Squat to own – Sadiq Khan must think bigger to solve the housing crisis

In his campaign for London mayor, Sadiq Khan stated repeatedly that his greatest challenge would be the housing crisis. What we have experienced instead is a disappointing dearth in the mix of tactics to confront property speculation and skyrocketing rents.

khan

Previous generations responded to their own housing crises with massive social housing projects, housing benefit, rent control, cooperatives – and squatting. Already back-tracking on slightly more radical policies such as rent control, Khan’s central initiative has been Homes for Londoners, a private-public partnership to encourage investment in additional housing capacity. But, while Khan has criticised investors for regarding residential assets in London as “gold bricks for investment,” his own policies in fact capitulate to the speculative property market by offering “affordable homes” as just another investment brand.

Khan recently stated that he would be friendly with business as mayor of London.  Yet, as a public official, his remit extends beyond the narrow interests of business toward those of the wider community.  If his rapport with the market is to surrender to its logic, Khan will merely perpetuate the root cause of the housing crisis.  In line with the neo-liberal mantra, the “free market” is not meant to efficiently allocate housing as a social need, but to generate revenues and maintain property values.

The housing crisis, in this way, would seem to be a matter of perspective.  For landlords and investors, there is in fact no crisis at all, but record profits and expanding opportunities for investment.  The crisis exists only for end-users, housing consumers in a seller’s market – where supply is maintained in artificial scarcity.  Bound by this logic, Khan’s Homes for Londoners will provide little incentive for a shift in investment behaviour – and will therefore not solve the housing crisis.

A credible housing strategy – indeed, a housing revolution – must deploy a mix of tactics and must transform the logic of housing provision through public investment, regulation, and cooperatives.  Yet, as we have seen, Khan has not challenged the pre-eminence of the market – even though in housing allocation, it has so clearly failed. In the face of the contradiction between property as a residential asset and housing as a social necessity, Khan must challenge the market by expanding his range of options to deliver on his promises to London.

To read the rest of the article, please visit: Squat to own – Sadiq Khan must think bigger to solve the housing crisis.

Hysterical: South African press throws temper tantrum over new finance minister

Hysterical: South African press throws temper tantrum over new finance minister

South African press loses plot over finance change

President Zuma’s routine change of Minster of Finance meets with an embarrassing hysteria

James Luchte

 

Presidents Zuma and Jinping at China SA State Visit

 

For most countries, Cabinet re-shuffles are routine and are the prerogative of the elected leader.

Yet, the reaction of the South African press to President Jacob Zuma’s perfectly normal change of the Minister of Finance seems nothing less than sheer hysteria and crass unprofessionalism.

An impression was intentionally generated in the press of recklessness, that Zuma’s decision was un-announced and un-explained – even  un-democratic.  Yet, Zuma is constitutionally discharged to make such decisions and he promised detailed information to follow.  A detailed statement was released two days later explaining the entire situation.  But, by then, the media had already decided to use this decision as a pretext for what was essentially a farce – but one that was revealing.

The detailed press statement was not even mentioned in their hysteria – indeed, the hysteria could have been avoided if they had bothered to wait for more information ‘in due course.’ This is to act in a professional manner and wait for the statement of the president.  Instead, they created a false event and disseminated a distortion of reality.  Yet, this false event had real consequences which have damaged South Africa.

The Star led with “maelstrom of unreason’;  News24: “No obligation for Zuma to tell Cabinet about new appointments – Presidency”; Mail and Guardian: “Nene’s firing: Who will stop the wrecking ball?”; Independent Online: “Zuma ‘out of control’”; Rand Daily Mail: “Welcome to the Jacob Zuma soap opera: Episode 4323;” Eyewitness News: “OPINION: Zuma’s ‘grotesquely irresponsible’ gamble with SA economy.”  This is only a sample of the permanent smear economy is a 24-7, 7 days a week project.  The private media is an echo chamber, creating its own schizophrenic world.

