Castro and Cuba

I had no intention of writing about Cuba or Castro following the recent death of “Fidel”. However, the public and mass media reaction, much of it an outpouring of adulation and “me-too” faux-liberal compromise, has impelled me to write.

There is no doubt that Cuba before Castro was corrupt and, for many, poor. Before Castro there was Batista and before Batista, Prio (Carlos Prio Socarras), of whom the British historian Hugh Thomas wrote, memorably, in his mammoth history of the country, that he “fell like a rotten fruit, full of its own corruption.” Prío himself later said of his presidency: “They say that I was a terrible president of Cuba. That may be true. But I was the best president Cuba ever had.”[see Arthur M. Schlesinger, A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House. New York: Houghton Mifflin (2002) p 216].

Prio was in fact someone who tried to keep to constitutional proprieties and it was his decision not to act extra-judicially which allowed the harsher figure of Batista to seize power in 1952, Prio himself having been elected (by free and contested election) in 1948.

Cuba in the 1950s was sometimes described as somewhere between a Latin American country and a detached, poorer, part of the United States, the latter for long its effective suzerain.

It would be easier to make a quick judgment of Castro’s rule had the United States not (and typically) engaged in ham-fisted great-power and quasi-colonialist geopolitics over the island. Those American interventions continue to muddy the waters: attempts to assassinate Castro, the Bay of Pigs “invasion” of 1961; above all, the partial embargo (which Cuba called a “blockade”) imposed (mostly) in 1960.

No-one can say for sure whether Cuba would be much different had it had the chance to trade freely with the USA, its neighbour and natural main trading partner. Probably not much. Venezuela is another and more recent example of the inability of a Latin American socialist economy to perform adequately for long.

The  bien-pensant “usual suspects” in the UK (the absurd Tariq Ali, Ken Livingstone, Jeremy Corbyn etc) are now saying that the Castro dictatorship was sort-of acceptable because Cuba had good education and good medical services. On that basis, they should be very kind indeed to German National Socialism, which provided the same and in fact far more (and with far less repression, in reality).

In fact, long before the Soviet subsidy disappeared, Havana was falling to pieces, as were the Cuban roads and railways. I myself had fleeting and peripheral contact with Cuba, otherwise seen by me only from the sea (between Cuba and the Bahamas) and the air (flying over Cuba between Tampa, Florida and Grand Cayman).

I was asked, when a practising barrister in London circa 1995, to help a scientific start-up based at Porton Down, Wiltshire, the high-security  biological warfare facility, then recently partly-privatized. A small company of scientists had a bacterium which turned biomass into fuel (unscientific me calling it the turning of straw into gold). I thought of Cuba with its sugar-cane detritus, lack of fuel and high technical-education levels. Unfortunately, the Cuban Embassy in London did not respond, unlike the Ukrainian: I visited Porton Down with the then Ukrainian Ambassador, Mr. Komisarenko []. Nothing came of that in the end, but it seems that, in more recent years, a company called Havana Energy, headed by ex-Labour Party MP Brian Wilson, has been producing energy that way in Cuba. The Cuban Embassy’s unresponsiveness told me all I needed to know about the Cuban bureaucracy: unalert, lethargic, useless, bearing in mind the country’s crying need for fuel.

Since the early 1990s, Cuba has gradually been moving towards a capitalist economy. No doubt that process will continue. Eventually, some kind of greater rapprochement with the USA will happen.

In this blog post, I am more interested in the puerile reaction of the kind of people in the UK who are letting off Castro on human rights and economic efficiency because Cubans have a health service and a school system. Jeremy Corbyn has excelled himself in ignorant misunderstanding. He just digs himself deeper with every statement.

The mass media and in particular the BBC is, as one might expect, doing its bit to eulogize about Castro, saying that he “turned a small island into a major force in world affairs.” Where does one start in unpacking such nonsense?

The reaction to Castro’s death tells me something else: those in the UK who think themselves “socialist” are willing to turn a blind eye to historical, political and economic realities so long as the label is right.

A Few Words More About Basic Income

I have written previously about the necessity for a measure of Basic Income in the UK, about how some limited examples of it have in fact existed for decades (eg Child Benefit) and in one case since before the First World War (basic State Pension). I make no apology for returning to the subject. It is important.

