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]

The spirit of Nongqawuse lives on

Nongqawuse was a fifteen year old Xhosa girl who in 1856 had a vision in which three ancestral spirits told her that if the Xhosa people showed their trust by destroying their crops and killing their cattle, then on the appointed day the spirits would raise the dead, bountifully replace all that was destroyed, and sweep the British into the sea. Thousands believed this prophecy and slaughtered their cattle. But the dead slept on and the British remained in place.

Nongqawuse explained that this lack of action was due to the amagogotya, the stingy ones, who had kept their cattle back from slaughter. She urged everyone to greater efforts. A new date was set for the prophecy to finally come true. The rate of cattle-killing rose to a climax.

Eventually the Xhosa lost patience, and, with remarkable mercy, handed Nongqawuse over to the British. By then famine had reduced the population of British Kaffraria from 105,000 to fewer than 27,000.

*

City A.M. reports that John McDonnell says Venezuela is failing because it is ‘not a socialist country’.

Oh, and our Chancellor-in-waiting says that he will overthrow capitalism.

If you want to watch the Sunday Politics interview where he said all this, this BBC link will work for another 28 days.

The view from Brazil is that peace is also the health of the state

The most recent of my Last Friday of the Month meetings was actually not on the last Friday of March because that was Good Friday, and my speaker Bruno Nardi and I decided to hold it a week earlier, on the 23rd. Bruno Nardi is a Brazilian libertarian and he spoke, unsurprisingly, about Brazilian libertarianism. The Brazilian state having become more than usually obtrusive and kleptocratic in recent years, libertarianism in Brazil is doing rather well just now. (I very much fear that libertarianism in Britain may soon be about to do rather well also, but that is another story.)

Before telling us about the contemporary libertarian scene in Brazil, Bruno prefaced that story with some Brazilian history, which I am rather ashamed to admit was almost entirely new to me. On the other hand, his basic point was that Brazilian history is rather undramatic, so maybe I needn’t be so ashamed after all.

Brazil started out as a Portuguese colony, but did you know that, in or around 1814, it became an independent Kingdom? Perhaps you did, but I didn’t. I did know that around that time, various armies were crashing about in Spain and Portugal, because the Duke of Wellington and his army were busy pushing Napoleon’s army back over the Pyrenees. But as to what happened in Brazil as a result of its Mother Country being invaded, well, I had never given it a thought. If Hitler had managed to invade Britain in 1940, you can well imagine Churchill and our Royals and a boat full of government functionaries hopping across to Canada, and setting up a new and “independent” kingdom of Canada. In Brazil, this is what actually happened. (Googling has made me more confused about the exact date of all this, but it definitely happened around then.)

In general, however, the history of Brazil is notable for its paucity of dramatic history dates. After 1814-ish, the next history date that Bruno focussed on was some time around 1880 or 1890, when there was this big Constitutional change, the nature of which I now forget, and which in any case, said Bruno, had little effect on regular life for most Brazilians. Then something else political happened in 1930. And then the next date to be discussed was 1964! I thought: hang about. Weren’t the times between 1930 and 1964 rather dramatic for the world? Well, yes, these were dramatic times, for the world. But for Brazil, not so much. Brazil pretty much sat out World War 2, just as it had pretty much sat out World War 1.

A little light googling has told me that Brazil has been involved in warfare, a bit, as Bruno did mention, especially during the nineteenth century against neighbouring states, notably Paraguay. There were a number of internal rebellions, all defeated. And Brazil did get involved in the world wars, fighting against Germany in both, a bit. So there definitely is such a thing as Brazilian military history. But Brazilian involvement in war was indeed nearly nothing compared to what the European nations were doing to one another and to the rest of the world during those same times, or compared to such events as the American Civil War.

War, we libertarians are fond of telling each other, is the health of the state. Peruse the most recent posting here by our own WW1 historian, Patrick Crozier, to see how we often think about such things. So, what about that increasingly obtrusive and kleptocratic Brazilian state that has been putting itself about lately, stirring up misery and libertarianism? There have been no big wars to make the Brazilian state as healthy as it now is, and especially not recently. What of that?

The story Bruno Nardi told made me think of the book that explains how peace is also the health of the state, namely Mancur Olson’s public choice theory classic, The Rise and Decline of Nations. It is years since I read this, but the story that this book tells is of the slow accumulation and coagulation of politics, at the expense of mere business, as the institutions of a hitherto thriving nation gang up together to form “distributional coalitions” (that phrase I do definitely recall). The point being that if you get involved in a war, and especially if you lose a war, the way Germany and Japan lost WW2, that tends to break up such coalitions.

The last thing on the mind of a German trade unionist or businessman, in 1946, was lobbying the government for regulatory advantages or for subsidies for his particular little slice of the German economy. Such people at that time were more concerned to obtain certificates saying that they weren’t Nazis, a task made trickier by the fact that most of them were Nazis. Olson’s way of thinking makes the post-war (West) German and then Japanese economic miracles, and the relative sluggishness of the British economy at that time, a lot more understandable. Winning a war, as Olson points out, is not nearly so disruptive of those distributional coalitions, in fact it strengthens them, as Crozier’s earlier posting illustrates.

You’ll get a bit more of the flavour of Olson’s thinking if you read this SQotD from 2012.

I met up with Bruno Nardi again last week at a Libertarian Home meeting, where I spoke to him along the lines sketched out in the previous paragraphs, mentioning the title of Olson’s book, and I ended up by asking: Does that ring any bells with you, as a way of talking about Brazil and its history? Yes, he said, that’s what it was like. Gradually the political crooks got their various acts together and made their various deals and accommodations, and it got worse and worse and the state that they negotiated between them got bigger and bigger.

In Brazil, the idea of libertarianism has usually been felt as foreign. But it’s an idea that Brazilians are now definitely getting told about.

You can read Bruno Nardi’s recent postings at Libertarian Home by going here. I particularly like the one entitled Take the hypothetical seriously. What if? What if, although Bruno didn’t ask this in that piece, Brazil was governed differently, in a more freedom-friendly way to the way it has been governed for the last few decades? And what if the same applied everywhere else?

Samizdata quote of the day

Recent reports only help raising more questions, and eyebrows, as a staggering 87% of Venezuelans are reportedly now under the poverty stats. When it comes to food, 6 out of 10 lost an average of 11 pounds of body mass in 2017, not for fitness purposes (don’t go getting any ideas, NHS, Corbyn) and 9 out of 10 are unable to afford daily food.

Tamiris Loureiro

Child stealing, then and now?

A senior English police officer has called for children of extremists to be taken away from them.

Terrorists should have their children taken off them in the same way that paedophiles do, Britain’s outgoing top anti-terror policeman has said.

Assistant commissioner at the Metropolitan police, Mark Rawley, said that children of terrorists were exposed to environments equally as “wicked” as victims of paedophiles were and so should be afforded the same protection.

In his valedictory speech, he told the Policy Exchange: “If you know parents are interested in sex with children, or if you know parents believe that people of their faith or their belief, should hate everybody else and grow up to kill people, for me those things are equally wicked environments to expose children to.”

Meanwhile, far away in Argentina, the Grim Reaper has finally called for one of the old ‘Dirty War’ Generals, Luciano Benjamín Menéndez (cousin of the clown who was ‘Gauleiter’ of the Falklands in 1982 until some Paras, Guards, Marines and Gurkhas et. al. turned up).

Menéndez, also known as “The Hyena,” was the military commander of ten Argentine provinces from 1975 to 1979.
Some 30,000 people are estimated to have been killed by the military in its infamous Dirty War against dissidents.
Menéndez was also convicted for abducting children from detained anti-government activists and giving them up for adoption.
The children were often adopted by families of military officials, who strived to give them a non-communist upbringing.

The Montoneros were a murderous bunch for sure. But why does a senior English police officer think it is appropriate to imitate a South American Junta?

The future Jeremy Corbyn wants for the UK

Was out for a wander this evening and saw this right in front of the Venezuelan Embassy in London.

It is astonishing that in 2017, anyone can still openly call themselves a socialist in polite society and be treated with more respect than if they called themselves a fascist.

The vindication of Jack Cade

Henry VI Part II, Act 4, Scene 2:

ALL:
God save your majesty!

JACK CADE:
I thank you, good people:— there shall be no money; all shall eat
and drink on my score, and I will apparel them all in one livery,
that they may agree like brothers, and worship me their lord.

DICK:
The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.

CADE:
Nay, that I mean to do.

The Guardian, today:

Ken Livingstone: Venezuela crisis due to Chávez’s failure to kill oligarchs

“Why is Venezuela on the brink” asks Sky News

Dominic Waghorn has written an article for Sky titled ‘Oil rich but sliding into anarchy: Why is Venezuela on the brink?

Economic mismanagement and kleptocratic rule have led to tumbling living standards but the regime still has a grip on power […] Like the government of Hugo Chavez that it followed, the Maduro government claims to be on the side of the masses. But its kleptocratic rule has been disastrous for every level of society. The poor just have less to lose. […] But the Maduro government’s mismanagement of the economy has been breathtakingly irresponsible. […] Nationalisation, price controls and rampant corruption have added to the witches’ brew poisoning the economy.

Nowhere in the entire article does the word ‘socialism’ or ‘socialist’ appear. I wonder why? The mainstream media are a joke.

Trying to argue with a socialist about Venezuela

A new recruit for the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America!

France.

That is, if French presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon wins the coming election. I would still call that unlikely, but he is rising in the polls. In case you’re wondering, Our France would qualify as part of Our America because of its overseas departments French Guiana and the French Antilles. Although I am not sure that the present members of ALBA – principally Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Ecuador – will greet these parts of France Overseas with unmixed joy.

