The Grapes

The grapes
don’t die
in the vineyard
with the harvest
in the summer.

 

They transcend
and translive
victorious
in the wine,

 

like the poem in the song,
like our talent in discoveries,
like parents in their children,
like a nurse in our health,
like a friend in our strength,
like teachers in our wisdom,
like rebels
and activists of the Common
in ordinary
endeavours
and achievements.

 

But our labour,
our paid labour,
is taken away
in corporate cloaks
to private shrines
far in some islands
for cultural worship
(our cultural worship)
and power,
the power hoarded by few
that is used against the many.

 

And the soldier,
poor soldier,
is sent to kill and die,
sacrificed for national pride,
(or political reasons
reserved for great minds)

 

sacrificed
for whose mother?

 

sacrificed
for mother-what?

 

The wine
of the grapes
of the land
of the peasants
is a miracle of humanity.

 

Copyright © 2016. Tony Martin-Woods
Todos los derechos reservados. All rights reserved.

Inspired in the poem “La transvida” (“Translife”), published in Spanish in Los viajes de Diosa (The Travels of Goddess). Murcia. Diego Marín. 2015..

 

Image from Æsop´s Fable 2, “The Stag and the Vine”, in John Ashton (1882) Chap-books of the Eighteen Century (p.465). London. Chatto and Windus, Picadilly. 1882. Found in Flickr.com

A rendition of the Fable:

A Stag, pursued by the huntsmen, concealed himself under cover of a thick vine. They lost track of him. Supposing all danger to be over, the Stag began to browse on the leaves of the Vine with the intention of eating them. The movement drew the attention of the returning huntsmen, and one of them, supposing some animal to be hidden there, shot an arrow at a venture into the foliage. The unlucky Stag was pierced to the heart, and, as he expired, he said, “I deserve my fate for my treachery in feeding upon the leaves of my protector.” (adapted from translation by happychild.org.uk)

Brexit Xenophobia

A friend of mine told me last night that she was recently insulted for being a foreign migrant in the UK. As she had finished a phone conversation during which she had to spell her surname, the man next to her on the bus looked at her full of hate and said something rude suggesting she should go back to her own country.

Another friend of mine, who blindly supports Brexit, had told me few days before this happened, in a conversation about xenophobia and freedom of expression of migrants on the issue of the referendum, that if anyone receives ethnic abuse or violence, they must report it to the police.

This is wishful thinking, and quite frankly, naïve. Our police forces cannot deal effectively with this kind of low level, yet highly perverse and hurtful violence. They are overstretched and they would struggle to catch people like that man on the bus and get any kind of meaningful redress from him. Most people I know share this belief. In fact, I have heard of xenophobic behaviour in the past and I cannot recall one single instance in which ringing up the police was even suggested. To me, if things are getting to a point in which police intervention is needed to tackle xenophobia, yet victims do not feel that bringing the police in would help, it is clearly too late for the politicians and the State to tackle the issue effectively.

Of course, many of these xenophobic rude people must feel that they are just expressing their national anger resulting from the horrible effects of migration and membership of the EU. They replicate, in their own language and code, what the right-wing newspapers have been telling them for the last 20 years about migration and the EU. But the same is true of other Tory and UKIP xenophobes who, as members of the middle classes, have learnt to coach their nastiness towards migrants in a way that would not get them into any kind of trouble. No name calling, no swearing. And, of course, this xenophobia can take many other shapes. Do you remember the French Lady in Question Time last week who was shut down by a fervent audience when she said “well, we are all Brussels”. (She was trying to challenge the belief that there is an evil entity trying to control the UK personified in UK Brexit discourse as “Brussels”).

Are there Brexiters who are not xenophobes?

Of course there are, I know some nice normal people who want to leave the EU, but they should acknowledge that if it was not for all the “patriotic”, anti-EU and anti-migration propaganda of newspapers like The Sun and The Daily Mail over the years, UKIP and the Brexit campaign would not have prospered in terms of number of supporters and voters as much as they have. Perhaps that would give them a better understanding of what type of country they are promoting by supporting Brexit.

What about the Brexit right-wing elites, the ones behind all this, the ones who would never share a bus with the man who insulted my friend?

