then sacked Comey to prevent justice being done.

If you don’t actually KNOW that is the only possible explanation for him having become and remaining President despite all right thinking people being aghast, then you may find it difficult to follow their legal analysis.

9. NPR still deeply fascinated by Russia inquiries:

https://www.npr.org/2017/12/09/569116551/the-russia-investigations-knife-fights-over-feds-trump-jr-manafort-and-more

10. California Democrat Governor “Trump doesn’t fear the wrath of God”:

http://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/364084-california-gov-trump-doesnt-fear-god-or-existential-consequences

11. A plausible view on Trump’s announcement re Jerusalem:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-12-08/jerusalem-favour-from-trump-hard-to-repay/9236054

My own take is that undermining the ludicrous posturing about the US being an “honest broker” in a “peace process” has no real impact whatever. I view everything Trump does as narrowly focussed on winning 2018 GOP primaries. In this case playing to Evangelicals some of who have both a bizarre alliance with Trumpists and bizarre enthusiasm for Zionism and the end times.

Here’s another contrary view attempting to analyse Trump foreign policy from a foreign policy rather than a domestic focus:

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/trump-s-foreign-policy-pure-trump-it-s-working-him-n815636

12. David Brooks says GOP now 100% swung from pro to anti globalization:

http://skidmorenews.com/new-blog/2017/12/5/david-brooks-says-trump-was-the-wrong-answer-to-the-right-question

13. Counter attack starting against blatant coup mongering from “intelligence community”:

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/dec/5/barack-obamas-team-worked-against-donald-trump/

Here’s a breathless example of more “restrained” undermining rather than open coup mongering from US and Israeli “intelligence community” and/or journalists fantasizing about what stories they might have to tell:

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/11/trump-intel-slip

14. Not sure but I’m guessing this is an attempt to wean some of the Evangelical likudniks to a more “mainstream” Zionism:

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/12/09/after-trump-recognizes-jerusalem-as-israels-capital-evangelicals-work-for-peace-between-jews-and-arabs.html

15. If this quote from Chief Palestinian negotiator is accurate, it is very significant:

““Now is the time to transform the struggle for one-state with equal rights for everyone living in historic Palestine,”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/12/09/trumps-decision-jerusalem-shatters-palestinian-old-guard/

16. Under the headline “Trump is cracking up”, NYT demonstrates that NYT is cracking up:

“If you think 2017 was bad, imagine an America without allies fighting another two-front war, this one involving nuclear weapons, under the leadership of the most hated president in modern history, while a torture apologist runs the C.I.A. The world right now is a powder keg. Trump, an untethered maniac, sits atop it, flicking a lighter that Republicans in Congress could take away, but won’t. If everything goes up in flames, we can’t say we weren’t warned.”

Celebrating the Russian revolution: from the ox-drawn plough to nuclear power and Sputnik

 

Sputnik_670

I was six years of age when ‘Sputnik’ became the first artificial earth satellite. It was sent into orbit by the Soviet Union on 4 October 1957. I have a vague memory of my parents taking me into the street that night and, with curious neighbours, peering into the dark star-lit skies over West Brunswick, Melbourne. I’m fairly sure someone said they could see it, and maybe I saw it, or something, among the stars too.

I also recall my father, Loreto, remarking on how the success of Sputnik highlighted ‘the superiority of socialism’. Of course, I didn’t understand what that meant. What was socialism? And what was it meant to be superior to? He was a Labor voter, but very much to the left, and it wasn’t uncommon for Labor men and women to talk favourably about socialism in those days.

About a decade later, when I was 16, my dad and I would sometimes take the number 19 tram from Brunswick to the City on Saturday mornings and visit the International Bookshop in Excelsior House, 17 Elizabeth Street. An antiquated rickety old lift would take us up to the second floor where we’d be greeted by the Communist Party shopkeeper, Jack Morrison.

Sometimes a couple of dad’s young workmates from the factory where he worked would meet us there. We’d browse through copies of glossy propaganda magazines like ‘Soviet Pictorial’ and ‘China Pictorial’, marvelling at the photographic evidence of bumper harvests and advanced technology. I was a reader of science fiction and the images of gigantic tractors and huge pumpkins enthused and fascinated me.

By this stage of my life I had an understanding of socialism and identified with it in a gut kind of way. It was about progress, about eradication of poverty, about imagining a better future based on scientific discovery and technological innovation – and about the working class who produced society’s wealth taking control of the means of producing it.

At a time when censorship laws in Australia and the west were ridiculous, it was also about greater freedom. The International Bookshop flaunted censorship laws by stocking some of the books that had been banned by the government for political or sexual content. (D H Lawrence’s ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ was in the latter category).

An example of political censorship was a ban on a pamphlet that exposed US war crimes in Vietnam. I forget its title now but remember obtaining copies from the Eureka Youth League in 1968 and distributing them, surreptitiously, at my high school. The pamphlet was banned under the Obscene Publications Act, from memory.

* * * *

My father had served in the Second World War, volunteering in 1940 for the Royal Air Force in his homeland, Malta, when the Italian Fascists started bombarding the main island of the Mediterranean archipelago. He remembered the priests opposing British imperialism from the pulpit in the lead up to the War and assuring their congregations that Malta’s future was best served by accepting Mussolini’s Italia Irredenta.

By any measure, British imperialism’s crimes at that time were far worse than those of Italian imperialism, but on the other hand, British bourgeois democracy was much preferable to Italian/German fascism.

During the War, my father served in Africa, the Middle East, Palestine, and France, before being stationed in London after the War.

The War changed his world, everyone’s world, and in mixing with other RAF men, his eyes were opened to new ways of seeing and thinking. He remembered Jewish and Scottish airmen telling him about Stalin, the Soviet Union (“where the workers ruled”) and communism. (Note, they are called ‘airmen’ but they served on the ground, in regiments, and never flew).

The troops knew that Stalin’s Red Army were routing the Nazis in Europe and my dad’s comrades told him the story about the early British appeasement of Hitler and the west’s refusal to heed Stalin’s calls for collective security against fascism as early as 1933.

After the War, in London, still in uniform, my father thrived in the cosmopolitan environment of one of the world’s biggest cities. Servicemen in uniform were given free tickets to the West End theatres and to lectures given by the likes of George Bernard Shaw and Hewlett Johnson, the ‘Red Dean of Canterbury’. My dad took advantage of such opportunities.

