The Unorthodox Website Blog

Things Ain’t What They Used To Be

27
Mar

We aren’t what we used to be either as we grow older, but manufacturers don’t take this into consideration. I strongly suspect in an attempt to make certain things childproof they are inadvertently stopping the elderly use these things. For instance, matches and lighters. My mother, a smoker all her life, can no longer use cigaret lighters because they are now made too difficult for her weak thumbs to operate. So we went over to matches, but these too are made so that the striker on the edge of the box wears out long before the matches do. The ‘Ship’ matches sold by most newsagents are absolutely useless. If you can still get them (few shops stock them) ‘Swan Vestas’ are better, since the striker doesn’t wear out so quickly. Cooks’ matches by Bryant and May and others also have the ‘Ship’ style strikers of dots, still called ‘safety matches’, but the strikers are not nearly as effective and long-lasting as the continuous brown striker on the old matchboxes by Bryant and May and others.

Caps of jars are also made almost impossible to open by elderly people. I bought an implement for opening these, which was marvelous till nearly all the manufacturers changed the design of their lids, making them curved at the edges, so the implement will not longer grip them properly. We usually have to pierce the lids in order to let in the air in order to open them.

Sachets of tomato sauce, salad cream, vinegar, mustard, not to mention condoms and lube are also very difficult to open for a lot of elderly people with a weak grip.

As to the food itself, salt I’m sure is deliberately mixed with something else to dilute it. You now need 10 times as much salt in cooking and from a salt cellar to even be able to taste it. The same with teabags, unless you manage to buy the ‘extra strong’ variety you might as well be drinking a cup of hot water.

It’s not that we have lost our taste buds, other foods still taste the same. I suspect it is because the experts say salt is bad for you, and the taste for herbal teas has made strong Indian tea less popular, but elderly people still like it.

Vegetables and fruit. When did you last see gooseberries in the greengrocers or greengrocery department of the supermarkets? When did all these strange trendy vegetables come in which many old people don’t like? Sweetcorn, courgettes, etc. And with the traditional green vegetables like spring greens, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, sprouts, runner beans, etc. nearly always undercooked so they are crisp? Because it is more healthy? Old people like these boiled for about 20 minutes until soft. And who started this mania for carrots? Served up with sweetcorn or in mixed veg as the trendy vegetable nowadays. My mother and I spend ages picking out all the carrots and sweetcorn from mixed veg. Carrots are OK for flavoring stews and soups, but on their own – ugh!

Red meat is nearly always overcooked in cafes and restaurants nowadays, even in Carveries who ought to know better. Lamb and beef should be served pink. Overcook them and you might as well be eating boiled rag.

Light bulbs used to give sufficient illumination, now they have these ecology-friendly ones which take ages to give decent light, and which, despite the claim to last about a decade, rarely last more than a few months. I’ve gone back to traditional bulbs.

And don’t even mention the railways, buses, the mail, post offices and utility companies, which before privatization run much more smoothly, with no pressure to change supplier and confusing fare/price differences. Surely it makes sense for these organizations which use national grids and networks to all be run by the State or publicly owned monopolies?

Probably I’m just dismissed as another grumpy old man who thinks everything was better in the old days. It wasn’t, but some things were.

 

 

Xenophobia?

12
Mar

I’m sorry, but I fear I’m becoming rather xenophobic. While I’m a firm supporter of the EU and would renounce my British citizenship in favor of EU citizenship were we to have a federal United States of Europe, I’m fed up to the back teeth with foreigners from outside Europe who either don’t speak English while living in the country, or only speak very bad pigeon English, or who impose their alien cultures on us. Also all these foreigners from the Indian sub-continent who keep ringing me with surveys and other cold-calling. I’m afraid as soon as I hear that accent asking to speak to me I hang up.

Examples of the pigeon English I’ve heard or read recently include a few years ago when I still had a film camera, took the film in to be developed at my local chemist and the foreign girl behind the counter said: ‘Velop? What is velop?’

Then there was the Muslim woman who rang me at my mother’s place and said: ‘Police! Open up! Police! Open up!’ It was, in fact, supposed to be a plea to open up the Residents’ Association Clubroom, though it wasn’t my turn on the rota to do so that day. She couldn’t pronouce ‘please’ so it came out as ‘Police!’ She didn’t seem to know any other English.

Then the note from one of my mother’s carers the other day which read: ‘mummy oat hot hot finish’ which by the empty packet of Porage Oats on the table I gather meant her breakfast cereal had run out. It is worrying though should an emergency occur while one of these foreign carers was present. What would she do? Probably ring someone and say: ‘Police! Mummy down down floor!’ or something equally confusing.

