The Austrian Presidential Election

I write conscious that my understanding of internal Austrian politics is limited (though no worse, frankly, than that of most UK journalists and other commentators). However, this election is in some respects of more importance to wider Europe than it is to the Austrians themselves. I write also conscious of having only visited Austria a few times: a week in Vienna in the 1980s; a 2-day crossing by car from East to West, from Hungary to Germany, in 2001; some plane changes at Vienna Airport en route to or from Almaty, Kazakhstan in the 1990s.

This is not an electoral contest which has no wider effects. Austria, like Switzerland, is at the spiritual centre of Europe, as well as being in the geographical centre of both Europe and Central Europe.

The election comes at a moment when symbols matter as much as practicalities: the President of Austria has few powers, though one, the power to dissolve parliament and call a general election, may be key, in that, if elected, Norbert Hofer will be able to call such an election just at the moment when the Freedom Party (FPO) is in the ascendant. Austria would then have both President and Prime Minister from the Freedom Party.

The symbolism noted above relates to the wave of professed anti-System upsurges across the West: UK Brexit referendum, Trump’s egregious rise to power in the USA, Marine le Pen and Front National mounting a credible presidential election challenge in France; the referenda in Italy and the Netherlands. If Hofer can succeed (and the UK bookmakers had him odds-on yesterday, if that means anything), the balance of power tilts in Europe, in the EU. It would make a (far more important) Marine le Pen victory in 2017 more likely and that really might be a tipping-point for the EU and Europe.

The key points about Hofer are positive, as far as I am concerned. Hofer, like Marine le Pen, is in favour of stronger ties to Russia; he wants to protect Austria and wider Europe from Islamization via Muslim numbers, births and cultural influence; while Hofer seems not to have said much about Jewish Zionism (Austria having even less freedom of expression now than France or the UK), it is noteworthy that the Jews in Austria and abroad have come out openly against Hofer. Social nationalists will take the point and, if Austrian, vote accordingly! In other words and in general, Hofer seems to be singing from the right page.

A Europe and an EU with Hofer (et al) in Vienna and with Marine le Pen in Paris, with, beyond Europe itself (and despite my very considerable reservations) Trump in Washington D.C. and Putin in Moscow (Russia being neither European nor Asian but, in reality, sui generis), the world will be in a better place than it might have been.

I am writing before close of polling in Austria. Soon we shall know the result. May it be the right result.

Note: the above blog post was written and published only minutes before the news broke that Norbert Hofer and Freedom Party had lost the election. I have decided to leave it up in the interests of honesty and integrity. I got it wrong, but the reasoning was right. Freedom Party may still win the next general election if the cards fall in the right order.

It seems, at time of writing this update, that Norbert Hofer was voted for by about 47% of the Austrian voters who voted. That must presage well for Freedom Party, in that Hofer’s opponent was a catch-all candidate voted for not on his own merits (if any) but as an anti-Freedom Party figurehead. The next general election in Austria will be different.

In the end, the status quo has been maintained in Austria. This is no “anti-fascist” or “anti-Nazi” victory. It would have been better had Hofer won, but in the longer term, this result might actually be a good thing.

Advertisements

The Society of Measure

In the mid-20th century, especially in the 1960s, it was commonplace to see articles or features about the supposed coming “age of leisure” which would be facilitated by machines and advanced industrial techniques. Now (since the 1980s), those predictions are often laughed at, as society (eg in the UK) finds itself enmeshed in the “long hours culture”, the workaholic culture, the low pay economy. Was this inevitable?

The fact is, that the predictions of the past about a future “society of leisure” left out one crucial fact in particular: that the benefits of industrial efficiency and the emerging developments in computing, robotics etc would be taken by the owners of capital, by shareholders and others.

Since the 1970s, real pay (whether absolute or per hour) of most employees has stagnated and indeed even declined across the advanced Western world generally. At the same time, the profit accruing to capital and the remuneration of the upper strata of executives, higher managers and their professional counterparts has rocketed.

