Quite.

homepage“Man cannot transform himself into a superman; the attempt to create a superman is an attempt to murder man. Historically, the murder of God is not followed by the superman, but by the murder of man: the deicide of the gnostic theoreticians is followed by the homicide of the revolutionary practitioners.”

Eric Voegelin “Science, Politics and Gnosticism” ( Chicago, 1968 )

“[ My] early rejection of Christianity probably had something to do with my early rejection of the bourgeois state.”

Kim Philby in a talk to kim-philby_2458859bKGB officers in 1977. Quoted in “The Sunday Telegraph” 27/4/’ 2014

 

 

 

Daniel O’Connell and the cause of liberty.

 By Steve Davies.

220px-Daniel_O'ConnellDaniel O’Connell is an icon for Irish nationalists; and he was a pivotal figure in the line of descent from Wolfe Tone to Parnell and the later founders of the Irish state.  It is entirely right therefore  that Dublin’s most important street should bear his name. He is best known, of course, for his crucial part in the passage of Roman Catholic Emancipation, with his mazing organisational ability manifesting itself in the formation of the Catholic Association. It was  his victory in the County Clare by-election, which precipitated the political crisis that led to the passage of Emancipation in 1829. His later campaign for the repeal of the Act of Union also assures his place in the Irish nationalist pantheon.

 

However there was much else to his career, since he was an active and outspoken politician with clear and forceful views on a wide range of subjects, which he expressed often and publicly. However an examination of his many parliamentary and public speeches reveals  something very interesting that is largely absent from the standard nationalist account. From such an examination we get a clearer picture of his ideology or beliefs and through that of the nature of his wider political project. The evidence should in fact lead us to rethink common ideas about the relationship between nationalism, particularly Irish nationalism, and classical liberal (or as we might say today, libertarian) thought.

The place to start such an investigation is in what some might think a surprising location. Not all of the figures in subsequent Irish nationalism viewed O’Connell in such a benign light. In particular James ConnollyConnolly_james abhorred him and launched a savage attack upon the man and his ideas in chapter 12 of his “Labour in Irish History”. For him O’Connell was a supporter of the capitalist class and an avowed enemy of trades unionism and working class organisation. This may pique the interest of anyone who does not share Connolly’s revolutionary socialism and suggests that we may find materail of interest when we read the Liberator’s speeches?

 

One aspect of his thought, which has received attention recently, is that he was a strong opponent of slavery. As well as supporting the abolition of slavery in the British Empire he was also a consistent and firm supporter of abolitionism in the United States and a close friend and correspondent of Frederick Douglass. His attacks on slavery were not pragmatic or driven by economic analysis but rather reflected a more philosophical commitment to freedom and self-determination of which slavery was the grotesque antithesis.  His belief in human freedom also underlay his strong and consistent support for free trade and associated campaigns such as that to repeal the Corn Laws. In this he was one of Cobden and Bright’s102159-004-F5C6EE02[1] most reliable allies in Parliament. He invariably both spoke and voted in favour of moves towards freer trade. He was also an ally of Cobden’s on the question of anti-imperialism and opposition to the bellicose foreign policy of the British government of the day. This was linked to his support for the idea of ‘retrenchment’, meaning a reduction in levels of government spending and the associated taxation.

In fact he was in general one of the most radical and consistent advocates of laissez-faire  in Parliament and outside it. This showed itself in strong opposition to government regulation of things such as working hours and conditions of employment. It was this that particularly enraged James Connolly who quoted  the following from one of his speeches  “they (Parliament) had legislated against the nature of things, and against the right of industry. Let them not be guilty of the childish folly of regulating the labour of adults, and go about parading before the world their ridiculous humanity, which would end by converting their manufacturers into beggars.” (The emphasis is Connolly’s addition).

O’Connell was not however in any way a supporter of the established institutions of the state. Like other radical liberals such as Cobdencobden1 he supported measures to reform the administration of the state and its constitutional structure. He was not therefore in any sense a conservative or supporter of the established order. He was in fact was a consistent and radical classical liberal. His goal and vision was that of a modern but minimal state, following a political economy based upon free exchange and individualism. He wanted radical change but was utterly opposed to the use of violence and intimidation. He completely rejected the kind of revolutionary politics associated with the Jacobins and the French Revolution. Instead he developed a highly effective form of peaceful mass mobilisation and the use of the existing structures of representative government.

His nationalism and vision of Ireland as a self-governing nation under the British crown was part of this and to a great degree motivated by it. In other words it was his commitment to liberty and self government that led to his nationalism, and not the other way round. His career and ideas should therefore lead us to reassess the relationship between Irish nationalism and classical liberalism, and should put paid to the simplistic idea that there is some inherent incompatibility between the two.