On ‘Countryfile’ the other day when I was in a local pub I saw a piece on Hal-Al and Kosher food, and a discussion on whether religious ritual slaughtering should be banned in this country because of animal welfare regulations. Apparently a number of European countries have banned it. I would not go that far, but I do think Hal-Al and Kosher slaughterhouses and retail outlets should be strictly limited. The situation should not be allowed to exist where, for example, in my borough of London you are hard pressed to find any non-Hal-Al takeaway or butcher. One high road in my borough has many butchers’ shops, every one Hal-Al. My immediate area has two only, both Hal-Al. All the local take-aways are Hal-Al. All the local shops are run by Asians, and all except Tesco Express (also run by Asians) don’t stock English pies of any description.

The local State schools are all over 95% ethnic. White pupils apparently nearly all go to private schools. I saw on Facebook yesterday that some schools in the country are banning pork and only serving Hal-Al meat for school dinners. This is fair enough if it is an Islamic school, but State schools should all have a mix of pupils and ethnics should NOT be allowed to be in the majority. In America they adopted the policy of bussing pupils to different schools so there was an mix and no one racial group dominated any particular school.

I don’t consider myself particularly xenophobic, after all my father was Greek-Cypriot. But people who come to live in this country should learn to speak the language properly, and respect our local culture. Having said that, neither my father not many of my Greek-Cypriot relations who have lived here for decades ever learnt to speak English properly because they mix with Greek-Cypriots, read Greek-Cypriot newspapers and now watch Greek-Cypriot TV via satellite. It is just as bad with Britons who go to live in Spain and read English newspapers, watch British TV on satellite, demand a full English breakfast at local cafes and never learn to speak Spanish, Catalan, etc.

Respect the country you are living in, and learn to speak the language properly. That’s not too much to ask surely?

Crisis in the Ukraine and elsewhere

03
Mar

The current crisis in the Ukraine is basically caused by the fact that two different peoples/cultures exist in that country. Similar to Ireland, Cyprus and Palestine/Israel.

To avoid civil war there should be an immediate peace conference to sort out a solution. The Russian-speakers in the East of the country want closer links with the Russian Federation, while the Ukrainian speakers in the West of the country want closer links with the European Union. The only logical solution would seem to be to split the country, with Kiev as the capital of Western Ukraine, and Kharkov as capital of Eastern Ukraine. Western Ukraine would apply to join the EU, while Eastern Ukraine would join the Russian Federation.

Feelings are so strong that while protestors in the Western half of the country ousted the previous President who wanted closer links with Russia, those in the East went so far as to wave Russian flags and protect a statue of Lenin.

One cannot help thinking there was none of this trouble when the USSR existed. Fifteen Soviet Socialist republics lived together peacefully in friendship under Socialism with a common goal of one day achieving Communism. It may well have developed from the legacy of the Tsarist Empire, and the Baltic states were forced to join after the Second World War when the Red Army liberated them from Fascism, but, as in former Yugoslavia, the various republics lived together in friendship and peace.

Some would say the price of democracy and freedom to demonstrate is this sort of uprising, though by all accounts there was little democracy in the Ukraine.

On a broader scale, while all countries have the right to independence, and this includes parts of countries which consider themselves separate, all countries need to come together in larger federations and ultimately there needs to be a global confederation under the auspices of the UN, with a permanent UN international security force replacing national military forces.

Take, for example, the upcoming referendum on Scottish independence. I am all for it for two main reasons: I oppose the replacement of the obscene and illegal Trident nuclear-armed submarine system which is currently based in Faslane near Glasgow. I hope Scottish independence would mean the Trident base is kicked out of Scotland, which would effectively kill off Britain’s so-called independent nuclear deterrent, which is neither independent nor a deterrent. Secondly, as a republican, I am against the Monarchy and therefore any United Kingdom. I would be for a proper federation with state legislatures in each member country, not the mess we have at the moment.

I would therefore be in favor of England, Scotland, Wales and a united Ireland becoming members of a federal European Union, rather like the United States of America.

Federations only work if the individual member states reflect the local culture and have equal devolved state legislatures, whatever their size. This means places like Cornwall, the Isle of Wight, the Channel Islands, Isle of Man, the Basque Country, Catalonia, etc. must, if they opt for independence and then apply to join an EU federation, be given equal status to countries like England, Spain or Germany within the United States of Europe.

As to the Ukraine, a split of the country into two separate states seems inevitable as a long-term solution, probably as member states of the Russian Federation and the EU respectively.

