In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

The Scottish referendum and the decentralization of Britain

Posted by seumasach on September 28, 2014

Cailean Bochanan

28th September, 2014

When Nicola Sturgeon spoke back in January of the inevitability of change whatever the outcome of the referendum and appealed to the “No” campaign to come forward with their proposals for further devolution to Scotland she must have known that a response would be forthcoming. All political parties had been focused for some time on the issue of the decentralization of the British state and the referendum was to be the cue for these ideas to come to the fore. However, from the point of views of both campaigns this issue was to become the elephant in the room that no one wanted to see. The “Yes” campaign , notwithstanding Sturgeon’s remarks, continued to insist that it was all or nothing for Scotland, that not only was further devolution not on the agenda but that a “No” vote would see the rollback of devolution already conceded. The “No” campaign evoked the enduring stability of the union and an era of innocence in which good old Great Britain was not about to be eviscerated. As a result, it was only when “panicked” representatives of the leading UK parties came to Scotland late in the campaign, following polls suggestive of a “Yes” vote, that it became evident to all that further devolution was indeed on the agenda. The “panicked” UK leaders, far from making up policy on the hoof, were, however, merely putting forward what they had always intended in an opportune manner which would give themselves credit post-referendum. They were also shoring up the position of Alex Salmond and the SNP post-referendum who could claim that their campaign and a surge in support had forced the hand of the Westminster establishment.
That major constitutional change was on the cards was made clear in a speech in April by Labour leader, Ed Milliband, a speech which was studiously ignored by everyone. In it he blamed overcentralisation for all Britain’s ills and promised to devolve power and spending to English cities and regions. He also revealed the real point behind this “bringing of power to the people” as the Tories like to call it:
“With power of this sort comes responsibility.
These changes will only bring new jobs, greater prosperity, if the towns and cities are willing to put the private sector at the heart of decision making.”
Welsh Conservative leader Stephen Crabb was to pick up on the same theme as he launched the pre-panic, Tory devolution response in July,:
“I am very comfortable with the way devolution is developing. It is quite an exciting landscape that is emerging for devolution. So fiscal devolution I see as particularly important because of strengthening accountability for devolved government.”
This, he thought, would help to “challenge socialist orthodoxy” citing the influence of leading Thatcherite ideologue,Lord Brian Griffiths, in his conversion to devolution.