When someone inherits a vast fortune or lives off a trust fund, few say “he will now do nothing and be idle and useless”. In fact, few of such heirs and/or trustafarians are idle. Whatever may be said about David Cameron-Levita, one charge hard to make stick is that he is or was idle. His careerism may have been taken at cruising speed only, but he did not sit back and treat life as a holiday. He worked hard for 25 years or more on his career, however badly that turned out for the British people. The trust monies he lived off, the rumoured £40M he inherited, did not make him notably lazy, bearing in mind that he had no need to work at all.

Then take the example of Zac Goldsmith. Again, there is much to disparage in him, but it cannot be denied that someone who inherits a rumoured £400M or more has no need to engage in politics, work as an MP or do anything. Yet he does do these things.

Lottery jackpot winners rarely do nothing. Some (arguably absurdly, bearing in mind the wealth they have won), start businesses, others even carry on in the same jobs they had when they needed the money paid as remuneration.

As Adolf Hitler said, the essence of European man is creative work. It is immanent or inherent. Basic Income (whether at a level that truly covers all living costs or only part) is simply a recognition that the individual needs money and that not all persons are able to earn it, that not all people are fortunate enough to inherit it. More than that, the Basic Income idea understands that society pays in other ways in the absence of Basic Income: social security bureaucracy, with its attendant costs (salaries, equipment, buildings etc); court and prison costs; the huge costs of paying out “assessed” and carefully-doled-out benefits and so on.

The individual in receipt of Basic Income has a measure of personal security which is at present known only to those who have trust income, inherited capital etc.

Some studies indicate that even a very limited measure of Basic Income (as little as £50 per week) has a very positive effect on the recipients and society. It is a step-change, from neo-Victorian pennypinching to a modern approach that looks at things in the round.

Already, many who work full-time in the UK cannot live or live decently on the pay they receive. It is topped-up via working tax credits, by child benefit etc. Robotics advances may take away 30% of UK jobs in coming decades. It is time to implement some element of Basic Income.

Oaks and Acorns

The lesson of history is that the lessons of history have to be repeated time and again. The collapse of huge and powerful states and associated political power-elite structures often shocks with its suddenness, despite there always having been warning signs. Likewise, the “sudden” rise of a political movement either from a recent start or, more usually, only after years of obscurity, takes the world by surprise. The latter is akin to the actor who experiences “overnight” celebrity (after years of unsung effort).

The DAP, which Adolf Hitler joined in 1919, consisted of only 6 people. Hitler became member no.7. There may have been a larger group which followed those seven, but the only real members were in that little beer-cellar. Nine years later, in 1928, the renamed NSDAP could still only manage 2.6% of the national vote. Then the times became more favourable. Cometh the hour, cometh the man: in 1932, the NSDAP received a vote of 33%. The following year, the vote increased to 44% and the rest is history.

Lenin and his Central Committee had spent decades in internal or external exile; some had been imprisoned; their influence on affairs in Russia was negligible. The 1905 Revolution happened and was crushed with the Bolsheviks playing only a minor part even in St. Petersburg, the then capital. In 1905, the Bolsheviks numbered only about 8,400. That number increased substantially in the years immediately after 1905, but fell back to about 5,000 by 1910 (the Mensheviks had similar numbers in those years).

The first (February) 1917 Revolution was not caused by the Bolsheviks. In fact, it took them by surprise. Most of their leaders were in exile outside Russia and had been for many years. The Bolsheviks were able to seize power in October 1917 (old calendar-style) because their small but disciplined forces had the ability to command larger but less organized elements. In essence, the “Bolshevik Revolution” was a coup d’etat in one city of a vast empire, in much of which the Bolsheviks had virtually no members at all.

The two examples above illustrate how a small group of political believers, if that group has ideological and structural discipline, can do what seems at first to be the impossible. Likewise, an apparently titanic political structure, such as the Russian Empire of the Romanovs, or later such as the Soviet Union (with its satellites) can come crashing down in a short space of time, after a period of stagnation or decadence.

Since 1945, the world has had an “international settlement” imposed upon it. Once the Soviet Union and its system collapsed after 1989, the remaining part of the post-1945 settlement has seemed increasingly unstable. The stagnation of the past decade presages the collapse of the “accepted” politics across the world and particularly in the “West”.

The populist discontent which has brought Trump the U.S. Presidency, which was manifested in the UK by the rise of the BNP, then UKIP and then by the Brexit vote, is the same discontent which is energizing the American “Alt-Right”, Marine le Pen and Front National in France, the Freedom Party in Austria etc. It has still not run its course. The EU is collapsing, but its adherents and beneficiaries are in psychological denial about it. In the USA, for the first time, questions are being raised about the core authority-documents of the State, i.e. the provisions of the ludicrously-outdated U.S. Constitution.

