Pret á exploit

Fast-food chain Pret á Manager is, according to a report in the Guardian, ‘offering’ teenagers a week’s “work experience” over the Summer.

(The scheme is presented by their PR as something to do with recruiting ‘British’ teenagers to work in their stores, as most of their staff are non-British; an idea, which from certain points of view, seems simply racist. What’s wrong with non British workers?).

This kind of development should surprise no one. The gloves are truly off in capitalism. While exploitation is enshrined within capitalism it has, until quite recently, been held back from going the final mile, by a remnant of decency and morality. However; recently even these restraints are being abandoned. In a “progressive” shift in the culture such extreme kinds of exploitation can now confidently be explained away as “giving young people experience”. Power is so deeply buried – and yet so ascendant – that this kind of exploitation can be presented as normal.

In a competitive labour market, without restraints, it is entirely logical that people will find their first job is one they have to work for free; maybe even actually pay for. Expect more of this.

 

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First you must learn to smile as you kill

The UK hidden state fronted by people like Mr Boris Johnson and Michael Fallon may not be directly arming people who commit outright terrorist atrocities like this one in Syria.

But by supporting – diplomatically and militarily (the UK is running a secret military intelligence op. out of Jordan) – forces who are trying to bring down the Syrian state at the time when the Syrian state needs all its resources to fight terrorism these people make themselves bloodily complicit in these murders.

Mr Johnson can – like a criminal trying to lie his way out of a tricky matter in court by passing the blame – try to say it is all the Russian’s fault for backing Assad. But this is spurious. In international law Russia is in the right. It is Mr Johnson who is the wrong side of the law. And, even more to the point, with a visible track-record of the results of Western backed regime change operations all too visible in the failed states of Libya and Iraq a claim which accuses Russia for trying to block a third regime change operation looks threadbare.

How these people continue to do the round of dinners, political engagements and sleep while all around them washes the blood of the innocents who are paying the price for just being in the way of their rapacious and reckless actions is completely beyond this writer.

 

1984

This site doesn’t usually comment on matters to do with state surveillance of and control of the Internet. Chiefly because the whole notion of “data privacy”, around which most of the public discussion is organised, is a liberal red-herring. However; this is really quite alarming.

What is proposed is that Facebook and other social media companies “collaborate” with GCHQ to manage the news that appears on these sites. They don’t, it seems, just want to know what you are reading; they want to manage what you can read in the first place.

It is a sign of the times that the Guardian reports this Orwellian development in a completely cool and factual way.

(We can add that the sight of an official from GCHQ lecturing Wikileaks on “responsible reporting” of security vulnerabilities is quite brazen, given that the whole point of the recent leaks is how they demonstrate that this is precisely what the CIA was not doing).

The situation in Eastern Ukraine

The stand-off in Eastern Ukraine continues.

The militias continue to hold parts of Donetsk and Luhansk provinces. Russia continues to play some role in supporting them. Anything from ‘moral support’ in the words of one militia fighter to columns of armour if we believe the claims emanating from Kiev – and often echoed by the US. This observer’s guess is that Russian military intelligence is involved to a small extent and that there is some degree of re-armament. (The conflict has gone on for some time and the militias will need re-supplying; there can, surely, be only so many supplies left in old Soviet arms dumps?).

The position of Russia is that Kiev needs to implement the agreements it signed up to in Minsk. That is to grant local autonomy to Donetsk and Luhansk; an amnesty, local elections and political devolution. Moscow points out that Kiev has yet to start a dialogue with the representatives of the rebellious provinces. But Kiev appears to have no intention of implementing anything that looks like regional autonomy.

The EU and the US (?) are backing Kiev. NATO countries are arming and training Kiev’s forces. The line of the EU and the US is that Russia should stop its support for the militias. The idea presumably is that without Russian support including support by volunteers the militias will not be able to withstand an assault by Kiev, newly trained and armed by NATO countries including Britain. Then Kiev could crush resistance and impose its will on the rebellious territories. No matter to the EU that the population in these areas does not want to join the EU and were not represented in the EU backed Maidan coup.  That they – and democracy – would in fact be crushed by a Soviet style use of tanks against civilians is an irony which it seems is lost on the current EU political class.