Any doubts about major constitutional change were dispelled in Cameron’s speech following the announcement of the referendum result. He called for English votes on English issues, effectively a call for English devolution. It also launched the 2015 election campaign with a shot across the bows of the Labour as Cameron sensed blood and seized the moment when the Labour/Tory duopoly gives way to a Tory/SNP axis which could dominate Britain for a long time to come. Labour’s hesitancy regarding English devolution doesn’t mean they won’t support it: they have no choice, but they wish to delay it beyond the next election. If Milliband has written their suicide note in the above mentioned speech they can be forgiven for pacing the room in a state of high agitation before finally putting the bullet through their head.
The British ruling class have embarked upon a major transformation of Britain. Milliband’s speech gives an indication of what they have in mind. The essence of this change is more easily grasped within the context of US politics and the politics of the Republican right. The goal is the end of Big Government. As Britain heads towards another crisis resembling that of 2008 it will face similar dilemmas to those they faced then. In 2008 they bailed out the banks without taking control of them. This time overwhelming popular pressure could force their hand and result in nationalization. Similar pressures could lead to renationalization of the utilities and even land and the housing stock. These measures are unacceptable and dangerous to the post-Thatcherite oligarchy. By devolving spending and tax raising powers to the regions they are vetoing that particularly noxious, in their view, outcome. Admittedly, the state is bankrupt anyway but they will not be presiding over the bankruptcy of Britain with the tax-payer as the priority creditor, the state taking on our assets and our debt to our international partners being resolved through intergovernmental negotiation as I have been proposing for some time. Instead, they will proceed through “the market”.
It could be objected that there is little left to privatize. But Britain’s privatization programme is really just a corporate welfare scheme whereby public funds are transferred to private companies. The companies would not otherwise be making money. This process is inordinately expensive to the British state and is not sustainable. The British state will then withdraw its largesse and as it does so foreign states or their agencies will take its place. This process is already well underway as James Meek has documented and is about to accelerate dramatically. The British oligarchy instead of going down for a very, very long time have opted to be bought out by the Chinese and retired to the Cayman Islands.
It is a great irony that the “yes” campaign regard further devolution as a well earned consolation prize and continue to shout betrayal in the form of its non-implimentation. They have been joining in the fun too, dancing on the the grave of the Labour Party but it is also the grave containing the corpse of their neo-Keynesian spending strategies. The active component of the “yes” campaign is basically on the left, contemptuous of Scotland’s national status except when referring to it, hilariously, as “one of the richest nations on earth”, and these heady days have been like the last faint echo of Blair’s, 1997 “Things can only get better” surge, before we finally sink into the abyss. So they’re celebrating their own demise too: it’s just one internal contradiction too far.
That the coming crisis of Western imperialism will have a neo-liberal solution is at first sight dismaying but it has its logic. I was a struck by the insistence of a Chinese academic, speaking at at Glasgow University’s Confucius Institute, on the resolution of Britain’s debt and current account deficit with China via the market. What, I thought, did we have to sell back to them. Not much, but we can let them relocate factories which produce for our market to Britain. That way, they don’t have to accept sterling fiat money in payment and we can start to correct our trade deficit. That is definitely win-win. They can also facilitate this by taking control of our utilities and building other essential infrastructure. Finally, they can take over our banking system, after its major shareholders and creditors have taken the hit,opening up control of a significant portion of Britain’s land and real estate for re-industrialization. The British government has already taken us some way down this path and we have signed a formal strategic partnership with China and are now proud issuers of Renminbi-denominated UK government bonds. Other sovereign wealth funds will, of course, participate. Just as free-market ideology furnished us with a cover for imperialism in the 18th and 19th century, so it now provides a cover for a policy for end of empire. This is anxiously sought by the Chinese and the Global South and their investments will not be just about profit but drawing the sting out of Anglo-American imperialism. In exchange for life-saving inward investment Britain will de facto renounce its imperial or hegemonic project and become a neutral, demilitarized state. Perhaps Scotland could become a Chinese concession just as we once had concessions in China. That would be poetic justice and leave us staring survival in the face.
The constitutional transformation will go through and it will also be as many have pointed out a dog’s dinner. But the goal is purely negative from the point of view of the British oligarchy: to veto Big Government. However, it contains other potentialities as Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Fein was quick to grasp when he pointed out that, despite the “no” vote, “the British state is not static”. Britain is not suitable for federalisation and the regionalization of England is a completely synthetic agenda which is being foisted on a reluctant people. Hence another irony: the “No” vote may be the real “break up of Britain” agenda. The constitutional agenda compromises Britain’s sovereignty and at a certain point when all the wars and tumult of empire are a fading memory that issue of sovereignty will return and, in all likelihood, resolve itself as four sovereign nations in these islands.

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West beats retreat in Ukraine

Posted by seumasach on September 25, 2014

M.K.Bhadrakumar

Indian Punchline

24th September, 2014

Considering the huge lift that the White House gave last week to the visit by the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko — ‘rare honor’ of addressing a joint session of the US Congress, et al — one would have thought the Barack Obama administration was getting into a heightened mood of belligerence vis-a-vis Russia. But a close reading of President Obama’s remarks after the bilateral meeting with Poroshenko last Thursday in Washington creates doubts in the mind. 

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Game, set and match to Russia

Posted by seumasach on September 6, 2014

Cailean Bochanan

6th September, 2014

The unfolding events in Ukraine are of world-historic significance and the West has responded as unconscious players do: with a stunned silence and the delusion of business as usual. In one fell swoop the entire Western narrative on Ukraine has fallen apart.

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The Grand Saudi Reversal

Posted by seumasach on September 1, 2014

To complete the picture presented here by Meyssan we have to look at the conflicts inside the USA. It is interesting to see how Hagel comes to the fore now and Kerry fades from the scene, the one playing a winning game against the IS and the other taking the booby prize after the disastrous intervention in Ukraine. So on the one hand we have the constitutional or national state with the military at its core and , on the other, the deep or imperial state with the State department at its core. Between the two Obama equivocates but as commander-in-chief will ultimately go with the former. It wasn’t for nothing that the British backed the Confederacy and opposed the Presidential Republic! The deep state is now outmaneuvered in Iraq where the  dirty game of backing Al-Qaida networks can no longer be played. As Meyssan points out things have turned around so fast that some players are still dancing even though the music has stopped.