The above was true to some extent even in the Soviet Union, except that there, the developments in technology and efficiency were not spread equally across all industrial sectors and the benefits were used mainly for State power and prestige: military and naval upbuilding, space programmes and other large-scale projects such as the BAM railway.

The result (focussing on the West and particularly the UK) is that people have to work ever-longer hours for ever-lessening real pay. If public services, amenities and State benefits are taken into account, the contrast between the optimistic promises and predictions of the 1960s and 1970s on the one hand and the realities of 2016 on the other is even more stark.

There is another factor to be taken into consideration: there are three “work/leisure” faces:

  • work as unwelcome and/or repetitive drudgery, with little free time;
  • leisure as mere absence of work, for whatever reason;
  • creative work, balanced with stimulating leisure or free time

Adolf Hitler was referring, by implication, to the above alternative lifestyles when he noted “the Aryan ideal of creative work“, to be contrasted with (as he saw it) uncreative Jewish profit-making, as well as equally-uncreative paid drudgery [see Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf 2:7]. In explaining, for example, the symbolism of the red-white-black NSDAP banner, Hitler wrote:

And indeed a symbol it proved to be. Not only because it incorporated those revered colours expressive of our homage to the glorious past and which once brought so much honour to the German nation, but this symbol was also an eloquent expression of the will behind the movement. We National Socialists regarded our flag as being the embodiment of our party programme. The red expressed the social thought underlying the movement. White the national thought. And the swastika signified the mission allotted to us — the struggle for the victory of Aryan mankind and at the same time the triumph of the ideal of creative work which is in itself and always will be anti-Semitic.

In our contemporary society, we see the temporary victory of uncreative work/leisure modes: on the one hand, soul-less profiteering (whether by manipulations on stock and bond markets or by buy-to-let parasitism etc); on the other hand, everyday work becoming less and less interesting for most people. Soul-less economic serfdom. Creativity and a decent work/life balance become the province of the artist, the maverick off-grid person, the creative writer. Most people are excluded.

At the same time, those without paid work and who are under pensionable age cannot even enjoy the one major benefit of being unemployed: leisure! They are harried and chased around by Department of Work and Pensions drones. In other words, in place of actual paid work, there is a ghastly and ghostly simulacrum of work consisting of the tick-box applying for (often non-existent) job vacancies or the attending of pointless “courses”, in return for which the unemployed claimant is paid a shadow version of a very low real salary: State benefits.

It is estimated that, between now and 2030 or so, developments in robotics alone will mean that 20%-30% of UK jobs will disappear, including some presently “professional” ones (eg in the medical and legal fields). The numbers of unemployed, under-employed and poorly-paid will increase. The “precariat” will include ever-more people.

The solution to all of the above is not a “society of leisure” but a “society of measure”:

  • strict limits on hours worked by employees, perhaps 30 hours per week;
  • strict enforcement of break-times within the working day;
  • strict demarcation between work-time and free-time (leisure time);
  • strict limitations or barring of employees being “on call” when at home;
  • payment to all citizens of “Basic Income”
  • more equitable distribution of the fruits of the economy.

Such a society will have time for those important things which have traditionally been part of “leisure time”: home, family, culture, rest, sleep, entertainment, sport. This must be the way to go and will cure many of the ills of the present society.

 

 

Text reference link:

http://www.angelfire.com/folk/bigbaldbob88/MeinKampf.pdf

Thoughts on the Richmond Park By-Election

I write only a few hours after the Richmond Park by-election result, which saw the Liberal Democrats win an unexpected victory over former Conservative Party MP (standing as Independent) Zac Goldsmith.

I had not taken much interest in the by-election, mainly because the constituency is atypical, full of the sort of affluent self-described liberals who usually vote soft Conservative or Liberal Democrat and who believe in the EU, multicultural/multiracial Britain, “refugees welcome” (though not in Richmond, of course) and whatever helps to support their own comfortable lifestyles.