However, Russia is it seems not willing to permit this scenario. The inability of Kiev to get its house in order and ‘stamp out corruption’ (a EU euphemism for organisation corruption on a proper basis as is done in Western countries) makes it harder for the EU to work with Kiev. Kiev may get desperate and try to create a crisis and force Russia to declare their hand openly and thus blackmail the EU/US into supporting them militarily. But it isn’t 100% certain that the EU would in fact back them if they go down this path. The EU prefers sanctions to try to force Russia to withdraw support. But sanctions aren’t working.  No military solution but no win by economic pressure either. Meanwhile in announcing that they will accept documents from the DNR and LPR Russia has sent a message to Kiev and to their masters in the EU; if you don’t resolve this soon you will lose this territory altogether. As the fighting has gone on it is increasingly unlikely that the militias will accept anything less than very substantial autonomy; to the extent that it is unlikely they would accept police or army from Kiev in the regions they control at all.

Neither Kiev’s military solution nor the EU’s economic one look like being able to facilitate the re-taking of the liberated areas. For Ukraine the only way out might be a change of government to one which could carry through the necessary political and constitutional reforms. But such a government seems, at the moment, some way off. As time goes on the areas controlled by the militias will become de facto parts of Russia.

 

 

More anti-Russa [sic] propaganda in the Guardian

Russia has on its statute books a set of laws known as anti-extremism laws. These laws have been made by the normal process by which laws are made in Russia, a country which, while not a mirror reflection of a Western ‘democracy’ has, nonetheless, a constitutional political process, an elected President, and a parliament composed of two chambers.

The anti-extremism laws cover a number of areas. In particular they mandate possible prison sentences for calls for extremism, for financing extremism, for public attempts to humiliate people and for organising religious communities that spread extremist ideology. [1] The legislation also provides for the banning of groups which promote religious, social, ethnic or racial discord. [2]

The (stated) motivation for this set of laws is to preserve the unity of Russia from threats emanating from religious or nationalistic groupings. [3] Much of the legislation is similar to hate-speech laws in the UK. As this article by the Wilson Centre [4] notes Russia does indeed have a problem with extremism. Furthermore, the Wilson Centre states that “Few have been convicted and imprisoned under anti-extremism laws”. [4] The Wilson Centre is a US based think-tank part funded by the US government so hardly “pro-Russian”. [5]

The legislation came in two waves. The EU report we have already referred to [2] details the first wave. This gave the authorities power to ban organisations for promoting extremism. The second wave is reported on by RT [1] and introduced prison terms for individuals for promoting extremism. One criticism of the legislation is that the terms of “extremism” are too broad. [4]. That may be; but then, such criticism can easily be made of, for example, the UK’s “anti-social behaviour” legislation. The Russian government is not the only government in the world which likes to give itself leeway when creating offences. The Europa article [2] lists the actions which are considered extremist. One of these is using violence to interfere in an election. Readers who only learn about Russia’s anti-extremism laws from the pages of the Guardian might be surprised that the laws include provision to defend the electoral process in Russia. They are not just about persecuting minority groups (the Guardian’s version).

The above gives a brief introduction to Russia’s anti-extremism laws. (The Europa report is worth reading). [2]. This is an article in the Guardian about a group of Jehovah’s witnesses being persecuted in Russia under this legislation. Following are some extracts together with our comments:

Anti-terror legislation is being used to target those whose faith is only ‘extreme’ in terms of its commitment to non-violence. It should be a warning to us all.

Why? Already we have the main problem of Western liberals writing on Russia (and indeed often on America too). They write from a point of view of a single world order. They assume that we should be worried about what happens in Russia, or the US, as if it was happening here. There may be concerns; but what happens in another country is not of the same import to British readers as what happens here in the UK. If only for the simple reason that the average Guardian reader can (in theory anyway) influence what happens in the UK through democracy but has no way of influencing Trump or Putin through the ballot box.

The small Siberian town of Birobidzhan is set in a mosquito-infested swampland on the far eastern end of the Trans-Siberian railway. It was to places such as this that the Soviets exiled various undesirables. In April 1951 more than 9,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses were rounded up and sent to Siberia on Stalin’s instruction. They were allowed to take 150kg of their possessions with them. Everything else was confiscated by the state.

A nice caricature of Russia’s far-east and why not bring Stalin into it? We don’t let the Germans forget Hitler so why should we let Russia forget Stalin? (The source given for the Stalin era deportations is a WikiPedia article which references a range of sources. At the time this author checked of the 4 sources explicitly given for the deportations 3 were to web links of which two were not available and one was to a Ukrainian human rights organisation. The fourth citation was to a Russian book).

A couple of months ago, the Russian police raided the Birobidzhan branch of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and “discovered” extremist literature. The Jehovah’s Witnesses describe the incident thus: “Masked special police disrupted a religious meeting and planted literature under a chair in the presence of the attendees.” The police ordered the place to be permanently closed.