Strangely enough, as I have mentioned, the president released, amid the hysteria, as a promised follow-up to his initial statement of Nene’s re-deployment (not sacking) on 9 December, a very  detailed press statement on the change at the Ministry which clearly stated that Mr. Nene would be South Africa’s candidate for the BRICS’ New Development Bank and details of the next few weeks.  It is in this context  of the historic FOCAC event in Johannesburg that Zuma announced a new finance minster. These events are intrinsically tied together: FOCAC, BRICS (which, as I have said, was not mentioned in the hysteria) and the new opportunity for Nene at the New Development Bank.

While it was clear to those focussed on the events in Johannesburg that Nene would have a direct role with the BRICS bank, the South African press lurched into high gear, not having the patience to simply allow the political process to unfold.  In the detailed and lengthy press statement, Zuma detailed the ‘new deployment’ two days after his original announcement.

The urgency of the changes in the leadership of the National Treasury was occasioned by the need to send nominations to Shanghai, of the head of the African Regional Centre of the New Development Bank/BRICS Bank, to be based in Johannesburg. Mr Nene is our candidate for this position. (Press statement, South African Presidency, Dec. 11, 2015)

To underscore the normality of the situation, Zuma wrote later in the statement:

The economic cluster will meet on Tuesday, 15 December as announced by Minister Jeff Radebe to prepare for a special cabinet meeting on the economy, which will take place on Friday 18 December.

None of the newspapers in question could be bothered to wait for or when it did arrive even mention the president’s own statement, which is very clear on the meaning and the impact of his decision.  Indeed, contrary to the “shock and bewilderment” expressed by some “commentators”, Zuma opened his statement with a note that a prudent fiscal policy will be maintained.  He said:

His appointment as Minister of Finance does not signal a change in the government’s fiscal stance.

Government will not abandon the fiscal path that we have chosen in the last few years.  Maintaining a prudent fiscal position remains one of government’s top priorities.

The new Minister will strengthen the path and continue to support all efforts aimed at improving the lives of ordinary South Africans.

The very fact that the president’s own timely statement is never mentioned (even in the many days following the ‘crisis’) is symptomatic of a radically biased media which has abandoned its right to be called journalism.  The press exists to report news, not make news. Instead, the South African media created the impression of a crisis, and dominating the international news markets and search engine placements, disseminated the impression of a ‘crisis’  world-wide.  Yet, there was no crisis, only an impatience with the reality of having to wait for elaboration from the leader of the government.

Moreover, the failure – was it intentional?  – to make the connection between the historic Johannesburg FOCAC gathering and the change at the Ministry underlines the lack of interest of the South African press for facts and critical thinking.  Such a lack is underscored by the cheer-leading exercise for a Twitter hastag #ZumaMustFall, which as the protests fell flat, clearly did not have the support of the vast majority of the population – outside the parochial shell of entrenched elites.  Ironically, Julius Malema, the leader of the EFF – a favourite of the tabloids – even rejected the protests, called them a conspiracy of ‘white capitalists.’

To this extent, the South African press is not only failing its responsibility to enlighten the public, but has also shown itself to fail to understand the current geopolitical and domestic situation.  Such “journalism” deserves its proper name: propaganda.  It does not serve the people.

Indeed, as suggested, such mock over-reaction, exaggeration and outright hysteria is not a new event with the South African press.  This is business as usual and these new sources understand their audience and their advertiser’s desires – right-wing extremism sold to a captive audience of people who throw temper tantrums since they are not in charge.

The shameful treatment of President Jacob Zuma by the privately owned media and its readers – a standing president who has four more years in his term and won with an overwhelming majority – is an embarrassment to South Africa in the face of the rest of the world.

Only America’s Fox News could applaud the bile of such “journalism”.  Indeed, Fox has become a model for right-wing and Neo-liberal news organisations all over the world, representing privileged suburbanites and entrenched elites.

The failure of the South African privately owned media to contribute to a positive transformation of South Africa exposes its reactionary and merely negative character.  It lives in denial, refusing to accept that it is no longer in charge.

Such was made possible, of course, by the de-regulation of media markets and the general Neo-liberal premise of the IMF controlled “democratic transition” in South Africa, one which has benefited the wealthy who are incidentally the primary consumers of the bile of the private media.

Yet, as Van Rooyen explained in his address at an appointment ceremony attended by the president, the focus of his tenure will be the expansion of opportunity to all South Africans, “not just the few”.

Such talk does not play well with the elites of South Africa, who hide behind their walls, never truly experiencing the utter deprivation of millions of their fellow citizens.  Instead of visiting the townships and offering a helping hand, a kind word, they repeat the party line of faceless “commentators.”

Bordering on the brink of sedition, they pray at night for the perfect storm, one that will never come.  In such a situation, a legislative introduction of a “Fairness Doctrine” would be appropriate for these private companies.

In the end, Zuma decided to calm the markets, their “animal spirits,” disturbed by the false crisis, one generated by the media, by replacing Van Rooyen with the former finance minister Pravin Ghordan.  This decision, it is no surprise, has also been latched on by the press as a symptom of Zuma’s alleged indecisiveness.  Yet, such ‘indecisiveness’ is as real as the ‘crisis’ generated by the media and is essentially the same. In fact, Zuma responded decisively to counter the mischief of the media and its fantasies of the fall of the ANC.

As Jackson Mthembu, National Spokesperson for the ANC, has outlined in his article on this fiasco, “Media lose its veneer of objectivity with #ZumaMustFall”, the architects of the crisis were the journalists and media outlets themselves.  Their hysteria and opportunism is to blame for the persistent obstructionism of the new South Africa. Their journalism is merely propaganda.

Fifty Shades of the IMF: America and the Empire of Dominance

Fifty Shades of the IMF

America and the Empire of Dominance

The BRICS Alternative and the Case of South Africa

Narcissism, not wisdom, guides American policy, which is itself a mask of anarchy.

James Luchte

Unlike the General Assembly of the United Nations, where each country has one vote, decision making at the IMF was designed to reflect the relative positions of its member countries in the global economy. The IMF continues to undertake reforms to ensure that its governance structure adequately reflects fundamental changes taking place in the world economy.

The International Monetary Fund

The economic health of every country is a proper matter of concern to all its neighbours, near and far.

President Franklin Roosevelt

Fifty Shades of the IMF

As with De Sade’s Justine, the IMF lures its victims with pledges of aid.

Again and again, the naive girl, still believing in virtue, finds herself imprisoned. Such was the case, for instance, with the abbey in the forest, inhabited by monks. Justine is saved, she believes – but the monks reveal themselves to be sadists, torturing, raping and killing their prey. The monks, hiding behind a mask of sanctity, do what they like, satisfy their peculiar and perverse desires, while disciplining and binding those they have abducted (ab ducere, to lead from, astray). The monks wait for their quarry as a spider who strikes. But, as with the carnivorous plant that seems to offer water, the monks contrive to bind Justine even as they extend a helping hand. Thomas Jefferson, writing in the same era, warned, ‘…under pretence of governing they have divided their nations into two classes, wolves and sheep. I do not exaggerate.’[1]

To read the rest of the essay, please visit Fifty Shades of the IMF: America and the Empire of Dominance

The Tory Regime – A Government of Paralysis

The Tory Regime – A Government of Paralysis

James Luchte

Divided Kingdom

Nearly two months after the Queen’s Speech, it has become all too clear that the Tory government is already in a state of paralysis. Central precepts of the Queen’s Speech have already been quietly abandoned.

The political earthquake of 2015 reverberated with the rise of multi-party politics in the UK, the decimation of the Labour Party in Scotland, the failure of Austerity Labour to reach disaffected Tories in England and the disillusion of the vast majority of the electorate with status quo politics. This disillusion was given expression in a fragmentation of voting demographics, which, due to the current voting system, was not reflected in the representational pattern in Parliament.

What we have been left with is a Conservative government with a slim majority. Yet, it is not the slim majority (obtained with a rather small percentage of the popular vote), that is the cause of the paralysis of the Tory government. The paralysis lies instead in the internal divisions within the Conservative Party itself.

To read the rest of the article, please visit The Tory Regime: A Government of Paralysis.

Give The Left A Chance: Reflections on “The Longest Suicide Note In History” – Labour’s 1983 Manifesto

The poetic cliché that “history repeats itself” has turned into parody and farce in the current leadership selection process in the Labour Party in which various right wing candidates, like brands of dish soap, vie against each other in a boring and meaningless spectacle.