The result:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richmond_Park_(UK_Parliament_constituency)#Election_results

What struck me first of all was the poor showing of Labour, which lost its deposit for the first time since the constituency was created in 1997. Labour achieved a 12% vote in 2015 and managed 5% even in the 2010 General Election which Labour lost. Labour’s 3.7% vote in the by-election was only 9 times that achieved by the Monster Raving Loony.

UKIP did not stand, which perhaps says something in itself. UKIP had climbed from a vote of 0.7% in 2001 to 4.2% in the 2015 General Election.

Zac Goldsmith had increased the Conservative Party vote from around 39% under previous candidates to 50% in 2010 and 58% in 2015. However, his anti-Heathrow-expansion stance was irrelevant in the by-election, because the decision to expand the airport has now been taken. Another factor was the EU: Goldsmith’s pro-Brexit view was at odds with that of most Richmond voters in the most pro-EU constituency in England.

There were minor candidates: Fiona Syms, estranged or ex-wife of the Conservative MP for Poole. She received 173 votes (fewer than the Monster Raving Loony); a sullen Indo-Pak calling himself “Maharaja Jammu and Kashmir” (real name Ankit Love), representing his “One Love” crank party [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Love_Party] (which consists, it seems, of 3 or 4 people). The “maharajah” received 67 votes; there were a couple of other candidates.

What can perhaps be said about this by-election? What does it indicate? That Labour is still sliding and that UKIP has (at best) stalled.

What cannot be said about the Richmond Park result? That voters outside Richmond Park (or the few places like it) are anti-Brexit; that the Liberal Democrats are resurgent. In the end, the only practical result of the by-election is that it reduces by 1 the number of Conservative MPs (and so by 2, in effect, the already-small Commons majority of the Theresa May government).

The UK Housing Crisis

The housing crisis in the UK is perhaps the most pressing problem the UK, certainly England has, apart from mass immigration. The two are connected, of course. It is idle to imagine that the housing crisis can be solved without stopping mass immigration, yet the System political parties all maintain that the two problems (or facts) are unconnected. In any TV discussion on housing, mass immigration is the elephant in the room, rarely if ever mentioned by the participants. This is remarkable.

The latest statistics [https://www.migrationwatchuk.org/statistics-net-migration-statistics] for immigration show that (official, “legal”) “net immigration” into the UK was 327,000 in a single year (about 700,000 came in, some left, some British people also emigrated). Even if two or three immigrants live in one house, that means that somewhere around 100,000-200,000 houses or flats would be required to house these incomers. In one year. Another 100,000-200,000 houses next year…and so on. In fact, the situation is worse than that, because the immigrants (certainly the non-Europeans) have a far higher birth rate than the British. In parts of London and elsewhere, there are already far more births to immigrant mothers than to British ones.

About 150,000 new houses are being built each year in the UK now, but the House of Lords has said that the UK “needs” (largely because of immigration and births to immigrant mothers) 300,000 more houses each year:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/07/14/england-needs-to-build-50pc-more-homes-than-governments-target-s/, while even more conservative estimates say 250,000.

In other words, there is a shortfall each year of at least 100,000 dwellings, yet the System political parties will not address the main reason why British people either cannot get a house (whether to buy or rent, as prices and rents spiral) or pay through the nose to do so. The Labour Party is particularly culpable, because it both promotes mass immigration and yet cries about the “housing crisis”! No wonder its former voters are deserting it in droves.

British people are divided by the crisis: a minority are living as rentier parasites and/or are profiting (on paper) via inflated property values. The majority are paying huge amounts in mortgage payments or excessive rents, simply so as to have a roof overhead. This cannot continue.

The solution to the housing crisis in, particularly, England, is to

  • stop mass immigration;
  • repatriate as many immigrants (and offspring) as possible;
  • prioritize British people for all forms of housing;
  • build decent State housing for rental;
  • change planning rules in large parts of Victorian and interwar London;
  • found beautiful new garden cities and towns without destroying the countryside;
  • decentralize the UK, to prevent the South and South East being ruined.

 

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 [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serhiy_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.

%d bloggers like this: