We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Mongolia, the EU’s blacklisted tax haven

It has been quite a grim century for Mongolia, many decades under the Soviet yoke after the ‘Mad Baron’ von Ungern-Sternberg managed to take over in the chaos after WW1, and write his own grim chapter, and still its capital is called ‘Red Hero’, but despite that name, Mongolia has got itself into the EU’s bad books, not by human rights abuses, but by a lack of them as a tax haven.

To determine whether a country is a “non-cooperative jurisdiction” the EU index measures the transparency of its tax regime, tax rates and whether the tax system encourages multinationals to unfairly shift profits to low tax regimes to avoid higher duties in other states. In particular these include tax systems that offer incentives such as 0% corporate tax to foreign companies.

The scoundrels, the shame of it, not taxing someone!

EU members have been left to decide what action to take against the offenders. Ministers ruled out imposing a withholding tax on transactions to tax havens as well as other financial sanctions.

OK, how about undercutting or matching them for starters? That would, actually, hurt them.

For some reason, the ‘charity’ Oxfam thinks it is entitled to chip in.

The UK-based charity Oxfam last week published its own list of 35 countries that it said should be blacklisted.

Are Oxfam’s shops taxed (or business-rated) in the same way as their commercial neighbours? Can they explain how sanctions (so useful against South Africa under Apartheid) improve the lot of the poor? Since sanctions harm, the corollary is that free trade doesn’t, and yet… But I digress.

Let’s hope that Mongolia shows the same defiance before its accusers as the Baron von Ungern-Sternberg did when facing a People’s Court, from ‘Setting the East Ablaze’ by Peter Hopkirk.

‘Showing no signs of fear at the fate awaiting him, the baron challenged the right of a ‘people’s court’ to try him. He told his Bolshevik accusers: ‘For a thousand years Ungerns have given other people orders. We have never taken orders from anyone. I refuse to accept the authority of the working class’.

Then they shot him.

The full blacklist is:

The 17 blacklisted territories are:
American Samoa, Bahrain, Barbados, Grenada, Guam, South Korea, Macau, The Marshall Islands,Mongolia, Namibia, Palau, Panama, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates.

and conceding the point that taxes create poverty:

The EU made exceptions for countries faced with natural disasters such as hurricanes, and put the process temporarily on hold.

Better late than never

The Times 26 November 1917

Reminder: The US declared war on 6 April 1917.

Early Day Motion 392

From Hansard:

Early Day Motion 392

JOHN PILGER AND KOSOVO

Session: 2004-05
Date tabled: 14.12.2004
Primary sponsor: Smith, Llew
Sponsors:

That this House welcomes John Pilger’s column for the New Statesman issue of 13th December, reminding readers of the devastating human cost of the so-termed ‘humanitarian’ invasion of Kosovo, led by NATO and the United States in the Spring of 1999, without any sanction of the United Nations Security Council; congratulates John Pilger on his expose of the fraudulent justifications for intervening in a ‘genocide’ that never really existed in Kosovo; recalls President Clinton’s Secretary of Defense William Cohen claimed, entirely without foundation, that ‘we’ve now seen about 100,000 military-aged [Albanian] men missing…..they may have been murdered’ and that David Scheffer, the US ambassador-at-large for war crimes, announced with equal inaccuracy that as many as ‘225,000 ethnic Albanian men aged between 14 and 59’ may have been killed; recalls that the leader of a Spanish forensic team sent to Kosovo returned home, complaining angrily that he and his colleagues had become part of ‘a semantic pirouette by the war propaganda machines, because we did not find one mass grave’; further recalls that one year later, the International War Crimes Tribunal, a body de facto set up by NATO, announced that the final count of bodies found in Kosovo’s ‘mass graves’ was 2,788; believes the pollution impact of the bombing of Kosovo is still emerging, including the impact of the use of depleted uranium munitions; and calls on the Government to provide full assistance in the clean up of Kosovo.

(Emphasis added.)

Signatures include:

Name: Corbyn, Jeremy. Party: Labour Party. Constituency: Islington North. Date Signed: 15.12.2004.

Name: McDonnell, John. Party: Labour Party. Constituency: Hayes & Harlington. Date Signed:
15.12.2004.

From yesterday’s Guardian:

Ratko Mladić convicted of war crimes and genocide at UN tribunal

The former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladić, nicknamed the ‘butcher of Bosnia’, has been sentenced to life imprisonment after being convicted of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

More than 20 years after the Srebrenica massacre, Mladic was found guilty at the United Nations-backed international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague of 10 offences involving extermination, murder and persecution of civilian populations.