This essay is published in Daily Wales: News for a Sovereign Nation, 19/05/2015

labour 1983

The parody and farce of the situation is manifest – a “Labour” Party in which the leadership selection process involves neither workers nor advocates of workers. The necessity of the intervention by Len McCluskey, a union leader, merely exacerbates the farce. But, no one in our corporate headline media will look at this process outside of the box.

The box is simply placed upon our heads and we are given a fait accompli which is a forced choice between different brands of the same corruption of the Labour Party. But, how many times have we been here before? The Left & the Right, the continuous and methodical divestment from the union movement and ordinary Labour Party members who are given the unenviable position of advocacy for something in which they no longer believe – all choice in politics becomes a forced choice if we do not have representation.

The current government has a mandate, an elective dictatorship for five years based upon 37% of the electoral vote. Very few of us were in any way involved in the selection processes of the leaders and thus our votes are merely a rubber stamping process, the criterion for which is an impressionistic sensibility disseminated by the information industrial complex.

Vague impressions, innuendo, brother stabs brother in the back, sick child, archetypes, corporate control, the manufacturing of control through distraction and superficiality. The problem is that we as humans in post-modern society live in a world of poetic clichés, inside a mythology of ghosts and innuendo. Old Labour, New Labour – clichés, stereotypes, misunderstandings, distortions and lost/missed opportunities.

The Left has never been given a chance, except for the catastrophe of 1983. But, in itself, the loss of Michael Foot means nothing. Should we talk about the interference in Wilson’s Labour government by the United States and the subservience of the United Kingdom to America ever since? Or, is that not allowed, outside of the box, extremist propaganda. But, outside the box is the truth, the perspective to see things as they are.

To read the rest of the article, please visit Give the Left a Chance.

The Tory Regime: A Truth Event

Of the Feral Children – A Novel of Rebellion – Kindle (Fire & Ice Publishing, 2015)

‘From the re-incarnation of a Dadaist Poet fixated on an Edwardian pornographic photo to the end of British Civilisation in an Apocalyptic Earthquake, this novel sprawls across the devastated landscape of the ‘teens of this century. The seedy underworld and the seedy overworld clash in a kaleidoscope of sex and violence leaving only the ‘feral children’ to make their own world from the wreckage.’

—- Robert Gilham

Of the Feral Children: A Mayan Farce (2012)

Go to: Of the Feral Children: Synopsis and Review

The Three Graces of Politics – The UK General Elections 2015

The Three Graces of Politics

Faith, Hope and Charity

By James Luchte

the hug

Jonathan Jones reminded us recently through “probably a wildly inappropriate pre-feminist art historical reference”, in his article, “Something new is happening in British politics. This image captures it.” (Guardian, 17 April 2015), of the resemblance of the embrace between the party leaders of Plaid Cymru – The Party of Wales and Green Party, Leanne Wood, Natalie Bennett and Nicola Sturgeon, respectively and the Three Graces.

The Three Graces are commonly known as faith, hope and charity, but have the tangible meanings of trust, confidence, and love or solidarity,.a symbolism common to many religions and tendencies of thinking.

Indeed, Jonathan’s suggestion is quite apt, and can demonstrate the importance of humanities (crassly cut out of the Coalition’s Tory budget) in the context of political reality. We already know what Burns, Mary and Percy Shelley, Dickens has taught us, and Camus, Joyce, Ginsberg and Dylan Thomas, as contributors to the ethos of a culture which engages in political economic and social questioning from differing perspectives.

This embrace of three progressive leaders, amidst an era of constant crisis, allows us, by coincidence, it would seem, to remember the Three Graces and their significance to the meaning of the New Politics – one of trust, well-being, and social solidarity.

These Graces, or Virtues, in this light, are politically speaking, the characteristics of a healthy society, with some resemblance to Plato’s own tripartite schema in his Republic, and I will consider each of them in turn.