He started buying the ‘Daily Worker’ regularly, the organ of the Communist Party of Great Britain, and found that while there were strong pockets of anti-communism, in general Londoners were tolerant of it and there was sympathy for Stalin and the Red Army.

My dad told me about an occasion when he went to work at his job in the Air Ministry in London after the War, having purchased the Daily Worker that morning. Walking through the main office, one of the heads of the ministry – a ‘Lord’ no less – noticed him and asked, ‘What’s that paper you’re carrying?’ My dad saluted and replied, ‘Sir! It’s the Daily Worker, the newspaper of the Communist Party’. Lord-so-and-so responded: ‘Oh, I thought it was. May I borrow it after you’ve finished with it? I forgot to buy mine this morning’.

It’s easy to forget that communism was popular after the War and that the Cold War arose in part because of communism’s popularity in Europe, west and east. If it’s true that reactionaries tremble at the mere rustle of leaves, then you can imagine how they responded to elections in places like France and Italy where between a quarter and third of the people voted Communist.

* * * *

I want to celebrate the centenary of the Russian revolution because it was an attempt to build socialism after the old feudal order had been overthrown by the people, led by the communist Bolsheviks. That it was led by communists was a rather flukish situation. The overthrow of the feudal order required a bourgeois democratic revolution that would develop capitalism. As David McMullen says in Rescuing the Message of the Communist Manifesto:

‘There is a thoroughly entrenched view that the experience of revolutions during the 20th century shows that communism has failed. It is true. There was a failure. However, it was not of communism, but rather of an attempt to sustain a path towards it when its preconditions were absent. Russia in 1917 and virtually all the “communist” regimes established mid-century were essentially backward pre-capitalist societies. Most people were peasants rather than proletarians, and they were more interested in land for the tiller than social ownership. There was little modern industry and thinking was more medieval than modern. They had not passed through the capitalist stage, which is necessary for a successful communist revolution’.

The Russian revolution also shows how the old order never just gives in. Civil war followed the revolutionary overthrow of the ruling class, with the old order backed by military forces of more than a dozen foreign governments.

Then there came the rise of fascism in Europe and the active pro-fascist fifth columns in various countries, especially the Soviet Union. Hitler hated communism, which he called Judeo-Bolshevism. In the Soviet Union, the fifth columnists engaged in sabotage and collaboration – as they did in some western countries too. In the west, the fascist sympathisers promoted isolationism in foreign policy. It’s “over there”, not our problem, we’ll only make things worse, blah blah blah. Such is the mentality that thinks in terms of ethnic identity and nationality rather than humanity.

As if things couldn’t become more difficult, there came the Second World War which, initially, the Soviet Union tried to keep out of; though Stalin had sought collective security agreements with Britain and other powers in the early 1930s when Hitler’s Nazis took power. Britain declined and instead entered into the Anglo-German Naval Agreement in 1934. Poland agreed to a non-aggression pact with Hitler, rather than collective security to thwart him, also in 1934.

The Nazi German invasion of the Soviet Union, and Soviet resistance, resulted in 25 million mainly Russian deaths. The Soviet Union instigated the greatest military action in world history known as Operation Bagration, codename for the 1944 Soviet Belorussian Strategic Offensive Operation, which secured the defeat of the Nazis. Women were mobilised along with men and the Red Army’s women’s sniper force became legendary in the Soviet Union. Lyudmila Pavlichenko shot 309 Nazi soldiers as a Ukrainian Red Army Soviet sniper during the war. (Woody Guthrie wrote a song for her in 1942).

It was understood at that time that the Soviet Union, despite what it had been through – a revolution followed by a civil war caused by the military intervention of forces backed by a dozen foreign governments, the subversive activities and sabotage of a pro-fascist fifth column, and an invasion by the German Nazis and their Finnish and Romanian allies that killed 25 million Soviet citizens – had achieved plenty through its socialist system.

Industrialisation, massive dam construction and electrification of the countryside had lifted millions from the acute poverty experienced under Tsardom. Stalin wanted to create “a second America” in terms of industrial progress. For the first time, the socialist republics of the USSR developed their own motor, aircraft, tank, tractor, machine tool, electrical and chemical industries – with the assistance of European and American experts.

The dam built on the Dnieper River from 1927 was the biggest hydro-electric station in Europe and was consistent with Lenin’s slogan: ‘Communism is soviet power plus electrification’.

lenin electrification soviet

New cities were built, most notably Magnitogorsk, which was based on iron ore mining and steel production. Hundreds of experts were brought in as advisers, including Americans, as the city was to be based on US steel-cities, Gary (Indiana) and Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania).

Roads, railways, canals also helped move Russia and the Soviet Union further from the feudal era of the ox-drawn plough. The Volga-Don Canal and the White Sea-Baltic Sea Canal were achievements of a system in which need and progress motivate planning and production. And, in 1954, the Soviet Union became the first country in the world to harness nuclear power for peaceful use, with the operation of the APS-1 nuclear power plant at Obninsk, the ‘Science City’.

This material progress, the application of human ingenuity in the creative-destructive transformation of Nature through labour, is a key reason as to why so many working class people in the west were attracted to socialism.

If the unleashing of the productive forces in a backward economy like Russia in the early C20th could produce such results via social ownership, then what could be achieved under socialism in the advanced industrial west where progress was held back by concentrated private ownership of the means of production and the pursuit of maximum profit for those private owners as the goal of production?

Despite the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union in the 1950s and 1960s, these questions remain. They just need to be put back on the agenda of public discourse. Instead, we can expect the same old ritualistic denunciations based on the false premise that ‘the History is settled’.

Thanks for all the fish…

This has been timely for many years/decades, but more so now. (Anyone for gin?)

* * * *

Douglas Adams

“It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see…”

 

“You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?”

 

“No,” said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, “nothing so simple. Nothing anything like so straightforward.

 

On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”
“Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”

 

“I did,” said Ford. “It is.”

 

“So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t people get rid of the lizards?”

 

“It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”

 

“You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”

 

“Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”

 

“But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”

 

“Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in.

Got any gin?”

 

“What?”

 

“I said,” said Ford, with an increasing air of urgency creeping into his voice, “have you got any gin?”

 

“I’ll look. Tell me about the lizards.”

 

Ford shrugged again.

 

“Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happenned to them,” he said. “They’re completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone’s got to say it.”

 

“But that’s terrible,” said Arthur.