Thierry Meyssan

Voltairenet

1sr September, 2014

While for the past 35 years Saudi Arabia has supported all the jihadist movements to the most extremist, Riyadh seems suddenly to have changed policy. Threatened in its very existence by a possible attack grom the Islamic Emirate, Saudi Arabia has given the signal for the destruction of the organization. But contrary to appearances, the EIS remains supported by Turkey and Israel who sell their looted oil.

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Gotcha!

Posted by seumasach on August 16, 2014

Cailean Bochanan

16th August, 2014

Finally, the smoking gun: journalists from the Guardian and Telegraph newspapers, two western news sources of unimpeachable integrity, have spotted a Russian military column inside Ukraine. According to an update in today’s Guardian:

“It was impossible to verify the destination or ultimate fate of the convoy, or monitor how long it stayed on the other side of the border.”

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The West on the wrong path

Posted by seumasach on August 9, 2014

The publication of this article could be a key moment in this unfolding crisis. It reveals not only German self-interest but German self-awareness, the latter a much rarer commodity amongst today’s nations.

Gabor Steingart

Handelsblatt

9th August, 2014

Düsseldorf. Every war is accompanied by a kind of mental mobilization: war fever. Even smart people are not immune to controlled bouts of this fever. “This war in all its atrociousness is still a great and wonderful thing. It is an experience worth having“ rejoiced Max Weber in 1914 when the lights went out in Europe. Thomas Mann felt a “cleansing, liberation, and a tremendous amount of hope“.

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Modi’s WTO stance annoys US

Posted by seumasach on August 4, 2014

M.K.Bhadrakumar

Indian Punchline

4th August, 2014

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has drawn big criticism from the United States on account of the firm stand India took at the World Trade Organization negotiations, insisting that its concerns about food security needed to be accommodated if India were to go along with the so-called trade facilitation agreement. Overnight the smile has vanished from Uncle Sam’s face.

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Heads must roll!

Posted by seumasach on July 26, 2014

Cailean Bochanan

26th July, 2014

Within a week or so, we have seen the resignation of Hague and Yatsianuk as well as strong indications that Merkel will be standing down rather than completing her current term as promised. Is the stress of backing a faltering Nazi “anti-terrorist operation” in Ukraine beginning to tell?

Things do indeed look desperate on the Eastern front in the West’s attempt to rerun WW11 with a different outcome. Last week the Kiev authorities gave the go-ahead for a civilian airliner to fly over a war zone and then immediately “knew” the identity of the culprit after it was shot down. The culprit, of course, was Russia. Am I alone in finding this all rather transparent? Still, let’s not preempt the findings of the inquiry that the Anglo-Americans are going to try and cook. But, if, for the sake of argument, we assume that it was an  false flag, then that would indicate that things on the military front were going very badly indeed. If Kiev’s military really were advancing as portrayed in the media then it would only be a matter of time before Russia was forced into direct intervention and the the neo-cons would have  their pretext for further conflict without the need to resort to murky stratagems. As it happens, there are reports on the ground which reveal catastrophic reverses for the Ukies, as they’re known.

The collapse of the Ukraine project is indeed bad news for its sponsors, but it could be very good news for those who wish to see Europe finally cast off its vassalage to the “United States of America and Britain”. Such a desirable outcome would of course involve changes of personnel: heads would have to roll, heads such as those of Hague and Merkel, but of many others also. Names such as Barroso, Ashton, Rasmussen(already coming to the end of their terms), Hollande, Fabius and Steinmeier come immediately to mind.

The utter, destructive uselessness of the NATO entity is being laid bare for all to see. Its life span has been artificially extended well past senility. How the hell can this monster still be stalking planet earth over twenty years after the end of the cold war? Here the right to die is indeed appropriate although not the right to be forgotten- may their abominable crimes be remembered forever!

The Western media is also on the way out having imploded into an infantilism which cannot correspond to popular opinion, however negative your views on Western citizenry are- we deserve better than this! The collapse of the Kiev regime is the collapse of the West as we know it: the Western unipole is set to be relegated to the status of a pole amongst others in a multipolar world order.