Scottish Independence Referendum

11
Feb

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I am a federalist, and very much in favor of individual countries coming together voluntarily in federations/confederations leading ultimately to some sort of world confederation. This should end wars and lead to the establishment of some sort of world security force to protect the population from would-be dictators and those who would commit atrocities and genocide.

Having said that, every country has the right to independence. Also groups of states or countries have the right to break away from a bigger federation. Therefore the American Civil War was quite unjustified because the Southern states which formed the Confederate States of America had every right to break away from the Union. This is regardless of their policies on slavery, etc. which was a separate issue. You cannot deny a state/states independence because you don’t agree with some of their policies. In any case, like South Africa, eventually slavery and segregation would have been abolished in the Southern states anyway.

I still regard the break-up of the Soviet Union and the Yugoslav federation as tragic, as I feel there was great potential for them to become more democratic once they got rid of their bureaucratic dictatorships. No doubt some states would have left these federations, such as the three Baltic states (Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia) annexed after the Second World War.

So why am I in favor of Scottish independence? For several reasons. Firstly, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, to give it the correct full title, is not a democratic federation. Unlike the United States, for example, there are no state legislatures in every country of the UK with devolved powers. England has no state legislature for example, and the Welsh Assembly has less powers that the Scottish one or Stormont in Northern Ireland. Secondly, I am a republican, so reject the monarchy and therefore the whole idea of a United Kingdom. Thirdly, Northern Ireland should be re-united with the Irish Republic. When the Irish Free State (as it then was) was granted independence the northern province of Ulster was carved up so the six counties with a Protestant/Loyalist majority were kept in the UK, while three provinces of Ulster joined the rest of Ireland. This was gerrymandering of the worst kind, and led to the troubles which followed for decades.

We now have the European Union, which is like an embryonic federation. It has some of the elements of a federation such as a flag, an anthem, a parliament and a single currency in some of the member states. It must surely develop into a fully fledged federation or else eventually be disbanded as a failure, like the short-lived United Arab Republic. The problems with the Euro just indicate how impossible it is to have a single currency in many different independent states each with their own fiscal policy. There has to be central control at a federal level and a uniform structure on prices and wages. Imagine the chaos if some of the wealthier states in the USA had to regularly bail out the poorer states because they ran up huge dollar debts. The federal control over the economy insures this cannot happen.

Scotland has every right to vote for independence if it wishes, as do the other countries of the UK, though with Northern Ireland it would make more sense for it to re-unite with the rest of Ireland. Even counties like Cornwall and the Isle of Wight which have nationalist movements have the right to independence if they wish it. Since the Scottish parliament was established, Scottish politics have been markedly different from those of the government in Westminster.

For me the biggest question at the moment is the British government’s intention to  replace the Trident submarine-based nuclear weapons system, which is totally useless as well as being an illegal weapons system of mass destruction targeting civilian populations alive now and yet unborn. It has not deterred anyone, and most countries feel no need of such a so-called ‘deterrent’. It certainly did not deter General Galtieri from his adventure to capture the Falklands/Malvinas, nor did nuclear weapons prevent the USA from losing the Vietnam War or the Soviet Union from having to withdraw from Afghanistan. Even the two atomic bombs on Japan did not end the Second World War in the Far East – that was only achieved after Emperor Hirohito was allowed to remain on the throne and avoid a war crimes tribunal.

Trident is the only last vestige of the so-called British independent nuclear deterrent, which is neither British, independent nor a deterrent. It relies on the USA for much of the obscene technology, and they could pull the plug at any moment despite the Burghfield/Aldermaston establishments in Berkshire desgining the new warheads.

The sole reason for keeping the obsolete, militarily useless and obscene ‘nuclear deterrent’ is to give the British government a permanent seat in the undemocratic UN Security Council and a permanent veto of democratic resolutions of the UN General Assembly. The five original nuclear powers (the Russian Federation representing the old USSR), have this permanent membership and veto, the other four being the UK, France, the People’s Republic of China and the USA.

If Scotland opts for independence it will still have the Trident nuclear submarine base stationed at Faslane on the Gareloch, far too close to Glasgow for comfort. This will not give any Scottish Prime Minister a permanent seat at the UN Security Council, even if they wanted one. So an independent Scotland has two options: to charge the UK government for keeping the base on Scottish soil or, and this is what I would hope and expect to happen, telling the UK it must close the base down. Practically this would mean the UK government abadoning Trident replacement, which is the best reason I can think of for us to support Scottish independence at this time, saving the UK taxpayers £100 billion at a time of drastic public spending cuts.