Edit: In the comments Jacob asks, “I was wondering what the massacre perpetrated by a Bosnian Serb in Bosnia had to do with Kosovo…” Fair point; in my efforts to make a Drudge-style snarky juxtaposition I failed to make the link clear. Given that we are talking about mass murders rather than day-to-day political point-scoring, I should have done so.

The link is that Mladic’s war crimes in Bosnia were part of the Yugoslav War(s), in which Slobodan Milosevic played a notorious role, which included egging on the Bosnian Serbs as well as his own crimes in Kosovo. The British Hard Left turned a blind eye to it all.

My intention was to point up how tawdry EDM 392, and by extension the whole business of soft-pedalling the crimes in former Yugoslavia, looks now in the light of yesterday’s conviction of Mladic.

Under socialism, the crows will not fly away

In the comments to my earlier post about the West Indies Federation, Bruce relayed something his schoolteacher once told him:

Question to the class:

There are ten crows sitting on a wire.

You shoot one. (This was back when guns, shooters and shooting had not been totally criminalized by the ruling-class sociopaths).

How many are left?

Nine?

That would be the answer expected from most kids.

Correct answer?

NONE!

Crows, unlike most of the lamestream media, academics and politicians, are NOT STUPID.

To which Niall Kilmartin replied:

Bruce (November 23, 2017 at 8:11 am), there is a socialist version of your ‘crows’ story.

At one of the glumly festive parties Stalin used to inflict on his politburo cronies, he told the story of how, while he was in exile in Siberia under Tsarism, he was out skiing and saw several crows perched on a branch. He shot a couple then skied back for more ammunition, returned and shot the rest. After he left the room, Beria said, “He’s lying” (understandably the others were cautious in responding, fearing a provocation). Conquest, in his biography of Stalin, charitably suggests the story may have been just a Siberian version of the old US Western “tall tale’, told for entertainment as a whopper not intended to be believed. It has also been suggested that the crows’ feet were frozen to the branch and Stalin for once in his life was telling the truth.

Whatever the truth of it, the moral is clear: under socialism, the crows will not fly away.

Far be it for me to say that our Shadow Chancellor is taking tips from Stalin, but that line did remind me of what I heard him saying on an audio clip posted last week by Guido Fawkes:

McDonnell now sure there won’t be a run on the pound.

John McDonnell has changed his tune from Labour conference […] Now he insists “there’s never going to be a run on the pound” and “of course” he isn’t planning capital controls if it happens. Only a few years ago McDonnell used to openly threaten the City with capital controls if they opposed his policies.

“One from ten leaves nought”

In writing this post I do not attempt to draw any particular moral, merely to share an episode of history I found out about by chance which has some incongruous parallels with the present day.

Quoting the Wikipedia article on the West Indies Federation:

Three member states were proposed as hosts for the capital city of the federation: Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. Earlier in the federal negotiations the general opinion had been that the capital should be one of the smaller islands so that the capital would be in a neutral position to the larger territories and it would be able to inject some buoyancy into one of the (then) poorer economies.

The West Indies Federation had an unusually weak federal structure. For instance, its provinces were not contained in a single customs union. Thus, each province functioned as a separate economy, complete with tariffs, largely because the smaller provinces were afraid of being overwhelmed by the large islands’ economies. Also, complete freedom of movement within the Federation was not implemented, as the larger provinces were worried about mass migration from the smaller islands. In this sense, the current European Union can be said to have implemented a more unified economic space than the West Indian attempt.

Nor could the federal government take its component states to task. The initial federal budget was quite small, limiting the federal government’s ability to use its financial largesse as a carrot. It was dependent upon grants from the United Kingdom and from its member states. The provincial budgets of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago were both larger than the federal budget. This led to repeated requests for those states to provide greater financing to the federal government. These requests were not well received, as Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago together already contributed 85 percent of the federal revenue, in roughly equal portions.

For many Jamaicans it appeared that the Federation would then just hamper their development and movement towards independence.

As a result, the Bustamante-led Jamaica Labour Party (the local component of the West Indian DLP) successfully forced Manley to hold a referendum in September 1961 on political secession from the Federation. It passed, with 54% of the vote, despite the opposition of Manley, the province’s Chief Minister at the time.