We must remind them that they have come this far in their political and business aspirations on the back of a rabidly xenophobic horse which their media have spurred. It is their responsibility, more than anyone else’s, to help us to put down the beast they have nurtured as soon as possible. Unfortunately, I don’t think these elites are up to the job. Besides, if Brexit wins, they will be too busy over the next ten years trying to desperately negotiate new business and trade deals, for themselves and/or for the country as a whole, to care about anything else, never mind social cohesion and peace.

Image credits: Hope not Hate

Traders of seeds

We can’t control the tides of the oceans,
So let us be the currents of our seas.

We can’t reach the stars of the universe,
So let us be the lights of our nights.

We can’t stop the clocks nor the time,
So let us be the rhythm of our lives.

We can’t buck the bloody market,
So let us be the traders of seeds,

Seeds of revolution,
Seeds of justice,
Seeds of peace.

Copyright © 2015. Tony Martin-Woods
Todos los derechos reservados. All rights reserved.

Rectificar es de sabios

El nuevo portavoz parlamentario de economía del Partido Laborista, John McDonell, un economista brillante comprometido con la justicia social, anunció el 25 de septiembre que su grupo parlamentario apoyaría el compromiso fiscal del gobierno conservador, parte de su Budget Charter, o Carta Presupuestaria, y anunció que votarían a favor.

El “compromiso” consistía en obligar al Estado legalmente a no incurrir en déficit en ciclos económicos “normales”. La decisión de qué es “normal” quedaría en manos de la llamada Oficina de Responsabilidad Presupuestaria que, a día de hoy, establece que si la economía crece por encima del 1% anual, hay “normalidad”. (Sobre el tema del crecimiento económico escribí algo interesante hace poco: “Crecimiento sin Empleo”).

El apoyo de los laboristas a la Carta Presupuestaria desconcertó a mucha gente en la izquierda real. La mayoría de comentaristas lo interpretaron como un gesto conciliador de los laboristas de cara al público y al establishment: los laboristas son gente responsable que nunca gastará por encima de las posibilidades del Estado. Yo mismo lo defendí (“Living within our means?”) como algo que no era necesariamente malo porque pienso que el compromiso de no gastar más de lo que se tiene también obliga a recaudar mucho más, no sólo a contener el déficit. Y aquí en Gran Bretaña hay tantísimo por recaudar… Somos la oficina central de los paraísos fiscales.

Sin embargo, y para sorpresa de todos, el portavoz de Economía Laborista anunció el lunes 12 de octubre que su grupo parlamentario iba a votar en contra de ese compromiso, que habían cambiado de opinión. John McDonell explicó muy bien por qué habían tomado esa decisión y creo que tiene mucha razón tal y como lo presenta. Hay coherencia.

Este U-turn (“giro de 180 grados” en inglés) ha sido criticadísimo por los medios británicos que están, unánimente, en contra del nuevo líder laborista, Jeremy Corbyn, que fue quien nombró a McDonell arropado por un masivo apoyo de las bases de izquierda. Por cierto, La postura de los medios, que dependen de los bancos, de las empresas anunciadoras y, en el caso de la BBC, de un Partido Conservador que ha amenazado con recortarle su autonomía, no es de extrañar. Corbyn es un socialista real, no como Tony Blair y su panda. (Ojalá en Inglaterra tuviéramos algún medio de comunicación que decidiera destetarse del capitalismo financiero, como en España ha sucedido con algún periódico en línea. Otro gallo nos cantaría, aquí y en Europa).

Pero es que además en nuestra sociedad británica cambiar de opinión está muy mal visto. Los británicos son unos fanáticos de la previsibilidad. Por eso les gusta la puntualidad, la planificación detallada, la prevención de riesgos, los seguros, las estadísticas, todo tipo de anuncios y avisos… La indignación de mucha gente por el viraje de los Laboristas se debe sobre todo a que rompe con esa convención social y cultural que a veces explica esa amable cabezonería de los europeos del norte. Las palabras que se usaron para valorar el viraje laborista eran muy fuertes. Incluso los más refinados, en una sociedad donde la mesura expresiva es un atributo de las clases medias y altas, usaban términos como “shambolic” (caótico, incompetente, desastroso).

Pues bien, yo le doy la bienvenida a esta nueva forma de hacer política sabía, valiente y sin prejuicios: los errores más estúpidos que cometemos son los que no rectificamos.

Espero que en España, donde somos campeones mundiales de la genial improvisación (la coherente), la gente no se avergüence de rectificar en las elecciones del 20-D.

Tony Martin-Woods 2015

CC BY-NC-SA

image

Refugees welcome?

Malcolm Rifkind (not sir, sir), the prominent Tory MP who was caught on camera by Channel 4 allegedly trying to sell his political favours to a Chinese investor, has treated us all today in the BBC, which is increasingly biased towards their new Conservative Masters, to a refined, yet disgusting, distinction between refugees worth protecting and the rest.

To summarise his position, for this man of grave voice and dubious ethics, refugees are welcome in our Disunited Kingdom only if they flee from war zones. He claims that once they are “safe” in a refugee camp in a neighbouring country, like Lebanon or Turkey, their desire to travel to Europe is an indication of other issues at play.

Let’s make it clear, Malcolm, in a language that power people like you can understand better than no one else: why don’t you piss off to Jordan to live in a tent in the desert? You have had already a good free ride as a member of the elite all these years, so it is only just that you start picking up the slack. You have made loads of money, for you and all the faceless corporations you have “served”, which I am sure you can use in the refugees camps for all sort of good deeds. Ah, and you advocated military interventions in Libya and Syria. Perhaps you would like to say sorry in person to some of the victims of your political “errors of judgement”.

It would be unfair for Malcolm to omit a reference to all those smug inhuman beings who will certainly support his views. I saw some of them last night in Twitter and on TV saying they didn’t want to have refugees in Britain. They are the same lot who do not want migrants, or anyone different to them, nearby. I propose to have a public register where these individual can indicate, by posting their postcode, that they are not willing to have refugees and migrants in their neighbourhood. That way we can spare the poor victims of war and the global crisis of capitalism of the undesirable company of these uncivil members of society.

Everyone has the right to escape from poor living conditions. The aspiration to live and work in peace and good health is legitimate. At this time in history the question is not whether we bring down borders but how we do so. It is urgent.

Picture from Foreign and Commonwealth Office used under the Open Government Licence v1.0

UK Response to Refugee Crisis

Prime Minister,

This is dramatic.
Refugees can’t wait.

Mr Murdoch,

People die in lorries
and crossing the sea.

Her Majesty, Chancellor,

Let’s pull our weight
to end this misery and hell!

We understand, darling,

We will talk to our partners in Europe,
cause nothing can be done without them.
We will be tough with human trafficking,
and reclaim sovereignty on Calais.
We may even have to bomb ISIS,
…Tony Blair will get all the blame!

And for those who flee from war,
equipment, water and food
should be sent, in due course,

But we’ll do things properly:
We’ll connect with the nation,
capturing the imagination
of every decent mind and soul.

Let the public jump
off our glorious cliffs
with hand-made parachutes
and Mickey Mouse full kits.

Let them fly to the jungle,
to run a triathlon,
in the scorching heat,
wearing a fur coat
(a plastic one, I mean).

White nose Johnny
will sing a love song
in 5 different languages,
naked,
in the North Pole.

Oh,
and Chris Evans can auction
a red gorgeous Ferrari
on a BBC show.

Bidders will flock!

…A new foreign policy?
Forget it, you fool!

…Don’t tax the rich,
they could leave us soon.

…New approach to fair trade?
We are UK PLC, dude.

…More migrants on our soil?
We can send them to the moon!

…What do you mean by “solidarity”?
Charity will just do!

Originally published in www.poesiaindignada.com with the title of “Solidarity”. Modified on 29/08/15

Copyright © 2014-2015. Tony Martin-Woods
Todos los derechos reservados. All rights reserved

€uroscam, a real eye-opener

€uroscam is a fascinating documentary based on new research carried out by Ricard Vergés on the European origins of the Housing and Construction Bubble in Spain.