 

“Listen, bud,” said Ford, “if I had one Altairian dollar for every time I heard one bit of the Universe look at another bit of the Universe and say ‘That’s terrible’ I wouldn’t be sitting here like a lemon looking for a gin.”

 

― Douglas AdamsSo Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

Notes on Trump 15

1. CNN poll. Favourable opinions of both Democratic and Republican parties lowest ever. Unfavourable highest ever.

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/11/07/politics/cnn-poll-republicans-democrats-taxes/index.html?iid=ob_lockedrail_bottommedium
More important is inclination of registered voters to vote in the mid-terms, which may point to their inclinations to vote in primaries. Needs careful analysis. I wasn’t struck by any obvious trend. (Both wings of both parties would be doing detailed private and localised polling on those numbers and correlation with voters inclinations towards the position of each wing).

Only small numbers indicating intention to vote for a party other than Republicans and Democrats. But of course there isn’t a serious contender as neither has split yet. (I would expect splits after rather than before mid-terms).

Gallup Trump approval day 296 (6-12 Nov) Republicans 82%, conservative Republicans 87%. Day 303 (13-19 Nov), 81%/87%.

2. Interesting detail in Virginia result:

Gillespie received more votes than Bob McDonnell, the GOP’s victorious 2009 nominee for governor. What buried Gillespie was a 700 percent increase, nearly 600,000 ballots, in votes for the Democratic nominee

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2017/11/how_donald_trump_sank_ed_gillespie.html
Despite having to agree with Slate, it does seem clear that this points to Trump’s approach resulting in big Democat win in mid-terms as the Democrats will still be angry and turnout in a year. The increase in GOP votes points to increased GOP mobilization too that is more likely to swing primaries to genuine Trumpists rather than imitations such as Gillespie.

So I still expect GOP incumbents to be defeated by Democrats and Trumpists except where they have a strong base that could be used in a split that leaves large Trumpist GOP and small ex-GOP rump in Congress with a Democrat majority that leaves things paralysed with impeachment dramas and no legislation that can get through Senate and Presidency unless it happens to suit Trump. Likewise still expect the angry mobilized Democrats to turnup at their primaries that will be vigorously contested between their two wings intensifying split.

3. Not much likelihood of Democrat divisions actually being healed:

Ralph Northam’s gutless, politically senseless, and morally debased decision yesterday to openly backtrack on his commitment to standing up for immigrant families is a picture-perfect example of why Democracy for America never endorsed him in the primary and focused the entirety of our efforts in Virginia on down-ticket races, like Justin Fairfax’s campaign for Lieutenant Governor.  It’s also why, today, we’re announcing that we will no longer do any work to directly aid Northam’s gubernatorial efforts.

“Despite our profound reservations about Northam’s commitment to the inclusive populist agenda Democrats need to embrace to win, following the conclusion of Virginia’s Democratic primary, we have continued to work alongside the Virginia Democratic Coordinated campaign for our endorsed candidates, raise tens of thousands of dollars in grassroots donations, and make tens of thousands of calls to voters to expand the electorate.

“Those concerns proved justified when, a few weeks ago, the VA Democratic Coordinated campaign (dominated by Northam operatives) bought literature for canvassers that purposely left off Fairfax, who, if elected, would be just the second Black man to ever serve statewide office in the Commonwealth.  Following that racist action, we decided to remove Northam’s name from the tens of thousands of volunteer Get-Out-the-Vote calls our members are making in Virginia, but, for the sake of Democratic comity, we refrained from publicly discussing that decision.

“However, after seeing Northam play directly into the hands of Republicans’ racist anti-immigrant rhetoric on sanctuary cities, we refuse to be silent any longer and even remotely complicit in the disastrous, racist, and voter-turnout-depressing campaign Ralph Northam appears intent on running.

“The fight for racial and economic justice are core Democratic values, not talking points for convenient moments. This isn’t some arbitrary purity test either.  Public dithering on basic issues of racial justice, like the need to protect immigrant families targeted by a bigoted Federal government, isn’t just morally bankrupt, it’s precisely why many Black, brown, and progressive white voters that should make up the base of reliable Democratic voters don’t believe Democratic candidates have their backs and sit out elections.

“Let’s be really clear: If Ralph Northam wins next Tuesday, it won’t be because he publicly backtracked on his commitment to protecting immigrant families, but in spite of it.  And, if he loses, the blame should be placed squarely on the shoulders of the consultants who urged the campaign to cave on core Democratic values in the face of a virulently racist Republican campaign – and whose obsession with flipping white, Republican-leaning votes and ignoring voters of color has consistently failed.

“As we have from the start, we are committed to supporting DFA’s endorsed candidates in Virginia through election day, but we cannot remain silent as an outdated faction of national and state Democratic Party staffers and consultants run the same old, broken, and racist playbook that lost Democrats over 1000 elected offices since 2008 and allowed a bigoted billionaire to squeak into the White House last Fall.  Our country and our party deserve much, much better.” — Charles Chamberlain, Executive Director, Democracy for America

http://democracyforamerica.com/site/page/dfa-announces-end-of-direct-aid-for-northam-in-va-gubernatorial-race-after

The liberal group Democracy for America had abandoned Virginia’s gubernatorial candidate, Ralph Northam, over immigration policy, then celebrated his win days later.

“The plus of a tidal wave like this is it washes away the stains of all the campaigns,” DFA executive director Charles Chamberlain said.

http://www.news.com.au/finance/work/leaders/start-of-antitrump-surge-or-not-so-fast/news-story/9f3869d9859c9ffba6b81a3af3707356

4. Bernie Sanders on how to fix the Democratic party. Again no mention of anti-globalism or isolationism. Also the tone of a winner internally – implicit threats if his opponents don’t let go of their organizational grip, but very politely “inclusive”.

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/11/10/bernie-sanders-how-to-fix-democratic-party-215813

5. This makes explicit the blindspot I see pretty well everyone else not noticing:

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/11/10/16625308/trump-supporters-2020-polls

Most of what Ezra Klein says is true or at least plausible. The one line summary is both accurate and obvious:

Trump can keep his base and still lose reelection in a landslide.

But what it misses is far more important. This article makes it clear the following simply has not occurred to the author.