On January 14, 1962, the People’s National Movement (the Williams-led Trinidad component of the WIFLP) passed a resolution rejecting any further involvement with the Federation. Williams himself stated that “one from ten leaves nought”—in other words, without Jamaica, no Federation was possible. Trinidad and Tobago became independent on August 31, 1962.

Without Trinidad and Jamaica, the remaining “Little Eight” attempted to salvage some form of a West Indian Federation, this time centred on Barbados. However, these negotiations ultimately proved fruitless. Without its two largest states, the Federation was doomed to financial insolvency.

The If Only School of history

A commenter writes and I sub-edit to twist his meaning:

…history would have been rather different if the Black Prince had lived. Just as history would have been very different if Henry V had lived. History is decided by small events – individual choices (a choice is neither determined or chance – a choice is a choice, it cannot be reduced to something else) and luck (chance – such as getting ill, or dying in a shipwreck as Henry the First’s son Arthur did), not grand “historical forces”.

This brings up one of my bugbears, namely the If Only School of History. The If Only School states that “if only” event X had or hadn’t happened then disaster Y would have been avoided. For example:

  • if only the chauffeur had known the way, Franz Ferdinand would have survived and the First World War would not have happened;
  • if only the British hadn’t shot the rebels then the Irish wouldn’t have sympathised with them and Ireland would still be part of the UK;
  • if only Hitler had stayed a little longer then Elser’s bomb would have killed him and the Second World War would have ended much sooner;
  • if only the French hadn’t been so perfidious at Chesapeake Bay then America would still be British;
  • if only Harold hadn’t been in such a rush to get to Hastings then the Norman Conquest could have been prevented etc, etc.

Straight away there is an obvious problem with the If Only School. It assumes that if event X had not happened then things would have been better. It ignores the possibility that things might have been worse.

The truth is that you never know. You only get one history. You cannot know what would have happened had the world gone down another path. But I tend to assume that it would have been much the same. Why? Because there are millions of people in this world and they all have beliefs and something happening, or not happening, is unlikely to change those beliefs. Also, we have a certain level of technology. That too only changes slowly. When it does, of course, it has profound implications.

Of course, this is something of a numbers game. If there aren’t so many people about then the impact of one person’s decisions or one person’s luck can be much greater.

Getting back to my main point, take for instance, Sarajevo. Obviously, had the chauffeur taken a different turn that day the Archduke and his wife would probably have survived. But the great forces of history would still have been in play. Serbian nationalism would still have existed and posed an existential threat to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The German military would still have felt threatened by the build up of the Russian military. The German monarchy would still have been under threat from German republicanism.

Indeed, it may not have made any difference at all. The Austrians still had plenty to play with that day, assassination or not. The bomb throwing orchestrated – as it was – by Serbian intelligence still constituted an act of war and – as was subsequently shown – they needed little excuse to commence hostilities.

We can also take a look at similar situations down the years and see if different actions lead to significantly different results. Take, for instance, the ways in which monarchs have re-acted to the threat from republicanism:

  • Charles I was inflexible and there was a bloodbath
  • Louis XVI was very accommodating. And there was a bloodbath
  • Wilhelm II tried to focus his population’s attention on foreign adventures. And there was a bloodbath.
  • Nicholas II was inflexible. And there was a bloodbath.

And only one of them survived to not tell the tale. And he was lucky.

Did I say “lucky”? Am I admitting that luck plays a part? Not really. Actually, this example rather makes my point because Willhelm’s survival – lucky or otherwise – wasn’t of any great importance. For sure luck exists but it is more in the nature of waves on the sea rather than the great tides. The big changes may have happened in a different way at at different time but they would still have happened.

But there are other examples. Ask yourself why it was that all Medieval monarchs were such bastards? With one exception they were violent, dishonest, disloyal and untrustworthy. Indeed, the exception, Henry VI, rather proves the rule.

Yes, maybe, had Harold taken his time to assemble at Hastings he might have won the day but do we seriously believe that the invention of the stirrup or, if you prefer, the rise of mounted warfare, would not have had profound consequences for the structure of medieval society?

Of course accepting that we are subject to the great forces of history does leave us with the problem of where we as individuals come in? Why not sit back and relax as there is not much that any of us can do about it?

The Russian Revolution as it appeared in The Times

I suppose – given that it is the centenary of that catastrophe known as the Russian Revolution – I ought to drag out something from The Times. I have to confess that this is no easy task; not because there is too little but because there is too much. Anyway for your intellectual delectation we have the following selection: the initial report (8/11/17), a background report (9/11/17) and The Times leader (same date) which gets it pretty much spot on:

The latest developments in Russia will hardly surprise those who have watched recent events in Petrograd. When constituted authority is palpably incapable of backing words by deeds, when anarchy is allowed to increase daily, when arms are recklessly given to the mob, then the end cannot be far off.