Vergés lost his job for uncovering some of the business, professional and political practices leading to the socially painful and relatively distinct Spanish version of the Global Crisis.

The director of this documentary, Guillermo Cruz, combines an inquisitive retrospective narrative of events in Spain and Germany with interviews with well known academics, politicians, business men, journalists and activists.

Inevitably, €uroscam features (although not as a interviewees) people like Rodrigo Rato, former Director of  the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Rato, who was also Spain’s Economics Minister during the Conservative Governments of 1996-2004 is now facing charges of tax evasion and money laundering.

€uroscam questions the legitimacy of the Spanish Public Debt contracted as a result of the almost deterministic negligence of the Spanish and European political and corporate elites, responsible for the plight of millions of Spaniards.

The video has subtitles English and lasts a bit more than an hour.

#anuncomfortabledocumentary

Our Chinese Crisis

I saw the U.S. chief editor of the FT, Gillian Tett, last night on Channel 4 talking about this new-not-so-new crisis in China. I have to confess that her self-righteousness made me sick. I guess it comes with the job (hers and mine).

It is very sad to see all these clever, educated and eloquent people, the cheerleaders of global capitalism who did not foresee the big financial crisis in the U.S. and Europe, the myrmidons who turn a blind eye to financial and political incompetence when it suits their masters, demanding that the Chinese Government completely deregulate access to financial markets and stop “bureaucratic” intervention (whilst snarling their upper lip).

We had deregulation and re-regulation in the USA and the UK and the whole thing crashed anyway.

So, what’s a fair diagnosis for the Chinese Crisis?

Well, it is a structural fault of global dimensions: the Social Structures of Accumulation that come with this phase of Global Capitalism are collapsing and there is little we can do to prevent this from happening. Conventional regulation and deregulation can only slow down the collapse in some places or for some people, but nothing else. (If you want to know more about Social Structures of Accumulation, there is plenty of academic and non-academic readings and videos about it).

Is there anything else that can be done?

Capitalism is self-destructive, so Hopefully it will take care of itself. However, there is no room for complacency: Our Governments should alleviate the pain caused to people across the world, with our solidarity. We can engage as individuals in rebuilding, culturally, politically and economically, our own communities. We can help others to do the same.

But what is wrong with capitalism? It would be easier to answer this question by explaining what capitalism is and what is good about it:

Capitalism is a combination of values, social relationships, practices, institutions and legally binding rules enshrined in national and international laws, that has enabled a few people in the world to extract and abuse for their own benefit the economic resources of the majority.

Capitalism is based on the supremacy of human predatory self-interest, disregarding most other aspects of human nature, and it is supported by cultural domination. Contrary to what many people believe, capitalism does not respect individual freedom or private property as a universal human rights.

Capitalism cannot work well at the same time in all places across the world because it relies on inequality. The wealth of someone is the destitution of someone else somewhere else in the world.

The good thing about capitalism: If you are lucky enough to be born in the countries whose States have been supportive of the economic interest of their “industrialists”, mainly in North-America and Europe in the last two centuries, then you may be able to benefit, as a worker, as an independent professional/trader or even as a non-producing individual, from the economic surplus that flows around you, but only by virtue of the “Welfare State”, a sort of deal between business, common people, cultural elites and politicians for all of us to have a decent life without causing trouble to each other.

Unfortunately, the “Welfare State”, comprising socio-economic rights, in the workplace and beyond, and public services, is being dismantled in the places in the world where once worked, and will not take off in most places in the rest of the world because of the lack of resources in those places. The inherent inequalities of the capitalism have become more acute at this stage are there are no signs that this will change.

Is this an apocalyptic vision?

Sort of. But I am confident that there are a lot of talented people across the world working on alternative forms of co-operative economy and on peaceful sustainability. There are also many other people promoting political and cultural movements that will Enable our transition to a different form of global society. Crucially, human ingenuity is on our side. All the technological inventions, scientific discoveries and social advancements of the last century were the work of common people like you and me, either a) people who were paid a salary for their intellectual and physical efforts, very often working in publicly funded institutions or b) self-employed people who had to fight their way as individuals in a network of corporate (capitalist) interests.

So, there is a future, of course, but you won’t read about it in the FT.