  1. Trump is unpopular because he cannot deliver anything at all through the current GOP in Congress. Not because he has done anything to upset his base.
  2. If Trump had lost his base he might be impeached by now and would certainly not be able to get rid of the GOP incumbents in Congress who he explicitly ran against in 2016 and therefore would remain unable to do anything much and would inevitably be defeated either by the GOP or the Democrats in 2020.
  3. Consequently he has from the day of the election (months before inauguration) been totally focussed on keeping his base. Any effort to build a winning coalition would have been pointless and wasted while the GOP incumbents remain in his way.
  4. For many months “analysts” didn’t even understand that he isn’t a Republican and was rallying his base to take over the GOP. They concentrated on triumphantly celebrating the stupidity of every unpopular GOP policy he could be saddled with. This article illustrates the sheer inability to think about the different situation that will exist when he DOES start to try to build a winning coalition.
  5. Since he HAS kept his base, that situation will include a large Trumpist party in Congress whereas currently he has essentially NO party in Congress.
  6. It will also include a thoroughly divided Democratic majority in Congress, many of whom will have run and won on an opposition to GOP policies that they actually share with Trump and his base (even though they don’t know it). In particular lots of Democrats will vote in favour of big infrastructure programs, improved healthcare and reduced taxes for workers despite an increase in the deficit.
  7. The Democrats may get the credit for that, and they may win in 2020. But Trump could also get credit for it and could also win. There wasn’t any other scenario in which he could win so he is doing remarkably well.
  8. There is NO sign that his opponents have even thought things through this much, let alone having a viable strategy to counter it.

BTW the “Trump country story” linked to as one of the “best” of that (useless) genre is actually more oblivious than usual -oozing liberal bewilderment at encountering people wearing different filters.

6. Thomas Frank at the Guardian shows some actual insight:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/nov/12/aghast-donald-trump-thomas-frank

They have been at it every day for a year now, and the literature of Trump-denunciation they have produced is enormous, a vast Alexandrine library of lamentation and deploring.

Pundits pronounce him dangerous, if not “F*cking Crazy”. They explore the depths of his stupidity. They apologize for him to Muslims. They compile long lists of the man’s falsehoods and misrepresentations. They look to the past and compare him to Hitler, to Mussolini, to Nero and Caligula. They look to the future and try to imagine the exact nature of the apocalypse the dunce will surely precipitate.

They are aghast, almost every one of them, and they compete fiercely with one another to say just how aghast they are. It is a “parade of the aghast”, as an acquaintance calls it, with all the skills of the journalist reduced to a performance of perturbation and disgust.

The parade of the aghast is the obverse of the gullible way our pundits usually contemplate American leaders – lionizing them as men of crisis, admiring their gravitas as they go from international summit to emergency bank bailout. And now the buffoon Trump has exposed it all as a fraud.

A solid year of the aghast has been a good thing overall. It’s healthy for the country to have pundits periodically choose to despise our leaders instead of honor them.

But declaring it all so ghastly isn’t going to halt these trends or remove the reprobate from the White House. Waving a piece of paper covered with mean words in Trump’s face won’t make him retreat to his tower in New York. To make him do that you must understand where he comes from, how he operates, why his supporters like him, and how we might coax a few of them away.

The parade of the aghast will have none of that. Strategy is not the goal; a horror-high is. And so its practitioners routinely rail against Trump’s supporters along with Trump himself, imagining themselves beleaguered by a country they no longer understand nor particularly like.

They denounce people who tell the truth about how the Democratic party operates on the grounds that such knowledge is an “obstacle” to anti-Trump efforts.

A year of this stuff, and never has mainstream opinion journalism seemed so inconsequential, so powerless to envision anything useful about our national predicament.

Look at the grand sweep of history: this is an angry, populist age, and with every year – with every little tightening of the inequality index – it grows angrier and more populist still. To the satisfied and comfortable American pundit class, these are alien and deplorable sentiments, and so they fall back on high-decibel moral aghastitude. They scold and they scold and they scold. But if they really want to send Trump and the Republicans packing, they will make an effort to understand.

That’s a good start. But “they” will never make an effort to understand. “We” need to understand and help angry people replace the system that angers them and is aghast at them rather than trying to reconcile them to it or leaving them to Trump.

7. Meanwhile, Time bewildered that Trump’s chief of staff doesn’t follow Trump’s tweets.

Isn’t EVERYBODY required to be completely distracted and aghast about them?

http://time.com/5020743/donald-trump-john-kelly-tweets/

But LA Times isn’t bewildered. It simply tells Trump’s Chief of Staff to face reality and concentrate on those tweets which have “real consequences” in the world inhabited by LA Times.

Not paying attention to Donald Trump’s tweets is a luxury all of us wish we could indulge in more often! But the White House has been clear whatever he posts constitutes official statements. So perhaps Kelly could come back on down to reality town, where there are real consequences whenever the guy decides to take his 280 characters out for a spin.

[L.A. Times]

https://gizmodo.com/very-tired-sounding-john-kelly-yeah-i-just-ignore-don-1820373344?IR=T
Now just dumping old links again. I have a ridiculous number of open windows.

8. “Do Trump’s Liberal Critics Increasingly Seem Unhinged?”

http://thehill.com/opinion/white-house/360368-do-trumps-liberal-critics-seem-increasingly-unhinged

YES! Ok, I have sufficiently lost objectivity to continue spending hours each day on it since I was first struck by how unhinged they seemed on election day. But it IS my impression that they are actually getting MORE unhinted as time passes.

Here’s a liberal blog analysing a nutter trumpist conspiracy blog to convince itself that the attention it pays to nutters isn’t nutty and that the liberals responding to Trump having said stupid things about an opponent drinking water doesn’t make them responding in kind look similar:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/dispatches/2017/11/19/crokin-trump-sending-message-fiji-drink-water/
9. Some insight into the bubbles and filters:

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/11/19/americans-divided-politics-unity-liberal-bubble-215843
But seems to hope for a return to the happy medium rather than for both ends to wake up.

10. Christie admits he was surprised that Trump remained in “campaign mode” after winning election. No wonder he was immediately removed from the transition team. Did he seriously imagine they can govern without first successfully campaigning to obtain a party in Congress?

