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Bowie the Capitalist
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In comments made this past week the Foreign Secretary, Phillip Hammond, appeared to rule out any direct use of British combat troops in a new NATO invasion of Libya. His comments were made following a meeting of over twenty foreign ministers of countries that are part of the US-led coalition established to allegedly combat the growing presence of the sinister IS/Daesh in Iraq, Syria and Libya. Hammond’s statement also came at a time when there were some indications that NATO and its allies were preparing for new armed intervention in Libya, five years after previous military intervention and bombing of the country led to regime change, as well as the assassination of Libya’s leader Muammar Gaddafi, and ushered in the destruction, anarchy and human suffering that now exists in what was Africa’s most developed country.
In 2011 Britain, the US and the other NATO powers mendaciously claimed that their military intervention was for humanitarian purposes and in order to uphold the “right to protect” civilians from being massacred. However, the fact is that it was NATO’s intervention that has allowed such massacres to be carried out on a regular basis for the last five years. The big powers have continued to intervene in the internal affairs of Libya, not least to attempt to broker a peace agreement between two of the major warring groups, each of which claims to be the government of the country and one of which is formally recognised by Britain and its allies. Under the auspices of the UN an accord was reached late last year, but the two rival “parliaments” have refused to ratify it and the country continues to exist in a state of civil war, a situation that has led tohundreds of thousands of Libyan refugees seeking sanctuary in Europe, while Libya has also become the embarkation point for thousands more refugees from Africa and Western Asia attempting to cross the Mediterranean. UN agencies now estimate that over 3 million Libyans have been affected, or displaced by violence, while a dire situation now faces 2.5 million Libyans, who urgently need humanitarian assistance and health care in a country which has a critical shortage of health care workers as the majority were evacuated from the country in 2014. The other major consequence of NATO intervention has been to create the conditions for Daesh/IS to establish itself in Libya, especially around the city of Sirte, as well as elsewhere in the region. The instability caused by NATO military intervention in Libya has spread across the Maghrib and has impacted as far as Mali and Nigeria. It now appears that the rationale for further NATO military intervention is the claim that it is necessary in order to deal with the threat to Europe posed by Daesh/IS.
Although Hammond and the representatives of the US, France and their allies have played down reports that a new invasion is imminent, there were media reports that members of Britain’s secret services, RAF and Foreign Office flew to Libya last week, to meet with their counterparts from the US and France, as part of the preparations for further military intervention in the country. These meetings occurred at the same time that leading US military personal suggested that armed intervention was imminent.
It now appears that Britain and its allies are eager to see a new “government of national unity” established in Libya first, so that they might then claim that renewed external intervention has been invited rather than imposed and that it would be presented as mainly for training and organisation of a new Libyan army. There are still reports that a NATO force of some 6,000 led by Italy could at some stage in the near future be deployed in this role. As Hammond pointed out in his comments, the British government still intends to intervene in Libya but under the guise of supporting the yet to be established new Libyan government and its armed forces.
History has shown that the intervention of Britain and the other big powers under whatever guise in Libya, as well as other countries, has only brought increased suffering to the people that it is claimed need “protection” and has created even more instability and the conditions for further conflict. Britain and the other big powers that have created this instability, millions of refugees and other problems then pose as those best suited to act as saviours.
It is the responsibility of all democratic people to take a stand against such intervention, which completely disregards the sovereignty of nations and peoples and is designed to establish proxy states and even whole regions which are completely under the sway of the big powers, or so unstable that they cannot chart their own independent course of development. In opposition to governments committed to foreign intervention and destabilising wars that are only of benefit to the geopolitical interests of the big monopolies and financial institutions there is an urgent necessity to create the conditions for an anti-war government which abolishes war and puts the people's interests in first place. It is extremely crucial that the anti-war movement unites in action to work towards this goal.
Newcastle Stop the War Coalition held its Annual General Meeting on Tuesday, February 2. The context of the AGM was the continuing dangerous situation which is being created by the Anglo-US imperialist warmongers. These proponents of war are stepping up their covert and overt military intervention in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Ukraine and elsewhere using the pretext of a “war on terrorism”. The state is also wreaking its vengeance in attempting to criminalise the Muslim community and to attack the rights of all the people in Britain under the guise of opposing terrorism.
A report was produced on the activities over the last year and the convener gave a report on the work of Newcastle Stop the War Coalition over the same period, which generated some important discussion.
The convenor said that Newcastle Stop the War Coalition started the year doing vital work to oppose the attempts of the ruling circles to whip up hostility and racism against the Islamic community. The government's aim has been to criminalise the right to conscience and attack the rights of all.