In the longer term, I see no reason for keeping the mish-mash which is the United Kingdom which has no written constitution and no proper federal structure. The various countries of the British Isles (excluding the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) are already member states of the EU, so if this eventually becomes a federation the individual member states have the option whether to join the federal structure or stay outside.

As a Socialist it could be argued that we should not be in favor of a capitalist federal Europe, but the nature of the European Union could change in time. Alternatively there would be nothing to stop  a group of states from breaking away from the EU and forming a United Socialist States of Europe, or some similar new federation.

So Scottish independence yes, but I would hope like most of the rest of Europe we would all come together eventually in a European federation or federations which would draw us closer together and insure wars never again break out in our continent and engulf the globe in any more world wars. That, more than anything, is why I am an internationalist in favor of independent states voluntarily joining with others in federations/confederations leading ultimately to some sort of world government.

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The New Rationalists

03
Feb

Rationalism is the logical analysis of the universe/multiverse based on scientific study and experiment, as opposed to superstition and religion. I prefer the term to atheism or even agnosticism or humanism, as all convey very negative messages; i.e. there is or probably is no God/god, no afterlife, no meaning to life at all, it is just a complete accident which was helped along by evolution and natural selection. Atheism/agnosticism/humanism are all based on a materialist view of everything.

This approach is now outdated. Long ago physics discovered that solid matter is a complete illusion, and now Quantum Physics shows that even the building blocks of matter, i.e. sub-atomic particles, are based on wave-function and revert to this when there is no conscious observer.

The new rationalists are all over the Internet and YouTube, but are at present given no space in official scientific journals in the UK, though some have been published abroad.

What do I mean by ‘new rationalists’? I coined the term to mean the scientific approach to understanding the nature of things, rejecting superstition and religion, but at the same time not following the pseudo-religion of orthodox science.

The correct scientific method is to keep an open mind and build theories based on mathematics and experimentation. Unfortunately orthodox science has become a materialist religion, and it is considered heresy to question it. Orthodox scientists relying on university funding and wishing their theories and experiments to be published in official scientific journals are not allowed to even investigate anything at present considered ‘paranormal’. Dean Radin of the Institute of Noetic Sciences calls this the ‘woo-woo taboos’ of orthodox science. The Institute of Noetic Sciences was established by ex-NASA scientist and moon-walking astronaut, Dr Ed Mitchell, and it specializes in investigating these ‘woo-woo taboos’ scientifically, such as ESP, precognition, telepathy, after-death communications, etc.

The Campaign for Philosophical Freedom, headed by rationalist Michael Roll, promotes the secular case for the afterlife based on the experiments and theories of scientists past and present. These include many of the pioneers of radio and television, such as Sir William Crookes, Sir Oliver Lodge, Edison, Marconi, John Logie Baird, etc. who all felt the afterlife dimension was on another frequency.

Instrumental TransCommunication or ITC is also being investigated and refined by experimenters around the world, and remarkable messages have been received from the afterlife on televisions, computers, fax machines, tape recorders, telephones, radios and other electronic equipment. Of course orthodox scientists are not allowed to investigate any of this, and the official media, controlled by the straitjacket of organized religion on one side and orthodox materialist science on the other, either ignore all these experiments or treat them as a spooky joke along with ghosts, mediumship, UFOs, etc.

The new rationaists realize that the ultimate reality is consciousness. More and more scientists are coming to that conclusion, and Quantum Physics also backs this up. A new rationalist would not talk about ‘god/God’, but would use a more scientific term to describe the universal consciousness behind everything.  Rationalist scientist Ron Pearson calls it the intelligent ether or i-ther.

Alfred Russell Wallace, whose theories on evolution and natural selection prompted Charles Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’, has been virtually whitewashed from history because he accepted the evidence for an afterlife. It seems obvious to me that if consciousness is the ultimate reality, then this is what is guiding evolution. Natural selection just separates the designs which work best from those which are inferior or outdated. There is quite obviously intelligent design behind the complex organs of human and animal bodies, but this seems to be a trial and error method as different adaptations are experimented with. The crux of the matter is that consciousness is a form of energy which creates and organizes matter, but it is a learning process. There was never an all-knowing God who planned everything from the very beginning. If anything god-like now exists, it has evolved and is still evolving, and we and all living things are part of it. Pearson’s i-ther, the universal consciousness, or whatever you like to call it.

The illusion of matter also creates the illusion of individuality and the illusion of time and space. The ultimate reality is this universal consciousness outside of time and space. Therefore it is pointless to talk about any beginning or any end; everything is now, everything is eternal. Past, present and future only have meaning in our virtual reality universe where we seem trapped in a one-way journey from past to the future.

It is inevitable that eventually, probably this century, our present orthodox science and organized religions will be swept away and the new rationalist science which includes universal consciousness as the ultimate reality will take their place. The various physical universes are the products of this conscious energy, created so it can evolve. Pearsonian science, or something very like it, must replace Einsteinian science which has led us into a cul-de-sac of absurdity upon absurdity, none of which are compatible with Quantum Physics or, indeed, with reality.

Marxism

19
Jan

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 We’ll keep the Red Flag flying here!

I still call myself a Marxist, because it was Karl Marx in his book ‘Das Kapital’, which I read in my teens, which really made me understand things like the law of the surplus value of labor, which enabled capitalism to exploit the workers. Also to appreciate the science of Historical and Dialectical Materialism, which teaches the inevitability of progress from primitive communism, tribal society, thru feudalism and capitalism to Socialism and hopefully Communism Proper, the final self-governing utopia where the State and all artificial regulators like money, police, armies, law courts, prisons, etc. have gone.

This final stage is very idealistic, and I now would be quite satisfied with achieving the Socialist stage. The Communist stage would need a very high level of mass participation in the running of society, and the Socialist experience in the Soviet Union and the allied Socialist countries does not look promising. It seems rather than the masses learning to govern themselves through a one-Party system or one-Party dominated coalition, a privileged ruling clique or bureaucratic ruling class took over. While the basis of Socialism remained, with full employment, security in old age, good public services, the abolition of illiteracy, equality for women, cheap rents and public transport, good health services available to all, cheap basic necessities, etc. the system was distorted by this bureaucratic clique creaming off the best. Also the centralized State monopolies tended to be inefficient.

In my view the Bolsheviks in Russia led by people like Lenin and Trotsky made many serious mistakes very early on, which laid the foundations for Stalinism and all the horrors which followed, not just in the Soviet Union, but copied in Mao’s China, in Kim Il-Sung’s North Korea, and most horrifying of all carried to excess in Pol Pot’s Kampuchea (Cambodia). The crushing of the Kronstadt rebellion by Trotsky’s Red Army under the orders of Lenin crushed the original aims of the Revolution in my opinion, and consolidated a bureaucratic dictatorship which became more ruthless under Joseph Stalin. Eventually this bureaucracy caused the break-up of the Soviet Union and the failure of Socialism in the allied Warsaw Pact countries, as well as in places like Yugoslavia and Albania. A domino effect indeed.

Marxism-Leninism made the fatal mistake of exercising the Dictatorship of the Proletariat thru a single Party or a coalition (as in North Korea, East Germany and Czechoslovakia) dominated by the Marxist-Leninist Party. This situation came about during the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, a country which never had a democratic tradition. All Socialist and anarchist alternatives to the Bolsheviks were crushed, and the final nail in the coffin of democracy was when Leon Trotsky and Lenin crushed the Krondstadt demands for a real people’s Socialist democracy.

The term ‘Dictatorship of the Proletariat’ really is just another word for democracy. Assuming the proletariat or working-class makes up the majority (and by working-class I mean anybody who labors for a salary rather than living off unearned income) then it just means the majority’s wishes rule. However I consider the term oudated since it does not recognize or accommodate the rights of minorities. I would therefore reject the term Dictatorship of the Proletariat, while recognizing the need for some stability by establishing a Socialist Constitution.

Under such a constitution Socialism would be enshrined as the basis of the economic and political system, thus the working-class would be permanently in power. However their wishes could be expressed through any number of political parties and organizations, so if one Socialist government became too corrupt and bureaucratic it could be voted out and another political party voted in to administer their brand of Socialism. For the record I maintain the Yugoslav system of Market Socialism with competing cooperatives and individual publicly owned enterprises was superior to the huge State monopolies, though some things such as the public transport networks, the telephone and postal systems, the utility companies which all require national grids or networks are best run as a State monopoly.

A Socialist Constitution would need to be protected by an elected President in charge of the security forces to insure no political party gained power in an election and tried to dismantle Socialism as the basis for society. This is not undemocratic; rival political parties in Western countries have run capitalism for years, under written or unwritten constitutions defending the status quo. A Socialist Constitution would establish some stability, but would not preclude a return to capitalism if the population really desired it. They would, however, have to first reject the Socialist Constitution in a referendum by a substantial majority and replace it with an alternative constitution.

In this way Socialism could be protected from attempts by successive governments with slender parliamentary majorities, often minority governments if the total vote is taken into account, to privatize industries and services. This would only be possible if a substantial majority of the eligible electorate voted in a Constitutional referendum to replace the Socialist Constitution with an alternative one.