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/361027-christie-on-trump-hes-never-gotten-out-of-campaign-mode-as
11. Trump tweets about particular companies causing major stock price fluctuations in particular stocks he singles out despite the overall pre-crisis eerily low volatility levels:

https://www.investopedia.com/news/trump-creates-volatility-feast-stock-traders/
Now if they stopped looking for Russians and instead tracked down connections between Trump associates with possible prior knowledge of tweets and traders who make money from them they might get somewhere…

12. Wikileaks communicating with Donald Trump Jr by unencrypted twitter messages once again proves how dumb the conspirators are!

http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2017/11/13/wikileaks_was_really_really_dumb_to_send_donald_trump_jr_dms_on_twitter.html
(Doesn’t even bother to explain the necessary intermediate step – in  order to conceal the fact that they were both secretly conspiring with Russian intelligence they have cunningly communicated publicly to confuse everybody, just like Trump openly begged Russians to find Clinton’s emails to hide the fact that he was colluding with Russians in stealing DNC emails. That level of subtlety doesn’t need to be explained. The overiding principle is that they are all really really dumb and so the nightmare will be over soon).

The New Yorker gets back on message:

https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/donald-trumps-donald-jr-problem
(Goes straight to the heart of the matter. No point claiming that Assange and wikileaks are dumb conspirators. The point has to be that Donald Trump and his associates/family are dumb conspirators).

The law here is somewhat murky…”

But not for CNN:

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/11/14/opinions/the-stupidity-of-donald-trump-jr-filipovic/index.html
If we can’t prove collusion with Russian intelligence then lets try to ramp up indignation about collusion with wikileaks.

(If it isn’t actually illegal to receive and exploit information about the Clinton campaign rigging the Democrat primaries then it damn well ought to be!)

13. Long thoughtful analysis by Frank Rich in NY magazine.

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/11/frank-rich-trumpism-after-trump.html
I think he gets it right about Trumpists wiping out GOP and bigger danger from what follows Trump.

Writes off a third of Americans as “authoritarian mindset”. (Perhaps true, perhaps far larger than one third).

But his answer? …. CELEBRITIES

The liberal elites who continue to argue that Democrats can win by meeting Trump voters halfway don’t seem to realize that those intransigent voters have long been hardwired to despise them. William Rusher, the publisher of National Review who tracked Wallace with admiration in the 1970s, presciently envisioned a GOP that allied workers and the party’s corporate donors against what he called “a new class” of “essentially nonproductive” Americans like academics, the news media, and government workers. That’s the exact Trump–Fox News–Breitbart culture war we have today.

The Democrats’ growing demographic advantages mean nothing if their voters stay home. Those who didn’t vote in 2016 have to be given a reason to turn out in 2020 with the same fervor that Trump instilled in rural white Trumpists. The party might have to fight celebrity with celebrity. The novelty polls favoring the fantasy candidacies of Oprah Winfrey and Dwayne Johnsonshouldn’t be dismissed as a joke. After Trump, no one can question a show-business star’s qualifications (or almost anyone’s) to be president; some of them could deliver a political message with more conviction than the professional politicians in either party. And the Democrats may well have to fight anger with anger. The rage of the Trumpists will intensify in direct proportion to Trump’s downfall, which will surely be attributed within Trumpism’s ecosystem to a Mueller–Clinton–Goldman Sachs deep-state conspiracy. That anger will be further inflamed by the economic insecurity that will continue to afflict most Americans as long as the inequality compounded for decades in the age of globalization remains unaddressed and unchecked. The Democrats can’t respond with the usual ten-point policy prescriptions culled from the comfortable platitudes of a liberal think tank.

Looking to the future in his 60 Minutes White House exit interview, Bannon said, “The only question before us” is whether it “is going to be a left-wing populism or a right-wing populism.” And that is the question, he added, “that will be answered in 2020.” Give the devil his due: He does have the question right. But there is every reason to fear that our unending civil war will not be resolved by any election anytime soon in the destabilized America that Trump will leave behind.

(Clearly the “left wing populism” this “elite” proposes to mobilize are assumed to be at least as prone to authoritarian demogaguery from celebrity TV stars as the Trumpists).

14. Correct analysis that Trump has effectively forced GOP in Congress to legalize the “Dreamers”.

http://www.kansascity.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/mary-sanchez/article184002166.html

15. Democrat demanding that GOP stop Trump.

https://bluevirginia.us/2017/11/its-time-to-take-it-to-the-republicans-over-their-protecting-trump
Sort of spoiled by smug admission at the end that whichever way the GOP goes the Democrats (“America”) wins.

16. This is NOT a sendup of a liberal blogger pathetically unable to cope with weak irony. It is REAL:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/dispatches/2017/11/13/trumps-inane-tweet-ever/
17. Meanwhile items about the wealth of billionaires are sneaking into my daily feed of Trump news.

This article and its links below are worth careful study:

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/oct/26/worlds-witnessing-a-new-gilded-age-as-billionaires-wealth-swells-to-6tn

The three richest people in the US – Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett – own as much wealth as the bottom half of the US population, or 160 million people. 

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/nov/08/bill-gates-jeff-bezos-warren-buffett-wealthier-than-poorest-half-of-us
(link to .pdf report within – really bizarre)

https://press.pwc.com/News-releases/ubs-pwc-billionaires-report-reveals-billionaire-wealth-facing-headwinds-with-overall-wealth-declinin/s/1a330ead-d03c-48ea-a38c-da3e1c677ce1
Here’s the UBS Billionaires report for download:

https://uhnw-greatwealth.ubs.com/en/insights/billionaires-report-2016/
UNCTAD calling for coordinated fiscal expansion:

http://unctad.org/en/pages/PublicationWebflyer.aspx?publicationid=1852
(Includes LOTS of discussion of rentier capitalism)

On that note I’ll go back to studying economics…

Whoops… I meant to publish this last Tuesday or so but have accidentally left it as a draft. Been busy on economics so haven’t got much to add except old links and will leave those for now and get above out.

 

Celebrating the Russian revolution

default (1)

Eye-witness accounts

The terrible conditions inherited by the Bolsheviks from Tsardom

The specific achievements under socialism

Homeless children 1927

‘Comrade’ Coal in the hands of the people

Baku oil fields

Women in Muslim-dominated parts of the Soviet

Basis laid for rapid industrialisation in first Five Year Plan

* * * *

The Russian revolution may be 100 years old but reactionaries of all stripes, if they must see it at all, want to see it dead and rotting. In this state its use to them is in glorifying its actual and putative failures and turning a blind eye to its successes.

If the communists and their allies were able to achieve what they did in such backward conditions, what is that saying about the bourgeoisie today? Slovenly, past their use by date and basically backward (lift your game or get out of the way!)