Secondly, the work has been to oppose the warmongering ruling elite's interference in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. Britain's wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and their five-year-long interference on the side of the rebels in Syria has left the world and particularly Europe with the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War. Not only has there been an inhuman response prompting the whole movement to oppose them with the call “refugees are welcome here”, but also the main interest has been to turn this tragedy that they created into a further military involvement and interference in Syria. It is very important to counter their attacks on refugees and defend them by defending the rights of all in society and not allow them to incite one oppressed section against another.
The campaign to oppose Britain's interference in Syria and its bombing of Iraq and Syria has been very vital work of the coalition. The activists in the movement should be congratulated for grasping the importance of this struggle. It is the case that the work of the Stop the War campaigns has had an influence. The Westminster consensus has been broken. But the crucial work of the anti-war movement is to organise, with others, to consolidate and strengthen the movement itself.
Today, the convenor said, it is necessary to concentrate on making sure that our organisation is consolidated and united. He thanked all the officers for the work that they have carried out since the last AGM. He pointed out that over the past few years, the present steering committee has provided mature leadership in quite complex and fluid situations, and retained the organised and principled character of Newcastle Stop the War, even though resources have been limited. The northern region has managed to stay relatively well organised compared with other parts of the country, and the prospect is to further strengthen this work over the next year.
The convenor concluded, “We face an even more dangerous situation in which the only solution coming from the warmongers at the head of the Anglo-US world is to step up their war on terror, and their rivalry with the other big powers in the world. The danger of even greater crimes against the people looms large. We must redouble our efforts to bring about an anti-war government in Britain.”
Junior Doctors and supporters demonstrated on February 6, beginning from Waterloo Place in London and marching to Downing Street.
Junior Doctors will strike on Wednesday, February 10, from 8:00am. The government having failed to remove their threat to impose a contract, the hospitals will provide emergency cover only on that day. Student nurses are also set to leave work for an hour.
A special LMC conference was called in response to the urgent pressures currently facing the General Practice profession. It was held at the Mermaid Conference Centre, London, on Saturday, January 30.
LMCs are local representative committees of NHS GPs and represent their interests in their localities to the NHS health authorities. They interact and work with – and through – the General Practitioners Committee as well as other branch of practice committees and local specialist medical committees in various ways, including conferences.
The special LMC conference was held to decide what actions are needed to ensure GPs can deliver a safe and sustainable service. It discussed motions on the workload on GPs, on the issue of GPs being salaried rather than partners, the whole question of the future of the NHS, the undermining effect of the over-regulation and monitoring, the funding of practices, the next step in negotiations with the government, and other matters.
In his speech to the conference, the Chair of the BMA General Practitioners Committee (GPC), Chaand Nagpual, said: “The mere fact that an extraordinary conference has been convened, bringing GP representatives from all corners of the UK to London on a Saturday, speaks volumes about the state and crisis facing general practice today. We should of course not need to meet at all, since today's reality was both entirely predictable and preventable. Using Simon Stevens' own words last summer: 'we've systematically underinvested in general practice for at least 10 years'. This progressive resource starvation and thoughtless workforce planning has resulted in the proportion of NHS doctors who are GPs reducing from 36% to 25% in two decades and with fewer GPs per head today than 2010. Yet we're now seeing a record 370m patients annually in general practice – that's 150,000 more patients daily compared to seven years ago. This gross mismatch between demand and capacity is untenable, with both GPs and patients suffering the dire consequences. This conference demands an end to the pretence that all is well on the road to recovery. It's not.”
Chaand Nagpual concluded: “So, Conference, today marks the great fightback of UK general practice. I urge government to do the right thing for patients and equally the right thing for a GP workforce whose goodwill continues to be shamefully exploited. And to protect and nurture a discipline that's not just the jewel in the NHS's crown but a beacon of personalised continuity of care internationally. And to make 2016 the year in which we begin the revival of UK general practice so that we have a future generation of GPs to look after a future generation of patients.”
The Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill became an Act of Parliament on January 28. This fraudulent and hypocritical Act has been rushed through Parliament just as Cities and Local Governments have also been rushed to sign up to it during its passage through Parliament. The Act claims to devolve some powers over public services and budgets to cities and local authorities only if a Mayor is provided for the combined authority who embodies these added powers. Many authorities have signed the agreements with the government, yet the government has provided very little detail in the vague text of the agreements, or how it will be funded. Cornwall, Manchester, the West Midlands, the North East and five pilots in London are among the biggest cities and authorities already signed up to the Act.
On October 23, 2015, before the Act was passed the Tees Valley Shadow Combined Authority (TVSCA) signed its agreement with the government that includes powers for employment and skills, transport, planning and investment for the region. However, there is no reference to health in this agreement unlike the rest of the north east of England authorities. On the same day the North East Combined Authority (NECA) signed a devolution deal with the government including a commitment to establish a Commission for Health and Social Care Integration for the north east to “establish the scope and basis for further health and social care integration, deeper collaboration and devolution across the Combined Authority's area and reduce health inequalities in order to improve outcomes”.