I therefore am happy to call myself a Marxist, since it was his ideas, along with those of people like Friedrich Engels and the British pioneer of the cooperative movement, Robert Owen, who inspired the early Labour Party, which sadly has now rejected Socialism and ceased to represent the working class.

We have a new party on the Left called Left Unity, and hopefully this can stimulate a move towards a real Socialist or Marxist alternative to the three main at present capitalist parties. It is hoped that if it doesn’t achieve power itself, Left Unity will do for the Left what the UKIP has done for the Right of politics, i.e. force Labour to move Left and closer to its Marxist and Socialist traditions. Restoration of the part of Clause IV calling for public ownership and control of the means of production, distribution and exchange would be the first and most important step towards achieving this objective.

Russia – what did they expect?

11
Jan

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There is a lot of protest about the clampdown on freedom to demonstrate and the anti-gay promotion legislation in the Russian Federation. My response is, what did they expect? Given how the West treated Russia after the break-up of the Soviet Union, and how the Russian people themselves voted in various elections, the West and the Russian people really have themselves to blame.

Russia has never had a tradition of democracy. The ruthless, autocratic Tsarist regime with its vast empire was overthrown in early 1917 and replaced by the short-lived Karensky government, then came the Bolshevik Revolution later that year and, like in Tasarist times, all opposition was crushed, even Socialist alternatives to the government line. Lenin and Trotsky laid the foundations for the Stalinist terror which followed, which only mellowed when he died, but still it remained a bureaucratic dictatorship.

After the break-up of the Soviet Union, which incidentally I still regard as a tragedy, opportunities were missed which could have made the Russian Federation into a real democracy. In fact, the Soviet Union itself could have survived in a more democratic form, perhaps as a looser federation of Socialist republics which allowed free elections with other political parties competing to administer Socialism.

Unfortunately, although Gorbachev was trying to implement reforms such as ‘perestroika’ and ‘glasnost’, a hard-line coup overthrew him in August 1991, and although this was crushed, his successor Boris Yeltsin presided over the break-up of the USSR.

The Soviet Union, along with the other Socialist countries, had achieved much despite the bureaucratic ruling clique and the inefficient State monopolies. This included full employment, security in old age, good public services, the elimination of illiteracy, good health services, etc. However there was a lack of freedom, and I cannot help feeling Russia was probably one of the worst places to experiment with Socialist revolution. The autocratic tradition of the Tsarist regime was carried over to the Bolshevik one very early on.

Then finally we came to 1991 and the break-up of the Soviet Union. The Warsaw Pact was disbanded, so logically, now the Cold War was over, NATO too should have been disbanded. Instead former members of the Warsaw Pact, excluding the Russian Federation, were invited to join the Western NATO military alliance. Is it really any wonder the Russian Federation felt threatened? As countries in the Soviet sphere of influence for years fell into the arms of NATO? Little attempt was made to reach out to the Russian Federation itself, and disbanding NATO would have been the first step.

Then we have the domestic Presidential and other elections in the Russian Federation. Although they became members of other political parties, as in many other former Socialist countries, the corrupt politicians and bureaucrats remained largely in power, and were voted back in by the electorate. For Heaven’s sake, Putin was a hard-line KGB man, so what do people expect? A benevolent democracy?

After the fall of the USSR many Russians demanded the rehabilitation of Joseph Stalin, and called for a new hard-man to rule the country. This was surely mainly due to the West’s continuing hostile attitude to post-Soviet Russia, and the encroachment of the aggressive NATO military bloc to the very borders of the Russian Federation itself. Even into countries formerly part of the USSR. Former Socialist countries now in NATO are Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania and Croatia, with probably more clamoring to join. The three Baltic states were part of the Soviet Union since WWII.

There was a big opportunity in the 1989-1991 period to end the Cold War, disband the two rival military blocs, and create an atmosphere in which true democracy and freedom could flourish, be it under a Socialist constitution or some other kind of constitution. Instead the Russian Federation has been hounded into a corner by the expanding NATO states, and the Russian people have responded by electing hard-liners into power, former KGB men, and many longing for a new ruthless Stalin-like figure to confront the West and knock the country into shape.

The West, and particularly the USA, is largely to blame for this state of affairs. Once the Cold War was over, all nations should have come together under the UN umbrella and created a more peaceful, democratic era where various economic and political systems could flourish without restricting freedom. This great opportunity was squandered, and now the result is an increasingly dictatorial Russian Federation which feels threatened by the eastward expansion of NATO and the continued existence of Western nuclear weapons presumably still targeted on the Russian Federation and its people. This is not the way to achieve a peaceful world and the abolition of nuclear weapons worldwide which Barack Obama and many others have said they want to achieve..