Bourgeois leadership may have been fine against the feudalists. However it was pretty pathetic in Russia and China – to the point where the proletarian parties had to do it for them and did a vastly better job in the process. This last point is an irony of significance. And that’s the point about the advances of the 1920’s in the USSR: they need to ‘live’ and be exciting for us now – and be used as a contemporary point of comparison.

‘It is true. There was a failure. However, it was not of communism, but rather of an attempt to sustain a path towards it when its preconditions were absent. Russia in 1917 and virtually all the “communist” regimes established mid-century were essentially backward pre-capitalist societies. Most people were peasants rather than proletarians, and they were more interested in land for the tiller than social ownership.

‘There was little modern industry and thinking was more medieval than modern. They had not passed through the capitalist stage, which is necessary for a successful communist revolution. As the experience of other backward countries shows, even getting capitalism off the ground under these circumstances is hard enough, let alone a society that aims to supersede it’.*

* * * *

Eye-witness accounts

In browsing on the topic of the Russian revolution, I came across a 40 page pamphlet, Women in Russia. It was published by the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1928 and reveals some of the changes and improvements in everyday life for women in Russia in the short space of ten years after the revolution.

women in russia

Karl Marx once said that you can measure the progress of a society by looking at the condition of women within it and that great social changes were not possible without ‘the feminine ferment’. I think he was – and is – right.

The pamphlet is the report by a group of five English women who visited Russia on the occasion of the revolution’s first decade to see what was happening. They were Beth Turner, Rose Smith, Lily Webb, Fanny Deakin and Florence Maxwell.

I can’t find out much about them individually, except for Fanny Deakin who at some point in time joined the Communist Party. Fanny was also a graduate with distinction from the ‘University of Life and Hard Knocks’. The Working Class Movement Library outlines her story thus:

Fanny Deakin (1883–1968) was a lifelong activist from Silverdale in the North Staffordshire coalfield. Of the five children born to her marriage with Noah Deakin, only one survived into adulthood.  This experience, typical of that of many working class communities, led to lifetime campaigning for better maternity services.  But her political involvement incorporated membership of the Independent Labour Party, the Labour Party and, later, the Communist Party.  Her political experience was shaped by disputes in local collieries and, above all, by the 1926 General Strike where Fanny was involved in leading processions, holding protests and speaking at large gatherings. Her motivation was summed up as ‘Fighting for the Mothers’.

The five women visited Leningrad, Moscow, Kharkov and Baku in order to learn about health services, kindergartens, birth control and abortion. They also visited coalfields in the Don Basin and the newly developed oilfields in Azerbaijan. Their trip was funded by local collections in England.

If you want to know why so many working class people around the world were pro-communist or pro-Soviet back then, before the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union and the development of today’s openly authoritarian oligarchy, ‘Women in Russia’ is one among many eye-witness accounts that helps explain the reasons.

Women had fought in the revolution and in the civil war. During the latter, for instance, 14,000 women took part in the military defence of Leningrad against the ‘White’ army forces of the anti-communist anti-Semite General Yudenich.

Women’s liberation from feudal autocracy was a promise of the revolution, and it was certainly achieved.

****

The terrible conditions inherited by the Bolsheviks from Tsardom

In the decade after the Bolshevik-led victory, many foreign delegations visited to see for themselves what was happening, including some from the United Kingdom, which was geographically close and had a great militant working class socialist tradition of its own.

Could the seizure of state power by the Bolsheviks, the redistribution of land and the taking over of the principal means of production by the workers, lead to anything good? It’s amazing what was achieved so quickly, given the obstacles.

The mass poverty and suffering under Tsarist autocracy was bad enough – the Bolshevik-led government in 1917 was starting off under terrible socio-economic conditions. Russia was very backward economically with little industry.

And then, with the revolution’s success, a civil war instigated by the anti-communists in Russia and supported militarily by more than a dozen western governments made things extremely difficult for the new socialist government. About 8 million people were killed in the civil war, for which responsibility lay with the instigators. In the areas controlled by the anti-communist ‘White’ armies, such as the Ukraine, massacres were carried out by the ‘Whites’ against communists and Jews.

On top of that, Britain and its War allies blockaded Russia from 1918 to 1920, making trade (and the wealth arising from it) impossible.

In 1921, to make matters even worse (if that were possible), lack of rainfall led to famine.

Yet, under conditions of social ownership based on workers’ control, with production geared to social need rather than private profit, much progress was achieved.

****

The specific achievements under socialism

The five English women properly contrasted the things they saw and experienced in Russia in 1927 to what they understood about conditions prior to the revolution:

In comparison with pre-revolution standards and conditions, the lot of the workers and peasants has improved almost beyond belief and is still on the upgrade.

Among the changes introduced by the Soviet government that particularly impressed the women were:

Equal pay for equal work enforced.

Laws against child labour. No child under 14 could be employed and those aged between 14 and 16 could not work more than four hours a day.

Allowance for single mothers. Unheard of in Tsarist times, the revolutionary government compelled fathers to pay one-third of their income in child support.

Birth control information was freely available and ‘secret abortion’ (what we would call ‘backyard abortion’) was countered by the provision of ‘skilled medical assistance’.

Workers’ committees established in each factory to make decisions, including the power to recall foremen and bosses. (In the Rabotchi textile factory which the women visited, the factory committee was dominated by women workers. The factory employed 5,750 workers and was previously owned by English capitalists. Under workers’ control, the factory abolished the humiliating practice of fines for lateness and introduced a medical clinic, crèche and kindergarten, subsidised meals, study groups, a library, games, sporting activity and a theatre).

Reduction of the working day from 10-and-a-half hours to 8 hours, with plans to reduce it to 7 hours in 1928. (This happened in January 1929).

Child care. Any workplace with more than 40 workers had to provide a crèche for the children of parents in the factory (paid for by the industry). Larger factories had kindergartens as well.

Free health care, including dentistry, introduced, with a program of new clinics and hospitals being built in cities and towns.

Expansion of maternity hospitals – 12,221 new ones built between 1917 and 1927.

– ‘Mother and child institutes’ set up to provide pre- and post-natal care.

– Conversion of the mansions and palaces of the rich into ‘rest homes’ for the workers.

Maternity leave. Workers received two months leave on full pay plus an allowance for staying at home to nurse the baby for nine months.

– Attachment of vocational schools to some large factories.