Both these devolution agreements mean that the two combined authorities must hold elections for a combined authority Mayor. For example, NECA's agreement states that the mayor “will create the UK's first integrated transport system”. This statement beggars belief when in the first place the integrated public authority transport systems, not just for the north east but the whole of the country, were destroyed by the privatisation of rail, buses and ferries in the 1980s. More recently last year, at the same time the government was signing this agreement with NECA on “devolution”, they were also representing the interests of the big transport companies, Stagecoach and Arriva. On behalf of these transport monopolies a government watchdog quango sabotaged the plans of NECA to introduce “quality contracts” even though these contracts only attempted to assert local authority control over the contracts, bus fares and the bus routes of these private monopolies! This is the stage that is being set for “devolution” – that the outsourcing of public service contracts to private companies and safeguarding their interests is to be sacrosanct. Then by this Act the Mayor has extra powers to add a premium to rates to pay for new infrastructure projects and also the borrowing of funds, but only provided the Mayor has “business support” which is all implicit in the Act.
Similarly, with health and social care integration. Health and social care was integrated in the past before the right to long term health and social care was abrogated in the 1990s with the introduction of charges for “social” care and the privatisation of nursing and care homes. Today both health and social care budgets are in crisis because the savage cuts governments have imposed over many years. Therefore, the issue is not whether the decisions are taken in London, or the north east of England. The issue of “health and social care integration” can only be dealt with when the right to health and social care is guaranteed by the government and all public authorities. The issue is not one of “devolution” but that government is not carrying out its responsibility to ensure that there are public authorities providing health and social care and that they are fully resourced.
The role of the Mayor has itself become an anachronism in modern society in almost all cities and boroughs with the Mayor confined to ceremonial and other official duties. It is now being revived as a cover to appoint by election regional Chief Executives of England PLC. The reality shows that this “devolution” to an elected north east mayor cannot empower the people of the north east and the rest of the England but is aimed at entrenching further the destruction of public authorities and further concentrating the affairs of cities and regions in the hands of the executive of the ruling elite and the monopoly interests. The government's fraudulent and hypocritical “devolution” must be opposed.
The article in Workers’ Weekly(“The Hype Over David Bowie Assists in Blocking a Truly Popular Culture” [WW Volume 46 Number 2, January 30, 2016]) was very welcome in cutting through the tidal wave of hysterical adulation for this fascist and leading cultural ideologue for everything that is rotten and backward looking in our society. As the article made clear, David Bowie’s outlook and work were diametrically opposed to what a truly popular culture should be.
Bowie’s cultural influence extended far beyond that of a normal pop musician and was equally fêted by the intelligentsia (for instance a whole front page photo, a 12 page supplement and a 2 page obituary in The Guardian!) with many speaking of his “artistic significance”. The immensity of the tributes came right from the heart of the ruling establishment with gushing tributes from the leaders of the two main political parties, David Cameron (who called Bowie “a genius”) and Jeremy Corbyn as well as from the Archbishop of Canterbury. The reason why Bowie was held to be such an important figure was that he represented extreme, narcissistic individualism (his “gender transformation”, bizarre appearance, etc.) who had total contempt for ordinary people and disregard for the grave dangers facing humanity.
Very much part and parcel with all this was the fact that Bowie was also an astute and influential capitalist who made massive sums of money from his record sales; his legacy at the time of his death was anything between £150-600 million. In 1997, he became the first person to issue a “celebrity bond”, raising $55m (£38m) backed by future royalties from his past work. The so-called “Bowie Bonds” were bought up by Prudential Insurance, which paid out a generous 7.9pc interest rate over 10 years – compared to the US treasury bond yield, which was 6.4pc at the time. Bowie’s financial exploits have been described as having a profound influence on banking in the ’80s and ’90s and thus contributed to the increasingly corrupt practices which led to the banking crisis in 2008.
He was also a pioneer in the use of the internet to further his business interests. An article by Bruce Weinstein, “David Bowie’s Business Genius” (Fortune January 12) states that “in 1998 David Bowie grasped the power of the nascent Internet and took full advantage of it. He created his own Internet Service Provider (originally DavidBowie.net) years before YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter existed and everyone had a website”. Commenting on the music business Bowie said, “Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity.”
It is clear that for Bowie music was just a commodity, his outlook being the polar opposite of progressive culture rising up to the demands of the time.
Musician from London
Congratulations on your excellent article on Bowie. … I will share the article on Facebook and Blogger and give you a donation sometime.
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