Quite possibly material was planted. Yes; the police in Russia, as elsewhere are capable of planting material. Equally the claim may be a fabrication. (The Guardian links to a video provided by the Jehovah’s witnesses which may or may not show something but such evidence needs to be corroborated). It isn’t clear what exactly happened in terms of the “police ordering the place to be permanently closed”. The legislation states that banning of a group must be ordered by a court. [2] Is the Guardian claiming that this did not happen?

A few weeks later, the Russian ministry of justice demanded that the Jehovah’s Witnesses HQ hand over all information on their 2,277 Russian congregations. After a brief examination of what the police allegedly found, it concluded that the Jehovah’s Witnesses were showing signs of “extremist activity”. Congregations in Belgorod, Stary Oskol and Elista have all been shut down. Bibles have been impounded at customs, their literature banned. Many expect that the Russians are gearing up for an outright ban.

That sounds like due process is being followed under Russian law.

So what is it about Jehovah’s Witnesses that the Russians find so objectionable? This week, I decided not to avoid the eye of the couple who hand out literature at my tube station. So many times I’ve ignored them, and their Olympic smiling endurance, brushing past grumpily. Reading about their history, I now feel guilty about my lack of respect.

This is where the Guardian writer, a certain Giles Fraser, moves from simply repeating claims by an interested party (he also gets in a quote in their favour from an ex British Ambassador), to complete fiction. Mr Fraser’s “tube station” is, presumably, in London. But, hang on, I thought we were talking about Russia? How does Mr Fraser know that the material he reads at his local “tube station” is the same as the material the authorities are concerned about in Russia? He doesn’t. Obviously.

On open display was What Does the Bible Really Teach?, the book that the Russian authorities often plant in kingdom halls as an excuse to shut them down.

Now Mr Fraser is falling over himself. If “What Does the Bible Really Teach” is a book that has been deemed extremist in Russia and if this is a common piece of literature for Jehovah’s witnesses is it not likely that this book is sometimes found in Russia and causes problems for the Jehovah’s witnesses?

Jehovah’s Witnesses were taken to Nazi death camps for that very reason [their pacifism ed.]. They refused to swear loyalty to a worldly government and refused to serve in the military. They wouldn’t say Heil Hitler either. So within months of the Nazis coming to power, their meetings were ransacked and a Gestapo unit was set up to register all known Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their children were taken off them to receive a proper patriotic German education. And they were given their own purple triangle to wear as identification. In 1942, Wolfgang Kusserow was beheaded in Brandenburg prison by the Nazis for refusing to fight. “You must not kill,” he said at his trial. “Did our creator have all this written down for the trees?”

Jehovah’s Witnesses are right to fear what is happening to them again, right now, in Russia. They have seen it all before. It should be a warning to all of us that the idea under which they are now being persecuted is that of “extremism”.

This is truly revolting. The Russian legislation (under which few people have been imprisoned, according to the US government funded Wilson Centre [4]) is aimed at preserving the unity of the Russian state and preventing groups from operating in a way which causes social divisions. Certainly including Jehovah’s witnesses in this category reflects a more illiberal position that in say Europe. But there is no equivalence with the Nazis. No concentration camps. No purple badges. No gassing. Few prison sentences; (perhaps none at all for Jehovah’s witnesses?) In reality a law enacted by a fully constitutional government under which groups can be banned. Pacifism is not one of the activities which is deemed extremist under Russian law. But claims about exclusiveness based on religion are. [2] If Mr Fraser is trying to claim that the Jehovah’s witnesses organisation is having problems with anti-extremism legislation in Russia because of their pacifism he is making it up. (And there his Nazi analogy breaks down).

In Germany the Scientology movement is under government surveillance. The authorities have at times come close to seeking a ban. [6] The reason for this is that with the experience of Nazi rule behind them the German government does not want to allow ‘strange’ ideologies to take hold.  In other words; if we want to bring the Nazis into it then we can see that Russia’s anti-extremist laws far from being a repeat of Nazism are arguably the opposite. A valid concern about ideologies which can potentially lead young people to extremism. People who bandy about parallels with Nazi persecution when there is manifestly no parallel in reality diminish the reality of what did happen in Nazi Germany. It shows that their concern about these tragic events is suspect.

There is a total lack of basis to the analogy with the Nazis. None can be produced because there is none other than some vague and unsubstantiated appeal to “they came for you first”. The other problem with this article is that it shows zero understanding of Russia. Indeed the criticism even appears to be based on the author’s experiences outside his local UK tube station. Russia is a different country from the UK. It has a different kind of ethnographic and religious make-up being a unity of divergent peoples. (Britain has a single race which has been augmented by immigration). Russia has very real problems with extremism. Russia is at a different stage of development having, apart from anything else, only recently emerged from 80 years of Bolshevik rule. Young people in Russia may be more susceptible to ideologies; (for example there is a real social problem in Russia at the moment with young people being talked into suicide via online Internet groups [7]). And Russians are, well, Russians. Not English. Slavonic. Why do UK ‘journalists’ think that Russia should apply the exact same standards as the UK now and in all matters? It shows a bizarre lack of historical, political and cultural thinking.