The time is almost here when there will be “sudden” collapses of state power and equally-sudden rises to power of people and groups previously regarded with distaste or even laughter. Our time is coming.

Concentration of Resident Supporters in the Germinal Ethnostate

Start with the premise that a “safe zone” for social nationalism is created, perhaps in the South West of the UK. The zone might centre on a suitable country house or other large building, on a farm, or on a hamlet or other cluster of houses. In that central area, almost everyone would be a social nationalist. Further around that centre there would be villages and small towns where many would support the project. Further out yet, another circle where the influence of social nationalism would be less concentrated, less powerful, though still stronger than in the country as a whole.

News about the germinal ethnostate would spread. No doubt most of the reportage from mainstream media would be hostile, but no matter. People living far and wide would hear about the project and would come to visit the safe zone and then, in many cases, to relocate there, to live in the villages or small towns of the region. Even if only 1 in 1,000 in the general UK population did that, the safe zone might eventually attract thousands and even tens of thousands of suitable people.

The political effect of the resettlement would be felt in elections for local councils as well as for the Westminster seat or seats for the area. The effect of even 5,000 dedicated social nationalists voting en bloc cannot be underestimated. 1 in 1,000 of the UK adult population would in fact number about 50,000. This is not a mere pipe-dream: it is feasible; it could work.

Another important factor in the proposed resettlement is that, unlike the usual situation at present in the UK, in the posited safe zone, social nationalists would not be a small fringe or marginalized group, but a significant minority which might become an unstoppable majority in time. The consequential effects on the rest of the UK would be huge.

Robotics Might Save the Railways

The rail system in the UK is a mess. Start from basics: rail travel, when it started (in England, in the world) in the 19th century, was a fast expanding private enterprise system of competing lines. These lines (companies) solidified into an efficient cartel by the time of the First World War. During the war itself, the railways were under State control (and until 1921). The Railways Act 1923 put the de facto private cartel on a statutory basis, with four large railway companies running virtually all passenger and freight services. Profitability waned with the coming of cars and road freight so that, by the time of nationalization in 1948, losses threatened. This became reality in 1955, when British Rail recorded its first operating loss.

The “modernization” plans adopted from 1955 culminated in the Beeching Report of 1963 and the subsequent and consequent closures of lines, services and stations. More than a third of passenger services were closed down. The closures of railway stations were even more dramatic: out of 7,000 stations, more than 4,000 were shut.

The 1990s privatization was carried out in a manner so poorly-conceived that only free-market ideologues who knew little of the realities of how to run a railroad could ever have decided upon it. I do not propose to delve into the detail here (and I myself am no expert anyway), except to say that there seems to be a good case for re-nationalization, possibly on a low-compensation or even an expropriation basis.

What of the future? We see that, all over the world, even in the UK, that driverless train transport, indeed driverless transport generally, is becoming common. Many British people will have travelled on limited forms of automated transport such as the Docklands Light Railway or the monorail at Gatwick Airport which connects the main terminal with another. It would be possible to run many more light rail and ultralight rail services on new branch lines, connecting with existing mainline stations and lines. Indeed, computerized and robotized ultralight narrow-gauge trains could run from towns, villages and suburbs not presently connected to rail, such lines terminating at an existing railway station. A whole huge new web of public transport could come into operation in this manner, eventually becoming more dense even than the railway system that existed before the 1960s. At the extremities, such lines could be narrow-gauge and the trains very small, perhaps single carriage. The expense, though considerable, would be worthwhile, knitting together a country which has become dislocated.

Road transport will be the dominant mode for the foreseeable future, but if an enhanced branch line network can take even 10% of passenger journeys off the roads, the cost of the new system will perhaps have been justified on that basis alone.

Limitation of Permitted Income

Social inequality is inevitable in any human society. All that one can hope for and, more pertinently, legislate for, is a decent and reasonable measure, so that inequality does not become excessive or grotesque.

Social inequality arises out of and is maintained by inequalities in both capital and income. Today I address only income. My contention is that the maximum post income tax income must be capped at (2016 values) £200,000 per annum. Needless to say, only a relative handful of UK citizens actually receive anything like that after tax; the average is closer to £20,000. Still, it is important that the huge incomes which a few have, be lopped off at that level or, arguably, at one even lower, for the preservation of some sense of social contract in society. That is a more worthwhile reason for this policy, rather than just the (often criticized) aim of raising more tax revenues, which might not even happen, taking things in the round.