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O’ Connell Street, Dublin

Taking Liberties with Noah.

By Brendan O’Regan

Film Review: Noah (2014)

819910207_1381987075Noah, based on the biblical tale, is an impresive and strange film. Sometimes the visuals are poetic and the special effects dramatic, enhanced by the striking Icelandic landscapes. The acting of the main roles is excellent. Russel Crowe once again brings a striking humanity to an epic role ( as he did in Master and Commander and Gladiator ), Anthony Hopkins dominates his scenes as Noah’s Grandfather, Methuselah, Jennifer Connelly is convincing as Noah’s wife Naameh, although she doesn’t seem to age as much as he does. Emma Watson is fine as as Ila, an adopted daughter, though the characters of Noah’s sons are underdeveloped.

There are several striking scenes- a poetic creation sequence as Noah tells the story to his children, and the beautiful rainbow event near the end. This ultimately gives the film a senses of hope and optimism that was largely absent from much of the film. The bleakness derives from the fact that in the film Noah is convinced that God, referred to throughout as “The Creator”, is punishing all of humanity and is just going to save the “innocent” animals using Noah as his vehicle for doing so. At times it seems that director Darren Aronofsky is pushing a trendy environmentalist line, a bit like the way in which the Noah story is treated in Evan Almighty. But it’s not that simple, as faith and hope in a loving humanity is restored, a humanity that hopefully will have respect for creation.37528

The film takes major liberties with the Genesis story, the most bizarre aspect being the the “Watchers”, a bunch of giant rock creatures that a reminiscent of the walking tree creatures ( The Ents ) in The Lord of the Rings films. Though they have some basis in ancient texts, they are not part of the biblical Noah story. It turns out that they are the angels that The Creator is punshing for siding with human beings and trying to help them! They protect Noah from other human beings who want to be taken on to the Ark and a great batlle scene ensues, a field day for CGI artists! The Ark itself is more like a fortress, all square shaped and ugly, looking like something which couldn’t possibly float. Any temptation to make the animals cute is avoided and the handling of the deluge itself is realtively restrained, though it is spectacular when it comes, not just rain but geysers rising from the earth and the scenes of peolple drowning are quite distressing. The film drags a bit after that, complete though it is with a sub plot about an evil stowaway.

The film has prompted much controversy online and beyond. Some see it as sinister, an underhand usurping of a biblical story to push a dodgy Gnostic or Kabbalistic agenda, others see it as a thoroughly Jewish film, with the short biblical story fleshed out in many directions. Yet others admire its emphasis on justice and mercy, without any inclination to delve into obscure non-canonical texts.noah

Noah is a film which teases out the issues of good and evil, love, discerning the will of God, temptation, choice and free will, and in that way is a cut above many current films.

Venezuela: The death of the Socialist Dream

Hugo

Hugo

 

By Michael Dwyer

 

As is always the way, crisis succeeds crisis, and one story drives out another. Why we seem to be able to pay attention to only one narrative at a time is worth pondering but another time.

The murder and massacre of Syria has for the moment been pushed off the front pages and is replaced by the chaos in Ukraine. Though gallons of ink have been expended on both, we are, after it all,  better read, but not better informed.

One story of a government’s terror against its own people is winding up to what will be a horrible finale yet remains stubbornly out of the papers and off our televisions. The terror in Venezuela maybe mostly economic but it is a relentless and mindless campaign against the poor and against human rights.

Fifteen years ago Hugo Chavez was elected on a programme of redistribution and old fashioned anti-Yankee socialism. And that is what his people got.24126chavez

At the beginning there was a palpable sense of excitement on the left across the globe as day by day he rolled out the juggernaut state, and attacked the exploiting blood sucking multinationals that stole the People’s wealth and left millions mired in poverty. This time would be different. This time socialism would work.

Of course the Jeremiahs on the right shook their heads and predicted that it would all end in tears.

By 2009 Venezuela, the third largest oil exporter in the world was in deep trouble. At time of record prices for crude debt as climbing, inflation rising, productivity falling, and shortages beginning to appear. In response President Chavez seized assets from 60 oilfield services companies .

“Today, the private services companies disappear, we don’t need them, the people and workers can do the labor and be more efficient,” Chavez said. “We’re going to bury capitalism in Venezuela.

Today Venezuela far from being an exporting powerhouse cannot meet its own energy needs. Oil production is falling. Drilling distribution and refining infrastructure is rotting and rusting. No investment in new production or existing plant has happened. Rolling blackouts are regular occurrences plunging the cities into darkness and shutting down industrial production.

As it happens there is little industrial production left to close down. The Government has introduced severe currency restrictions making it impossible for many to purchase the dollars necessary to pay for the raw materials they need. Even if they get access to foreign currency it is at a rate of exchange set by the state which is a fantasy.