– Provision of rent-free accommodation for workers in places where factories owned the residences.

Free travel on public transport for workers who lived far from their workplaces.

– Programs introduced to improve health and safety in the workplaces, such as regular health checks, ventilation, drinking fountains and appropriate work clothing.

Expansion of formal education. In 1914, there were seven million children at primary school. In 1927, there were 10 million. In 1914, Russia had 90 universities. In 1927, there were 136.

Consumer co-operatives. Retail shops set up, with 15 million share-holders, along with state shops, accounted for 80% of business transactions.

* * * *

Homeless children

The ‘big enduring problem’ observed by the women in Russia was ‘one of the biggest problems’: homeless children. These were children ‘orphaned by war, famine and blockade’. The issue had been taken up by Lenin’s wife, Krupskaya, and was, in part, a cultural problem. The children ‘prefer to roam about in bands… the wanderlust is in their blood’.

The state was trying to assist them, however, and the five women visited a former monastery that was now being used as a home for vagrant children. The chapel was still being used for religious purposes.

‘Comrade’ Coal in the hands of the people

As some of the women came from coal mining families and areas, they were also able to compare with the situation in England, as they experienced it. They visited two coal mines in the Don Basin and were favourably impressed. The Russian miners, for instance, worked a 6 hour day or an 8 hour day depending on the depth at which they worked underground. Under the Tsar, it was either 10-and-a-half or 12 hour day.

The mine workers enjoyed a month off each year, on full pay, whereas in England, the women said, coal miners dreaded holidays as it meant financial hardship. Fanny Deakin knew this from experience, as her husband was a coal miner.

Mine workers mostly lived in new housing developments, which the women said were based on the ‘English garden cities’, near the mines.

Under workers’ control, every pit-yard had a medical clinic and health-and-safety inspectors were brought in, for the first time. Medical treatment was free – an impossibility under the old order.

Work gear was also supplied free of charge, and mine workers retired at the age of 55 on a pension. When in between jobs, miners received ‘generous’ unemployment insurance.

Unlike under capitalism, coal production was increasing in the Soviet Union because of modernisation, not because of the workers being compelled to work faster.

Experts from Germany were recruited by the Soviet government to assist with new mines that were being sunk and the construction of power plants to supply electricity to areas that had lacked it.

****

Baku oil fields

The women visited part of the Baku oil field, and this is what they experienced:

In Baku we saw oilfields of enormous extent. They cover over a hundred square miles. Oil is exported from here to India, France, Britain, Italy, Turkey, Persia and America, and the wells now dug will last for fifty years.

Fabulous wealth is represented in this wonderful oilfield, and it is easy to see why it is coveted by the British capitalists.

On our way, we saw the place where the British General Thomas set fire to several oil tanks in 1917, when he was compelled to retreat. He blew up many buildings and a large part of the population.

When capitalists owned the oilfield, the workers were housed in mud huts without windows — places that reminded us of the middens in some of our English slums.

Now, 20,000 men are employed erecting houses. On one estate alone, accommodation has been provided for 10,000 families. Rents average 1s. 6d. a week, and each group of houses has an up-to-date wash-house and each estate its own social club for recreation.

The houses are built in family flats on the American style, each with its verandah… Gas, electricity and heating are all free. The average wage is about 35s. a week.

The workers have, in addition, many benefits from social insurance for which there are no deductions from their wages. When they are ill, they receive full pay for a month. Women get eight roubles a month (4s. a week) for nine months while nursing a baby, and 30 roubles (£3) at their confinement. At death, 45 roubles (£4 10s.) is paid for funeral expenses.

****

Women in Muslim-dominated parts of the Soviet

The report says:

It was in their work amongst the Eastern peoples, particularly the women, that the Bolsheviks encountered some of their most serious difficulties.

A backward and illiterate population, bound by superstition, religion and prejudice to keep its women in a state of seclusion, hidden from the eyes of men, bought and sold like cattle, subject to the whims and wishes of their husbands, had to be made to realise that the revolution had come, bringing with it freedom for women as well as men.

Under the influence of Bolshevik organisers tens of thousands of Eastern women threw off the “parandjak,” a hideous black veil of horsehair they had previously been compelled to wear when walking abroad, and dared to show their faces unveiled.

Although this was but a symbol of their new-found freedom, it was strenuously resisted by the priests and wealthy peasants. Women were beaten, in some cases to death, and murder and violence were frequent. Some of the organisers themselves met their death at the hands of the infuriated men.

Laws had to be passed for the protection of women who dared to unveil themselves, and funds were raised for the relief of the families of those who were killed during the campaign.

In spite of these difficulties the work progressed, and Eastern women are being drawn into the work of the co-operatives, the factories and even of the Soviets. In 1926-7 some 951,812 Eastern women took part in the elections to the rural Soviets, and 36,258 were elected as members of the Soviets.

****

Basis laid for rapid industrialisation in first Five Year Plan

The progress made in the first decade laid the basis for the first Five Year Plan adopted in 1928, which saw further rapid progress in the economic and social realms. The successes of the first 5 Year Plan influenced US President Roosevelt’s decision to officially recognize the Soviet Union in 1933.

****

 

Hand on Heart Halloween Citizenship Birtherism

The current absurdities seem to primarily result from the following:

1. The absolute contempt with which Parliament and the people regard each other. It is generally accepted that almost any amendment to the Constitution proposed by Parliament will be rejected by the people. This is described as Australia having a very rigid Constitution, the language of which must therefore be interpreted creatively by the High Court to keep it up to date. In fact we have a Constitution that is very easy to amend. It just requires a simple majority at a referendum, not two-thirds or three-quarters or any other such difficulty. It also requires a simple majority in each of a simple majority of States, which could result in a proposal unpopular in smaller States being defeated despite a popular majority. This is intentional but unimportant as Australia is exceptionally homogenous. If it ever became a real problem it could be overcome by a “creation of peers” as with the British House of Lords, i.e the bigger States could temporarily divide themselves into multiple small States each with a larger population than Tasmania and then carry a change to that entrenched provision. But it has not been a problem. The frozen Constitution results from Parliament not proposing necessary changes, not from any rigidity.