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Dominique De Villepin Valdai speech

Posted by seumasach on October 25, 2014

Spiral of Mistrust Needs to Be Reversed

Valdai Club

The situation with the sanctions is neither good for Russia, nor good for the rest of the world. It’s a spiral of mistrust that needs to be reversed. It’s important to face the fact that today we have the possibility to change the situation. We need to go back to the stronger dialogue.

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The forgotten coup

Posted by seumasach on October 23, 2014

-how America and Britain crushed the government of their ‘ally’, Australia

John Pilger

23rd October, 2014

Across the political and media elite in Australia, a silence has descended on the memory of the great, reforming prime minister Gough Whitlam, who has died. His achievements are recognised, if grudgingly, his mistakes noted in false sorrow. But a critical reason for his extraordinary political demise will, they hope, be buried with him.

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Speech by Cristina Fernandez, President of Argentina at UN

Posted by seumasach on October 9, 2014

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New silk roads and an alternate Eurasian century

Posted by seumasach on October 6, 2014

Pepe Escobar

Tom Dispatch

5th October, 2014

During Iraq War II (2003-2011), I used to imagine that the Chinese leadership would gather weekly in the streets of the Forbidden City, singing and dancing to celebrate American idiocy.  Year after year, when the U.S. might have faced off against a rising China, as its leaders had long had the urge to do, it was thoroughly distracted by its disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq.  I can’t help but think that, with a bombing campaign revving up in Iraq and now Syria, the boots of 1,600 military personnel ever closer to the ground, and talk of more to come, with Iraq War III (2014-date unknown) predicted to go on for years, they are once again rejoicing.  For all the talk in recent years about the Obama administration’s military “pivot” to Asia, there can be no question that its latest Middle Eastern campaign will put a crimp on its Pacific “containment” planning.

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Europe, NATO (re)engage Russia

Posted by seumasach on October 3, 2014

M.K.Bhadrakumar

Indian Punchline

3rd October, 2014

I wrote ten days ago that I could hear the faint sound of the West beating the retreat in Ukraine. Now I can say the retreat is gathering momentum. The Barack Obama administration may have signaled that the worst is over in the standoff with Russia.

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Biden blames US allies in Middle East for rise of ISIS

Posted by seumasach on October 3, 2014

Biden spins a likely tale but sometimes, for example, when you’re completely reversing your foreign policy, some rewriting of history is necessary

RT

3rd October, 2014

US Vice-President Joe Biden has accused America’s key allies in the Middle East of allowing the rise of the Islamic State (IS), saying they supported extremists with money and weapons in their eagerness to oust the Assad regime in Syria.

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Gordon Brown accuses David Cameron of setting trap for Scottish voters

Posted by seumasach on October 2, 2014

It’s more a joint Cameron/Salmond trap and Brown has correctly noted its two key elements: firstly, to weaken the Labour Party and secondly, to devolve spending and tax-raising powers in such a way as to undermine central government, or Big Government as the Republican right call it. But Labour have well and truly fallen into the trap and it’s too late now to extricate itself.

Guardian

30th Septemebr, 2014

Gordon Brown has accused David Cameron of setting a trap for Scottish voters by trying to dupe them into accepting significant cuts in voting powers for Scottish MPs at Westminster.

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US openly approves Hong Kong chaos it created

Posted by seumasach on October 1, 2014

Tony Cartalucci

Activist Post

30th September, 2014

The “Occupy Central” protests in Hong Kong continue on – destabilizing the small southern Chinese island famous as an international hub for corporate-financier interests, and before that, the colonial ambitions of the British Empire. Those interests have been conspiring for years to peel the island away from Beijing after it was begrudgingly returned to China in the late 1990s, and use it as a springboard to further destabilize mainland China .

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Ukraine back to square one

Posted by seumasach on September 28, 2014

Lavrov: Kiev Decision to Delay EU Association Agreement in Line With Yanukovych’s Proposal

RIAN

28th Septemebr, 2014

MOSCOW, September 28 (RIA Novosti) – The decision of the Kiev authorities not to enact the Association Agreement with the EU immediately is similar to the proposal made by Ukraine’s former President Viktor Yanukovych 10 months ago, at the time when it was possible to avoid the bloodshed, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Sunday.

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“The information war for Ukraine”

Posted by seumasach on September 27, 2014

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