According to the government 6.3 Bolivars will buy a Dollar. However according to the black market you will need more than ten times that. To put in real life terms, if you arrive in Caracas with a few greenbacks and fancy a Big Mac combo it will cost you $25 if you use an official exchange. However If you get a chap on the black to sell you Bolivars the meal will cost you $2.

In 2007 Chavez imposed tariffs and restrictions on imported cars in order to stimulate local production. In January 2014 Ford production hit zero. While sales of new Fords stood at two. ford-logo-3 Today companies like Toyota, GM and Ford are either mothballing production or simply getting out. The foreign  exchange rate has made it nearly impossible for local factories to get dollars to pay for car parts. As a result, assembly lines are stopping without any clear sign they will reopen in the near future.

Hand in hand with fanciful exchange rates are price controls. Of course the Government knows and it tells the people that high prices are not caused by them running the printing presses, but by shopkeepers and businessmen who are gouging them.

0406-venezuela-Maduro-topic-crime_full_600Recently elected President Madura has declared war on the parasitic bourgeois and has ordered shops to charge ‘fair’ prices. To encourage the others he decreed the state takeover of an electrical goods chain and told those looking for a bargain in plasma televisions and laptops ‘Leave nothing on the shelves, nothing in the warehouses Let nothing remain in stock!” He went on to warn that this nationalisation was only the tip of the ice berg.

The problem is that since retailers have to pay international suppliers at the real rate of exchange selling goods at the officially set fair price means they lose money on every single sale. Consequently the only choice they have is to close their shops.

In a cruel comic twist the chaos in the economy may mean that soon that even those who want to get out will find themselves trapped as international air lines have started to cut back on flights in and out of Venezuela. They have found it impossible to repatriate almost four billion dollars in revenues and talks on payment in government bonds or oil have foundered. As the president of the IATA Tony Tyler said “The simple fact is that many airlines have stopped substantial sales in Venezuela because they haven’t been paid for the last year or so,”

The official annualised rate of inflation stands at a fairly horrible fifty six per cent. However many economists believe that the real figure may be six times higher. The Cato Institute’s logo_catoTroubled Currencies unit estimate real inflation to be running at three hundred and thirty per cent. At this level and no sign of the presses stopping how far can hyper inflation be?

Though the presses printing Bolivars may run unimpeded that is not true for the newspapers of Venezuela. Paper shortages have led to the close of twelve titles and another fifteen are reported on the brink. At a time when new regulations are being introduced to curb what the Government calls “sensationalist reporting” on the nations crime epidemic, and TV stations hostile to the leadership are threatened with loss of license, editors who want newspaper print feel themselves in the crosshairs of the information ministry.

Crime is a sore subject. Venezuela does not have guerrillas in the mountains or drug cartel in the forests, but it has a higher murder rate than either Colombia or Mexico and it climbs year by year. After fifteen years of radical socialist rule the homicide rate is 73 per 100,000 inhabitants, the highest in South America. Last year 21,692 Venezuelans died at the hands of another. This was a 12% increase on the previous year. More murders than in the USA and all twenty seven members of the EU combined.

The future looks bleak. The Government will not change its policies. It is deep in a paranoid mindset which sees enemies, spies, saboteurs and counter revolutionary bourgeois behind every piece of bad news. Toilet paper is rationed. One government spokesperson ascribed this to the price gouging activities of the manufactures as one would expect. But then in a moment of genius went on also to accuse bourgeois saboteurs of deliberately using far more paper than they needed in a wicked plan to discredit the leadership.

Last week Delcy Rodriguez , the Minister for Information, called for an investigation of newspaper crossword puzzles. It seems she fears they are being used to send conspiratorial messages and organise protests. Bloomberg asked the ministry for a comment on the progress of the investigation but a ministry spokesman declined to comment. As per Ministry of Information rules the spokesman could not be named.

ap130307012554_custom-acaa041a89e48cbe2cbb92ca9d8fa893b3f762f2-s6-c30Hugo Chavez sadly died last year. Sadly because when the total collapse of this economy occurs he will escape blame. When the old women are once again rooting through garbage for food; most likely they will curse the misfortune which took Hugo from them. Hugo would have known what to do, he would have saved them. Venezuela will most likely learn little from the experience.

What about us? Will all those politicians across Europe who queued up to praise the courage and vision of Hugo not finally reflect that making the rich poor does not make the poor rich? Will they admit that his corruption of the courts and judiciary was not after all a price worth paying? Will they see that the concentration of power, political and economic, in one place is an inevitable recipe for disaster? Will they at this late date finally understand that the price of a thing cannot be legislated?

My guess is no.