Quoting the article from Le Figaro linked to above:

The document [Mélenchon’s manifesto] proposes to leave the treaties of alliance that France belongs to now, like NATO on the military plane, or the WTO and the CETA on the economic level. Proposal 62 calls for the establishment of an alternative system and, for example, to join structures of “regional cooperation”, “in a process of ecological, social and human progress”. The program cites the ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America) launched by Hugo Chavez and his allies as early as 2004. The links between the late South American president and the candidate are of long standing, and the latter never misses an opportunity to tell the story of their meeting. But the reference to the Bolivarian model has not yet been updated with regard to the drift of the regime of Maduro and the resulting economic collapse.

There is more on this story from Libération: What is the Bolivarian Alliance that Mélenchon wants to join?

That story links to a video showing a TV studio discussion in which an interviewer brought up Mr Mélenchon’s proposed change of direction for France with his spokesperson, Clémentine Autain, who “was obviously unaware of this point of her candidate’s program” – and could hardly keep a straight face when told about it.

As ever, the translations are a joint project between my French O-Level and Messieurs Google et Bing. Corrections are welcome.

Denial in the face of shame

I recommend this essay by Jack Staples-Butler for his “HistoryJack” blog, Starvation and Silence: The British Left and Moral Accountability for Venezuela.

DENIAL in the face of catastrophic failure of one’s ideas is a predictable reaction from a believer, as per Leon Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance reduction in response to the failure of one’s beliefs. Denial in the face of shame for one’s actions is an experience well-studied by psychologists and criminologists. One 2014 study summarises the role of ‘shame’ in creating both denial of responsibility and recidivism among offenders:

“Feelings of shame… involve a painful feeling directed toward the self. For some people, feelings of shame lead to a defensive response, a denial of responsibility, and a need to blame others — a process that can lead to aggression.”[1]

Combining both faces of the phenomenon of denial is the behaviour of the supporters, apologists and promoters of the ‘Bolivarian Revolution’, the late Hugo Chávez and the PSUV regime in Venezuela, and their response to the present state of the country. Humanitarian catastrophe of an apocalyptic scale is now unfolding in the most oil-rich state in the world. The magnitude of human suffering is indescribable. The scenes of bread queues and shortages familiar to Eurozone-crisis Greece are long since surpassed. Venezuela has become a ‘Starvation State’[2] which “today drowns in a humanitarian crisis”, with lawless cities and hunger for the majority.

And

The Chávez apologists are confronted with two cognitively distressing facts; that a favoured political project has failed, dragging millions into an abyss of hunger and despair in the process; and that they played an instrumental or even essential role in bringing this state of affairs about, whilst enabling the regime responsible to suppress and destroy its opposition by legitimising and even providing its conspiratorial narrative, pro bono. What is most striking in the Western socialist left’s response to Venezuela’s agony is the absence of response.

The vacuum of recognition or even acknowledgement in the face of disaster is followed by an absence of moral accountability. Knowing full-well that Venezuela is still there, suffering beyond measure, those who involved themselves intimately in the politics of a South American republic now conduct their lives “as if” nothing had happened. In a devastating article, the writer Paul Canning named this as ‘The left’s giant forgetting’[16]. Venezuela has become a collective unperson to those who formerly proclaimed it an example for humanity’s emulation; although tacit recognition of their previous behaviour is found in some of the apologists, as in Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s deletion of any reference to ‘Venezuela’ from his website in March 2016, after two decades of promoting the Chavismo ideology in articles, demonstrations and media appearances.

Bookmark the essay. It would take some time to follow all the many references and links provided by the author, but they are a resource in themselves. This one, about the ambiguous and contradictory testimonies given by two British Communist veterans of the Spanish Civil War decades later, caught my interest.

Samizdata quote of the day

Having failed to win the support of the Eisenhower administration, who knew exactly what sort of man they were dealing with, Castro adopted communism purely for opportunistic and practical reasons. He was about as much a socialist revolutionary as he was a democrat. Naturally, the Soviets fell over themselves to shower any third-world thug who paid lip-service to communism with money, weapons, and other support and they did just that with Castro – even though his adoption of their ideology came to them as a complete surprise.

Many people think the USA is responsible for Castro’s rise and continuation in power, but most of the blame lies squarely on Moscow’s doorstep: without their cynical support in those early stages, Castro’s brutal dictatorship would likely have been over much more quickly.

Tim Newman

Good riddance to a tyrant

Fidel Castro dies aged 90, but unfortunately his dynastic successor is still firmly in control. No doubt the shameless regressive left at the BBC and Guardian will sing the dead tyrant’s praises, but I suspect there will be some wild celebrations in Miami tonight.

Samizdata quotes of the day

“Believe you me, if the people in this country think they’re going to be cheated, they’re going to be betrayed, then we will see political anger the likes of which none of us in our lifetimes have ever witnessed in this country.

[…]

“I heard you talking to Gina Miller earlier about the nasty things that have been said about her. Believe you me, I’ve had years of this, I’ve had years of hate mobs – taxpayer-funded hate mobs – chasing me around Britain.

“The temperature of this is very, very high.

“Now, I’m going to say to everybody watching this who was on the Brexit side – let’s try and get even, let’s have peaceful protests and let’s make sure in any form of election we don’t support people who want to overturn this process.”

Nigel Farage

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.

John F. Kennedy