Update One more (9/11/17 again) but this one comes with a free Balfour Declaration

Poetic Justice

There once was a Marxist called Lenin
Who did two or three million men in.
That’s a lot to have done in
But where he did one in
His follower Stalin did ten in.

I’ve already quoted Robert Conquest’s limerick in a comment on Perry Metzger’s post below, but, on this anniversary day, it seemed to deserve top billing. I suggest prose commenters continue adding to Perry Metzer’s thread below. Anyone inspired to verse may comment here (or anyone rescuing an old poem on the subject from unmerited neglect).

I regret to have to inform you that, as befits its socialist theme, this imitation of the Erdogan poetry competition does not come with any capitalistic prize money. However if anyone comes up with something witty enough to go viral, they just might thereby help avert the future in which they are sent to the PC Gulag by the comrades.

A Century of Horror

I struggled for a while for what to write here, but I felt I had to write something, because today is a fateful anniversary.

Exactly 100 years ago, on November* 7, 1917, the Communist Revolution in Russia began.

In the ensuing decades, about one hundred million people died because of the Russian Revolution and other communist revolutions it inspired.

These deaths were not an accident, not the result of some deviant misinterpretation of Karl Marx’s true intent, and not some minor incident of history we all should ignore. They were a direct consequence of what you can read in Marx’s writings and those of his successors.

There is no gentle way to say this: if any ideology can be said to be evil, if any set of ideas can be said to be evil, then Communism is evil.

I’ve seen it said recently, on Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere, that we mustn’t compare the Communists to the Nazis because the Nazis started with bad intentions while the Communists had good intentions.

I must disagree. The Communists started with intentions every bit as monstrous as those of the Nazis.

No one ever believes their intentions to be evil of course, and our society has, sadly, a great many people who retain a romantic attachment to communism, and who teach this romantic attachment to their friends, neighbors, and (in the case of the huge number of Marxist academics who unaccountably are working in every university), their students.

The Nazis didn’t believe themselves to be evil, and neo-Nazis today do not believe themselves to be evil. So it is with the apologists for Communism — they do not believe themselves to be evil. I’m sure that Marx didn’t perceive himself to be evil, he believed his enemies to be evil, and I’m sure Hitler felt the same. That doesn’t matter. Self-perception has nothing to do with the thing. It’s the hateful ideas and the trail of corpses that are relevant.

And so we face the problem that many people, even now, even after a century of almost inescapable evidence, still hold a romantic attachment to Communism, do not react to a red star or a hammer and sickle with the instinctive horror that they feel for a swastika.

In other words, our society still has not come to grips with Communism.

This is so much the case that, as I’ve mentioned, there are Marxist professors all over our universities inculcating their ideas into young minds, a fact that should fill us with as much horror as the notion of Nazi professors in our universities. I was taught by some of them, and for a time I became a Marxist. After all, my teachers taught me that Marxism was a perfectly okay idea, not an aberrant horror. They seemed like nice people at the time, and the university had hired them, and so surely they couldn’t have been bad? However, I don’t care how nice such people seem, their ideas have killed people in numbers so large I cannot understand them, and although those ideas deserve to be studied and remembered, they should not be studied or remembered with reverence, but rather the way we remember the behavior of the Spanish Inquisition or the priests who sacrificed human beings every day in the Mayan Empire.

What does it even mean for an ideology to have killed one hundred million people? I can’t look at a crowd and easily distinguish numbers in the hundreds or thousands without aid. I certainly do not understand what a million lives means. I truly do not understand what a hundred million mean. That’s too many for my primitive primate brain to understand.

And so, these people who still preach Marxism are aligning themselves with a level of horror and death so beyond human comprehension that it is basically not possible to come to grips with it. And yet, no one protests them the way they would (correctly) protest the hiring or tenuring of a Nazi.

I see kids in the street sometimes wearing Che T-shirts, sometimes wearing red stars. By all rights, of course, a picture of Karl Marx or Che Guevara should be thought of the same way as a picture of Goebbels or Himmler or Hitler himself would be regarded. Red stars and hammers and sickles should, as I said, be viewed the same way people view swastikas, and yet they appear, ironically and without irony, on various bits of pop culture ephemera all around us. Indeed, dare I say it, such symbols even seem to be carried all too often by various contemporary protesters.