The work of all citizens should be valued, by society, by the citizens themselves (valuing the work of others and having a modest pride in their own contribution, too). When a few award themselves or are awarded incomes in the many hundreds of thousands or even millions of pounds per annum, the whole fabric of society is gradually ripped to shreds.

There is another and oft-discussed policy to complement the above maximum-income cap. That second aspect is the concept that the pay of the highest employee or office-holder in an enterprise or a public service should not exceed that of the lowest-paid employee of the same body by more than a certain decided multiple. To my mind, that multiple should be 10x, that referring to post-income-tax income.

The above two policies will go far to knitting society together. There will be anomalies, special cases etc, but the important point is that the general idea will  be accepted by all or almost all…and will work practically.

On Marching and Demonstrating

Should social nationalists march or demonstrate? My answer is the qualified, “only if the march or demonstration looks credible and maybe not even then”. What does that mean?

Some older people reading this will recall the National Front marches of the 1970s, with their aspiration to “a forest of Union Jacks”. Those marches were sometimes “credible” (meaning large enough not to be laughed at by hostile elements or the public generally) but had their drawbacks. All marchers were photographed (openly) by State security staff, as well as by the Press and/or Jewish Zionist snoopers. The police usually decided on the route in consultation with the organizers, as is usual now. The whole show was State-controlled. The resulting publicity was usually quite unfavourable, partly because the violence caused by anti-NF protesters tainted the NF marchers themselves, partly because of the unremittingly-hostile Press coverage, partly because many of the public could not see why such marches had to happen, disrupting superficially “peaceful” areas.

Unfavourable publicity from biased mainstream media, Jewish/Zionist provocation, public incomprehension. All of these were not new even in the 1970s. Mosley and the BUF faced similar problems in the 1930s. The uniformed marches remain controversial today, with even some who look kindly upon them blaming them for the relatively poor showing of the BUF in elections. The same is said of the famous rally at Olympia in 1934. After that, election results worsened and, importantly, the Daily Mail withdrew its support. BUF membership, which at one time had approached 50,000, dropped to 8,000 by 1935 (though at time of repression and involuntary disbandment in 1940, numbers had recovered to 20,000).

That was then and a different UK political milieu, but it can probably be said that Mosley and the BUF would have done better in terms of public perception without marches and, indeed, political uniforms (banned by the Public Order Act 1936).

The milieu today is one in which the Internet plays an important role. The mainstream media are losing ground in public visibility. The printed Press is dying: the Independent no longer publishes on paper, The Guardian begs its dwindling readership for donations. Where do public marches have a place?

It will be remembered that, a couple of years ago, a misguided young man started pushing on Twitter and elsewhere for marches against the Jewish influence in London, particularly North London and specifically in the (Orthodox Jew) Stamford Hill area and (later, in 2015) in the Golders Green neighbourhood. Some might say that that boat has well and truly sailed!

I opposed the idea on Twitter as soon as I became aware of it, not because I have any great liking for Jews of any kind, but for three main reasons:

  • firstly and most importantly, because such marches would probably be small, have to be protected by the ordinary police and make social nationalism look pathetic;
  • secondly, because the public would see such activity (especially through the msm lens) as an “unprovoked” attack on the Jews of those parts of London; and
  • thirdly, because it is the duty of social nationalists to put forward a vision of a better society, not to make futile gestures of a negative nature towards groups, even alien groups.

The result was all too predictable: the first event was abandoned (the organizer having been banned by the authorities from entering within the M25 area); the second “march” was moved on the say-so of the police, to at least 7 miles from Golders Green. In the end, about 10 “marchers” held a static demonstration in a Central London street. The organizer (Joshua Bonehill) was absent, having been arrested. He was later convicted of “incitement” of “racial hatred” against Jews and is still in prison.

A sorry tale, though it seems that that young man has reconsidered his position while in prison and has come to the conclusion (according to his Wikipedia entry) that the thing to do is to try to build a political base in the rural area from which he originated (southern Somerset). Better.

Can marches etc ever be useful these days? I think that the answer, at least on a 99% basis, must be “no”. The trade unions have raised marches numbering 500,000 against UK “austerity” cuts, without effect. Going back further, the anti-Iraq War march of 2003 in London is said by some to have topped a million (others say 500,000), while in Rome, the figure was 3 million. Overall, the anti-Iraq War protests of 2003 are said to have been “the largest protest event in human history” [Wikipedia]. Result? No change of policy by government(s) at all.

My conclusion from the above is that public protests are a distraction from real political activity.