To read the rest of the essay, please visit The Three Graces of Politics: The UK General Electiions

The Liberal Democrats: A Post-Mortem

Go to: Wales in the European Union

Go to: The Ends of the British State in Planet Magazine: The Welsh Internationalist

Go to: “They Destroy, We Create: The Anti-Austerity UK Alliance” in Planet Magazine: The Welsh Internationalist

___________________________

The Liberal Democrats: A Post-Mortem

James Luchte

Libdems looney tunes

The Liberal Democrats began to achieve momentum as a political party in an era in which the Labour government, dominated by the Blairite cliqué, had just embarked with George W. Bush upon a legally questionable invasion of Iraq, killing 1 million people.

In the light of such criminality, the Liberal Democrats were considered in 2005 to be a force for change.

In 2010, with the refusal of the Labour Party to set up an alternative coalition government with the SNP, the monstrosity of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition government was born.

The publically stated raison d’etre of the Liberal Democrats was to gain concessions on policy, primarily a referendum on AV. However, as Eluned Parrot, Liberal Democrat, admitted on 2 March 2015 (Sharp End TV), the minority party in a coalition will often be “squeezed” and in the end the Liberal Democrats simply endorsed Tory policy.

Indeed, what is an even greater mystery than Ed Miliband’s decision in 2013 to abandon building a European-wide Anti-Austerity movement is the fact that, even as their Coalition partners actively campaigned against AV, which was defeated (not to mention the entire corrupt ethos of the Coalition government), the Liberal Democrats remained in the Coalition, simply propping up the wholesale demolition of the welfare state.

The Liberal Democrats sold their souls for nothing.

Millions have suffered and died from Tory Austerity policies and the Liberal Democrats are complicit in these policies, and they must take responsibility for their failure of judgement.

The Liberal Democrats should apologise for their betrayal of trust.

So, we return to the General Election of 2015.

The question to the voter was: Should we trust the Liberal Democrat party. seeing them as it wished to seem before the Coalition? Perhaps, such an attitude would be acceptable if the Liberal Democrats were truly at odds with Coalition policy.

Yet, the Liberal Democrats not only propped up the Tories for five years, but also actively voted in favour of Conservative, Neo-Liberal Austerity economics.  They are thus rightly seen as complicit in the damage to the people from the fraud of austerity. Nick Clegg’s pretense to populism only added insult to injury.

We can conclude that the Liberal Democrats, unwilling to apologise for the damage they has done to the people of the United Kingdom, were rewarded for their duplicity by losing all but eight seats in Parliament.

The Fourth Reich: American Hegemony and the Question of European Democracy

Published 8 April 2015 in Daily Wales: News for a Sovereign Nation

The Fourth Reich

American Hegemony and the Question of European Democracy

Vote (2)

Europe is an invalid who owes her best thanks to her incurability and the eternal transformations of her sufferings; these constant new situations, these equally constant new dangers, pains, and make-shifts, have at last generated an intellectual sensitiveness which is almost equal to genius, and is in any case the mother of all genius.

Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Book 1, Section 24 [1]

In a recent article in Spiegel, “The Fourth Reich: What Some Europeans See When They Look at Germany” [1], attributed to Spiegel Staff (Nikolaus Blome, Sven Böll, Katrin Kuntz, Dirk Kurbjuweit, Walter Mayr, Mathieu von Rohr, Christoph Scheuermann, Christoph Schult), a stunning admission was repeated, in which Angela Merkel laments, defiantly, ‘I am rather alone in the EU, but I don’t care. I am right.’ The article claims her lament was shared with ‘a small group of advisers during a discussion about the role of the IMF.’ The article continues: ‘Later, she said: “We are in Europe what the Americans are in the world: the unloved leading power.”’

The article offers context for the current situation of Europe, arising at the end of WWII:

After the end of the Third Reich, German dominance on the Continent appeared to have been rendered an impossibility for all time. West Germany and East Germany both were initially tentative states that more or less willingly subordinated themselves to their big brothers, the US and the Soviet Union. They ceded to the dominance of others.

The rehearsal of the historical context of the current situation culminates in the fateful question: ‘Which is why the “German question” has returned. Is the new Germany too big and powerful for the other European countries or is it too small and hesitant?’

To read the rest, please visit The Fourth Reich: American Hegemony and the Question of European Democracy

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