Such symbols and people should inspire horror, because they represent piles, veritable mountains, of human corpses. One hundred million deaths means that there’s six and a half billion kilograms of decaying human flesh that your Che shirt or hip little Red Star should bring to mind.

Why doesn’t it inspire horror? Part of it is that somehow we’ve normalized hiring huge fleets of academic apologists for Communism into our universities, but generally speaking, I’m not sure why people have so much trouble coming to grips with this.

Part of it, of course, must be the human capacity for denial of normalized horror. Apparently normal people in 1850 weren’t overly horrified by the idea of human beings being bought and sold and forced to labor and raped at will by their putative “owners”. Apparently normal people in 1400 didn’t think too much of the idea of burning heretics at the stake.

And so, even today, many normal people don’t seem to think too much of how horrifying their romantic attachment to communism is.

I hope, however, that the human race makes progress on this over time. It has abandoned human sacrifice, and slavery, and burning heretics at the stake, and I hope that, someday, it at last rids itself of its residual acceptance of the most disastrous set of ideas the world has ever seen.

[*Today is November 7th, and some of you may be asking yourselves “wasn’t it called the October Revolution?” It was still October in the Russian calendar of the time because they had not yet switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar.]

Samizdata quote of the day

Washington is a parasite that sucks the rest of the country dry. The counties surrounding Washington, D.C., have the highest per capita income of any metropolitan area in the country including New York, Hollywood and Silicon Valley. The unemployment rate is also the lowest of any large region in the country.

At least New York, Silicon Valley and Hollywood all produce something we need or enjoy. Washington produces red tape, taxes and new ways to handicap innovation on a daily basis.

While America staggers after its first lost decade (2007–17) and with a new lost decade set to begin (Japan, anyone?), Washington grows fat and rich. Trust me, the hotels and restaurants in town are jammed. No depression here.

Jim Rickards.

Not sure I’d agree with him on Hollywood but he is one of an apparently growing number of commentators who have noticed the parallels between the West’s current predicament and the Fall of the Western Roman Empire.

No wonder they were peeved

From a letter in The Times (28 September 1917):

I propose to relate a few facts which came within my knowledge in the summer of 1872, the time when the inhabitants of Aisace-Lorraine were called on to determine as to their future nationality and, on a certain day, to vote whther they would remain French or become German. I was then brought into daily contact with all classes of the inhabitants. This “option,” as it was called, was in everybody’s thoughts, as all French families in the annexed provinces had in the immediate future to decide whether they would continue to reside where they had been born, or leave their homes in order to live in France, from which they had been torn, or in some other country, or, as an alternative, to become German, with all the effects and responsibilities involved in such a change. In cases where fathers were beyond the age for conscription and there were not sons, the choice was generally in favour of remaining in homes where most of them had been born, and submitting to a foreign yoke. But the wrench was a terrible one in cases where there happened to be sons, as these, if they remained in what was soon to be called the Reichsland, would be compelled to be educated in German schools and eventually to be enrolled in the German Army. Thus it was that in many cases homes were broken up and French families hurriedly sold their property at a great sacrifice and migrated in order that they might remain French and continue to dwell in the country they loved.

I really had no idea that German rule in Alsace-Lorraine was that brutal. I understand that Bismarck was totally against the annexation. Smart cookie that Bismarck.

He may have to wait a while

The Times 4 October 1917 p3

We are all familiar with Churchill’s soaring rhetoric from the Second World War but how do his efforts from the first time around compare?

Sadly, this is a report of what he said as opposed to a transcript but you get the general idea:

So now the weight devolved squarely on our shoulders. If we failed, all failed. If we held, all prospered. It rested with us to carry it out. Was there a man in this country who doubted our capacity to maintain and sustain the moral and military effort of the Allies against Prussian militarism until the weight of the United States could be brought to bear? We felt an assured confidence that we should not fail. But our confidence was shared by the Germans. (Cheers.) It was not for nothing that they were making these desperate efforts to strangle our shipping, to terrorize our cities, to drive our soldiers back in their remorseless and methodical advance. They knew where the vital point in the world struggle was. They knew that this island stood alone between them – and even at this last moment, even after all this struggle – and complete victory. They knew that in this island there resided the forces which were appointed from the dawn of history to frustrate that great evil and shield the world from its unmeasured consequences.

Not bad I’d say.