When political analysts first chose to classify opinions on a
left-right spectrum during the French Revolution over 210 years ago,
the left stood up for the underprivileged working classes, while the
right defended the interests of the aristocracy and the emerging
class of entrepreneurs. That was long before the emergence of the
welfare state, mass consumerism and the globalisation of labour
markets. During the latter half of the 19th century the
left became identified with socialism and the transfer of ownership
Just before Christmas the British media revealed some large up and coming multinational outfits had taken advantage of tax loopholes and the wonders of early 21st century globalised trade to evade taxes. Suddenly Labour supporters had a cause they could all rally behind and win support from hardworking voters rightly fed up with high taxes and shoddy services. Let's force evil Amazon and Starbucks to pay their taxes in the UK. For a fleeting second I thought we had returned to the early 1970s when the Trade Unions and Labour activists advocated import controls and high tax rates for the rich.
Things might not have panned out quite how George Orwell predicted in his infamous dystopian novel, 1984. In many ways rather than progress towards austere authoritarianism, modelled on Stalin's Soviet Union, penalising expressions of excessive joy, the latest phase of corporate globalisation has seen the spread of mass consumerism and commercialised hedonism as tools of social engineering. I
The title is ironic and may be partly true of course as many oft-repeated statements are. The most obvious riposte in defence of small-time Italian and Greek entrepreneurs is neither do large multinationals and awareness-raising charities, pay very much tax, more on that later. The accusation serves a simple purpose, to justify the huge cutbacks in public expenditure enforced by the newly appointed governments of Italy, Greece and, to a lesser extent, Spain, while the UK continues to bankroll one of the world's most generous, intrusive and life-altering welfare bureaucracies.
Many on the left in the UK and elsewhere are celebrating George Galloway's resounding victory in the last Thursday's Bradford West by-election. With a turnout of just over 50%, the former labour stronghold saw a massive swing away from New Labour and the other mainstream parties to the left-leaning Respect coalition. Just ten years ago I would have been over the moon about such a spectacular win for the superficially radical left.
If you want to get away from the adverse effects of mass consumerism, extreme concentration of wealth, social unease and poverty, Cuba is an intriguing destination. Like in many countries your experiences can be filtered both by your cultural prejudices and expectations and by your tour operator. Many tourists just head for the beach resorts of Varadero, Cayo Coco, Guardalavaca, Cayo Largo del Sur or Baconao near Santiago.
What a coincidence! Just days after the US administration agreed to raise their country's debt ceiling and let the global consumption party go on for a few more months or maybe years, In London marauding mobs run riot, loot retail outlets and set commercial and residential buildings on fire. Reportedly it all started in Tottenham Hale, North East, on Saturday evening when demonstration against the police shooting of a minicab driver and alleged drug dealer, Mark Duggan, descended into violence, just four miles from my bedsit.
Has anyone actually read Tony Blair's much publicised memoirs. Well within 3 months of the book's release and despite all the media, half-price copies were on display on Waterstones. Don't get too angry with this guy, for he has only ever been a politician in the sense of a polite public relations guy. He liberated Kosovo from Serb nationalists only to put in place a bunch of Kosovar Albanian gangsters, still supervised by NATO troops. Then in the wake of 9/11 he supported the liberation of Afghani women and the hunting down of Osama Bin Laden.
Today over a hundred thousand demonstrators will descend on Central London to protest against cuts in public spending. I can sympathise for I've joined many similar protests defending the rights of ordinary working people and against wanton waste and wars. Why, they wonder, should ordinary people suffer because politicians and bankers have wasted billions on wars and billionaire bankers continue to reward themselves huge bonuses? Unfortunately many have misdiagnosed the problem.
Our species, homo sapiens sapiens, is now thought to have evolved at least 120,000 years ago with some recent finds in the Middle East dated to as long ago as 200,000 years ago. On that time scale, the Neolithic agrarian revolution, occurring in most parts of the more densely populated world between 15,000 and 5,000 years ago and only reaching some locales such as Australia, in the era of European colonisation.