 

Conscientious Objection to Military Service

10
Jan

I recently read an on-line autobiography of a famous medium who was a CO in the Second World War because he couldn’t kill anybody, knowing the trauma spirits experienced when suddenly catapulted into the next world.

What I couldn’t understand was that, unlike some of his fellow conscientious objectors, he was willing to don military uniform and to do work which directly assisted the war effort. So he was helping to build railways and military roads, and even load ships with military supplies. Meanwhile his wife worked in a munitions factory, and his stepson was bombing civilians and others in Germany and German occupied countries.

Each must decide for themselves and live with their own conscience and beliefs, but I find it a little illogical. Having said that on analyzing my own pacifist beliefs I realize it is the actual killing or pulling of the trigger which is impossible for pacifists to do. In my case I can perfectly well see the need for armed police at least in certain situations, and for the need for them and security forces to shoot to kill in certain extreme circumstances, such as when facing armed criminals or terrorists about to detonate a bomb.

However I doubt I could ever pull the trigger myself, but am willing to let others do it for me. Which means were I younger I should never apply to join the police or any security force.

This brings to mind a pacifist I knew years ago who became a security guard, but when I questioned him as to what he would do if someone tried to steal the money he was paid to protect he said he’d just let them take it as he couldn’t use violence against them. This is of course a very dishonest policy; accepting a job when you know you could never carry it out.

What alternative service would I have been willing to do were I to face conscription? In fact it was abolished a few years before I would have been called-up, and anyway my physical deformities would probably have excluded me. I would have been willing to work in the medical corps, maybe in the catering corps, but would never agree to put on uniform.

What I would have preferred, but what would have been impossible of course, would have been to go to Germany and join their medical teams treating soldiers and civilians injured by Allied weapons. Of course this would never have been allowed by either side, and on arrival in Germany I’d have been imprisoned.

Nowadays it is much more complicated as there is no conscription but our taxes are used to pay for illegal weapons of mass destruction like Trident and, of course, for military escapades overseas. People have tried unsuccessfully to withhold taxes they consider would be used for military purposes, but most of us do not even have that option since PAYE means taxes are deducted from salaries before we even see them.

Kronstadt Rebellion

06
Jan

This event remained hidden from me during my membership of the British Communist Party and in the years I was politically active in the peace movement. Eurocommunists, Trotkysists and Stalinists all kept silent about this crucial event in Soviet history, or else it was dismissed as merely one battle in the Civil War which followed the Great October Socialist Revolution. To criticize the crushing of the Kronstadt rebellion would mean not just attacking Trotsky, but Lenin himself. It would mean, as others have said, that Lenin and Trotsky among other Bolsheviks, rather than Stalin, instituted the repressive regime which allowed a bureaucratic ruling clique to emerge and led to Stalin’s show trials, the purges and ultimately to the hard-line coup against Gorbachev and the final collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Stalin and Trotsky are considered by various Marxist-Leninist factions as legitimate targets for criticism, but Vladimir Illyich Lenin is not!

Clearly the reason this revolt is so little discussed and analyzed by Marxist-Leninists is that if accepted as a genuine rebellion by soldiers and sailors who helped the Bolsheviks to power in the Revolution it would make Lenin and Trotsky responsible for all that followed, including the reign of terror and the purges of Stalin and the ultimate collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. It was, in fact, not Stalin who crushed true Socialist democracy, but Lenin, Trotsky and their allies in the Bolshevik Party, so enabling a bureaucratic elite, a new ruling class, to take over the organs of State power, institute a regime of terror, and ultimately,  to destroy the Soviet Union itself.

It can be seen from the aims of the rebellion as set out below that it was perfectly reasonable and did not open the way for the overthrow of Socialism. It has been associated with the anarchist movement, but that in my view is still a leftwing movement closely allied to the Communist ideal for a self-governing utopia.

Reading the demands below, it seems to me all they call for is democracy for the working class, peasantry and their allies under a Socialist Constitution; nowhere is there anything which would advocate the establishment of  any pre-Socialist, Tsarist, feudalist or capitalist system.  Rather they set out an agenda which would have allowed the young Soviet state to develop into a true Socialist democracy.