Russia’s anti-extremist laws can of course be criticised. For example; the report by the Wilson Centre argues that they are capable of too broad an interpretation. But it is not as simplistic as the Russian state is using radical Islam as “an excuse to crack down on all religious activity that refuses to bow the knee to Mother Russia” as Mr Fraser suggests. Apart from the grotesque tone on display here (a callow abuse of a term which is indeed sacred to many Russians) a quick review of the details of the actions seen as extremist under the Russian legislation [2] shows that it is not a question of radical Islam + other religious activity, which is of concern to the authorities, but a wide range of activities. These include interference with electoral processes, hate speech, and, as we have mentioned, specifically “propaganda of exclusiveness”. It is quite probably this latter which is causing problems for the Jehovah’s witnesses in Russia. Exclusive salvation is an absolutely key tenet for the sect and the Russian laws specifically describe claims to exclusiveness as extremist. If Mr Fraser was writing journalism he would have taken the trouble to research Russia’s anti-extremism laws and answered his question about “What is it about the Jehovah’s witnesses ‘the Russians’ find so objectionable?” on a factual basis. Instead Mr Fraser offers a piece of theatre based on a chat with some Jehovah’s witnesses outside his local tube station in the UK! He uses their answer to this question – about non-violence – as a lead in to his unsubstantiated and revolting Nazi analogy. In fact if Mr Fraser had done some research he might also have learned that the same laws he denounces as being inspired by the Nazis in fact make it an offence to use Nazi attributes and symbols. [2]

This is standard fare in the Guardian these days when it comes to articles on Russia. Very weak journalism and denouncing Russia for not following the exact same standards as those held (or espoused) by the journalist himself. (Western liberal permissive values). Oh well, in true Western liberal fashion Mr Fraser assures us he now feels “guilty” about his previous “lack of respect” for the Jehovah’s witnesses. (Though he is not so respectful that he fails to describe their literature as “cringeworthy”).

And yes, the Guardian, has indeed headlined one of their anti-Russia propaganda articles as being about “Russa”. Which gives us an inkling of the level of thinking going on here.

Notes

1. RT

2. Report from European Parliament on Russia’s anti-extremism laws

3. RT

4. Wilson Centre. January 2013

5. WikiPedia

6. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7133867.stm

7. life.ru

The imperialist mindset in the Western media

The Western media in the main produces narratives which support and ‘explain’ the actions of the political classes in the West. The actions of the West are always ‘explained’ in terms of morality and virtue using phrases like “the international order” and “the norms of international behaviour”.

This is because they (that is the individuals involved) all share a mindset which is essentially that of unreconstructed imperialism. The mindset has not been updated since Britain ruled the waves.

This leads them to some convolutions which are strange to outsiders but not to themselves. For example; part of the narrative on the UN is about how Russia and China often “block UN action”. Here is an example from Reuters/The Guardian:

Russia and China have vetoed a UN resolution to impose sanctions on Syria over the alleged use of chemical weapons during the six-year war.

It is Russia’s seventh veto to protect the Syrian government from UN security council action.

But Russia has not “protected the Syrian government from UN security council action”. Russia has protected the Syrian government from action by the US, France and the UK. It is not the same thing. It is only the same thing to those who think that their “world order” is the world order. That is, those, who can only see others as vassal states who are either a) doing what they are told or b) “blocking” / being “obstructive” etc. In exercising their veto at the UN Russia fulfils its role in making sure that the UN cannot be used just to implement the policies of one power-block.

If the West fails to bring Russia and China to their knees (the current game-plan) then the only alternative will be that they will finally have to do what they claim to be doing all the time; act responsibly at the UN, support the international order, and so on.

Further examples

From the GuardianIn an article about Afghanistan:

Isis has been active in Afghanistan since 2014 but maintains a far smaller presence – and poses far less of an existential threat to the Afghan state – than the Taliban, who continue to be responsible for the majority of violence in the country

In reality the group responsible for most of the violence in Afghanistan is NATO, the US and the forces of the Afghan government they support. The mindset here is straightforwardly imperialistic; we have the right to come into a country, suppress it with massive force, and then declare that any local forces offering armed resistance are “terrorists” offering “violence”, whereas we are “peacekeepers” etc. etc.