2. Despite having such an easily amended Constitution, the Parliament has never put to the people anything the people would accept concerning Australia’s Constitutional relations with Britain. Instead various Parliaments (national, State and British) carried various “Australia Acts” none of which could amend the Constitution without consent of the people. The High Court has pretended that at some unknown date Britain, New Zealand and other dominions mentioned in the Constitution became “foreign”. The alternative would have established an absurdly anachronistic distinction between Australians of “British” origin and those “wogs” of other origins such as Greek, Italian etc.

3. But the distinctions they made are as nonsensical as those they avoided. Dual and multiple citizenships are a natural development of immigration, multiculturalism and globalism. Any provisions at all concerned with “dual allegiance” are completely anachronistic. But instead of Parliament routinely fixing anachronistic provisions through simple referenda as was done regarding Aboriginals, the High Court has taken it upon itself to usurp the functions of the legislature established by the Constitution for amending it – the referendum of the people. Given a complete absence of interest in politics among the people, the Parliament and Courts can get away with this, treating apathy as acquiescence. As soon as people actually care, such usurpation of popular sovereignty would be unsustainable.

4. Much of the commentary demonstrates even greater ignorance of the law, the High Court decisions, and the history of the democratic revolution in English speaking countries than that of the learned judges themselves, so I may just be adding to that confusion, but I am struck by a couple of points. I have at least read the latest judgments which is unusual.

5. As far as I can make out the Court of Disputed Returns is invalidly constituted. It is a Parliamentary tribunal performing Parliamentary functions until the Parliament otherwise provides. This should be just as much separated from justices of the High Court exercising the judicial power as any executive administrative tribunal, according to very clear precedents. Getting bogged down in this stuff helps illustrate why that separation of the judiciary from executive or legislative administration is important. So it is about time somebody with an interest at stake put them out of their misery by giving the High Court an opportunity to declare itself free from having to deal with this stuff. If anybody actually cared they would sue disqualified members under the Common Informers Act and there would be multiple layers to go through before anything arrived at the High Court.

6. As far as I can make out, the High Court has decided that Britain is a “foreign power” and decided many years ago that its subjects are “aliens” unless Australian citizens. Whether or not that makes any sense at all, it does not settle the issue of whether Australian citizens who are not aliens are or are not “entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or citizen of a foreign power”. On the face of it that question is firmly settled by the 1948 Nationality Acts in both Britain and Australia as agreed on by an imperial conference. These clearly and unambiguously provide that Australian citizens are “British subjects”. If so, then proof of Australian citizenship, is in itself, in the absence of some renunciation of being a British subject, proof of disqualification. As far as I can make out this point has never been considered, let alone settled. It is hard to predict under what obfuscation legislation declaring Australian citizens to be British subjects could be interpreted as enabling them to renounce that status while remaining Australian citizens, let alone somehow ensuring that they have implicitly done so unless they happen to have British parents or whatever.

7. There was no Australian citizenship until 26 January 1949. A large majority of Australians of my generation and older were and are British subjects – subjects of a foreign power. Not just those with parents who were born in Britain but also anyone who is an Australian citizen including those born in Australia as Australians going back to the first fleet (perhaps excluding Aborigines if desperately TRYING to be obstreperous). This is well known. Unless the foreign power, Britain, has deprived these Australians of their British status by some subsequent legislation then they and their descendants have the same entitlement to the rights of a subject of a (British) foreign power as those recently disqualified. This has nothing to do with where their parents were born. If their parents were “British to their bootheels” like Menzies, then they are in the same position as other descendants of such “foreigners”. 

8. So all perhaps except unnaturalized immigrant wogs need to get legal advice about the effect of British legislation on whether they are “foreign”. The history of British nationality law is extremely complex. For example under the Sophia Naturalization Act of 1705 certain people born outside Britain before it was repealed by the 1948 Act are British by birth. These protestant descendants of Princess Sophia, Electress of Hanover are of course disqualified by s.44 of the Australian Constitution (and also in line to become King of Queen of Australia). Prince Frederick of Prussia and Crown Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia are examples. Prince Ernst Augustus of Hanover was found to be a British subject in 1957. His British by birth immediate descendants would be less than 60 years old today. Who knows what descendants of such people might be lurking in the Australian Houses of Parliament? Yet the proposed declarations by Australian politicians concerning their potential disqualifications do not ask for any belief they might have either as to whether they are protestant or whether they could be descended from Princess Sophia. The potential for dual allegiance in this situation is appalling!

7. Since the High Court has gone rogue and has also blocked the appeals to the Privy Council provided by the Constitution, it may be impossible to avoid the absurdity of most Australians being British “foreigners” without action by Her Majesty’s British Ministers and the imperial Privy Council or imperial legislation to resolve the matter. 

8. Of course the history of the democratic revolution in English speaking countries requires that any such change to the Australian Constitution be approved by the consent of the Australian people at a referendum. However that history does NOT require that the referendum by initiated by either colonial parliaments (now States) nor the Federal Parliament (possibly invalidly constituted) and certainly not by High Court judges nominated by persons purporting to be Ministers of the Crown who were not in fact Ministers. It would be entirely consistent with our constitutional history for such a referendum to be initiated by the Crown on the advice of its responsible Ministers. 

9. These responsible Ministers could turn out to be Her Majesty’s British Ministers (especially if none of the people purporting to be her Australian Ministers were qualified as members of Parliament within 3 months of their appointment as required by the Constitution). Illusions about the reserve powers of the Crown are just that, illusions, as the House of Lords discovered when it had to capitulate to the Commons or be flooded with a “creation of peers” by the Crown on the advice of its Ministers. The basic principles were established when Charles Stuart had his head removed from his royal shoulders without his royal assent and have not been challenged since they were re-established by a Dutch protestant army in 1688.

8. No Court will inquire into whether the descendants of Queen Victoria are or are not descendants of Princess Sophia so we are constitutionally safe. No doubt a solution will be found and no doubt it will continue to be easy to mock.

9. So will all the “un-Australian” fussing about nationality and allegiance remain easy to mock. It is clearly as much an American import as Halloween, along with a Prime Minister putting his hand on his heart for a “national anthem” celebrating that “our land is girt by sea”. 

10. It is particularly fascinating that nobody seems to have noticed the DIRECT parallel with the “birther” campaign mounted by first the Clinton camaign and then Trump against Obama demanding proof that he was born in Hawaii rather than Kenya. (As a “Goldwater girl” Hilary will remember the Democrat precedent based on 1964 GOP candidate Barry Goldwater having been born in the Arizona Territory before it became a State of the United States and therefore not being a natural born Citizen).