According to Wikipedia, these were the demands of the Kronstadt rebels:

Petropavlovsk resolution

On February 26, delegates from the Kronstadt sailors visited Petrograd to investigate the situation. On February 28, in response to the delegates’ report of heavy-handed Bolshevik repression of strikes in Petrograd (claims which might have been inaccurate or exaggerated), the crews of the battleships  Petropavlosk and Sevastopol held an emergency meeting, which approved a resolution raising 15 demands:

  1. Immediate new elections to the Soviets; the present Soviets no longer express the wishes of the workers and peasants. The new elections should be held by secret ballot, and should be preceded by free electoral propaganda for all workers and peasants before the elections.
  2. Freedom of speech and of the press for workers and peasants, for the Anarchists,, and for the Left Socialist parties.
  3. The right of assembly, and freedom for trade union and peasant associations.
  4. The organisation, at the latest on 10 March 1921, of a Conference of non-Party workers, soldiers and sailors of Petrograd, Kronstadt and the Petrograd District.
  5. The liberation of all political prisoners of the Socialist parties, and of all imprisoned workers and peasants, soldiers and sailors belonging to working class and peasant organisations.
  6. The election of a commission to look into the dossiers of all those detained in prisons and concentration camps.
  7. The abolition of all political sections in the armed forces; no political party should have privileges for the propagation of its ideas, or receive State subsidies to this end. In place of the political section, various cultural groups should be set up, deriving resources from the State.
  8. The immediate abolition of the militia detachments set up between towns and countryside.
  9. The equalisation of rations for all workers, except those engaged in dangerous or unhealthy jobs.
  10. The abolition of Party combat detachments in all military groups; the abolition of Party guards in factories and enterprises. If guards are required, they should be nominated, taking into account the views of the workers.
  11. The granting to the peasants of freedom of action on their own soil, and of the right to own cattle, provided they look after them themselves and do not employ hired labour.
  12. We request that all military units and officer trainee groups associate themselves with this resolution.
  13. We demand that the Press give proper publicity to this resolution.
  14. We demand the institution of mobile workers’ control groups.
  15. We demand that handicraft production be authorised, provided it does not utilise wage labour.

2014

31
Dec

We celebrate New Year, wish each other a happy one, etc. but of course it is just a completely arbitrary number and date. The New Year could start on any day in 365, and although 2014 is supposed to relate to the birth of Christ he wasn’t born in December anyway.

It is also illogical to assume that because we’ve started a new cycle of 365 (or 366 in a leap year) days that it will be any better or worse than the last year.

As for changes which occur in fashions, etc. these rarely seem to correlate with the way we number the decades and centuries. For instance, the 19th Century didn’t really end till after the First World War, and 20th Century innovations like the jazz age, flappers, etc. kicked off in the 1920s.

The 1940s culturally went on till well into the 1950s, at least in UK, with rationing, austerity, etc., while the 1950s popular music continued until 1963 with the advent of The Beatles and British long-haired groups.

In fact I’ve noticed that changes in fashions, etc. rarely coincide with a new decade, and usually become apparent about the middle of any decade. Certainly rock’n'roll burst upon the world scene around 1955 although there were many recordings now considered early rock’n'roll in the USA well before that, going back to the late 1940s.

So what lies ahead in 2014? Well much the same as in previous years. I don’t expect anything vastly different, as any changes which occur in human behavior, etc. are very gradual. People will be born, others will pass on, no doubt we’ll have the usual highs and lows.

We were told by many who didn’t think the world was going to end on December 21st 2012, that 2013 was the start of a new era of Enlightenment. I can’t say I’ve noticed, but certainly there is a process of new ideas going on helped to a large extent by the exchange of ideas worldwide thru the Internet.

The old organized religions are slowly giving way to new ideas where science and what was previously regarded as religion or mysticism become confused. Many people are now non-specific about their beliefs. So we hear about some sort of universal consciousness rather than ‘God’ and a widespread belief in spirituality and survival of death, rather than the old idea of Heaven and Hell.

Science is also less clear-cut than it seemed to be, not least because Quantum Physics and things like String Theory seem almost mystical in their implications.

What I do believe is that the 21st Century (according to our current method of recording the passing of time) will be a period of quite revolutionary discoveries in the twin areas of science and what was previously regarded as the domain of religion. Both orthodox science and orthodox religion have to give way to new ideas based on the evidence constantly being uncovered.

However 2014 or any single year will not herald any dramatic change, as these things happen very gradually. New ideas and concepts are rarely accepted overnight, they take years or even longer to gradually become the accepted norm.

Hopefully exposures of corruption, etc. will continue in the next year or so, and more people will become enlightened as to the true nature of things both related to this planet and in the more spiritual aspects.

 

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