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On books and circuses

One of the current problems afflicting the book industry right now is the same problem afflicting all of Maltese society: jungle rules. The rampant disregard to the law and to good governance by many public officials is outstanding not because it happens in the first place; we all know that greed can make people act in a very destructive manner, but because it is being allowed to be perpetuated by the same government which supposedly is cleaning out the house.

Allow me to be brief and spare you with the details which may only be relevant to our industry. The Malta Book Festival, previously the Malta Book Fair, has been held at the Mediterranean Conference Centre for more than thirty years. Since 2013 we re-branded the event and made it bigger hitting consistent record sales year after year. As the Festival grew over the years we started taking more space at the MCC to add more capacity until we practically started booking most of the MCC, including Republic Hall in 2019. Then we were suddenly told that we were not able to book Republic Hall anymore because the Malta Tourism Authority had front-run our booking for an event they are sponsoring which will host the Cirque de Soleil circus.

I was flabbergasted. It was just right after the end of the Festival in 2019 that I received the news. Eventually, the pandemic arrived and Cirque de Soleil went bankrupt. MCC contacted us and told us that Republic Hall was available once again. In 2021, we then received the news the Cirque de Soleil show was to go ahead anyway and that we were not able to make use of Republic Hall any longer. I protested against this with the Minister of Tourism Clayton Bartolo and the Prime Minister himself and all I got from the government was the request to help myself by changing the dates and location of the Malta Book Festival. So, practically, the book industry is expected to take a bigger hit in sales by further changing the arrangements of its event for the sake of a foreign circus subsidised by our own government.

The Minister of Tourism has just recently released a document outlying the importance of promoting indigenous culture as part of MTA’s new strategy. Despite the fanfare to launch this document, the Minister and MTA are doing exactly the opposite of what this document says – they are subsidising a foreign circus at the expense of a local culture industry. And the expense is on our side is at least €100,000 less in book sales and a long-term negative impact on our brand. Great way to help small businesses. So, it’s not just about the money. And we don’t accept bribes either just to make it clear.

But there is also a very obvious reason why we are being front-run like this without any consideration to our industry and to the families who depend on it. The Cirque de Soleil show at Republic Hall is a corrupt contract handed over to 365 Entertainment Group by MTA official, and ex-Konrad Mizzi canvassar, Lionel Gerada. Gerada, who is a convicted fraudster, was given authority by the disgraced Konrad Mizzi to allocate MTA events funds and 365 Entertainment is amongst MTA’s favourite recipients. 365 Entertainment Group has been allocated a substantial, but yet undisclosed amount of funds to organise the Cirque de Soleil circus, but the government-suibsidised payment to Cirque de Soleil is undoubtedly in clear breach of EU-State Aid rules especially given the context. Gerada has also committed perjury when testifying with the Public Accounts Committee saying he has no connections to 365 Entertainment Group when he was caught representing them and dining with its owners in the Netherlands. And guess what? 365 Entertainment is one of those companies which last year promoted Malta as a safe-party destination to British tourists and directly contributed to the re-emergence of the virus pandemic in the country.

Why do I say it is a corrupt contract? Because a contract effected with the provision of funds by a convicted fraudster and public official who is associated with the same company he is giving the funds to, is simply nothing else but a corrupt contract. These are jungle rules. A corrupt contract will subsidise a show by a foreign and bankrupt company at the expense of a local cultural industry of national importance. You would expect people to resign over this scandal in ordinary European States, but this is not an ordinary European State. And, despite all of this, the government expects us to remain silent, complacent, and at best help ourselves by taking on bigger hits in sales by changing our arrangements. I’m not sorry. The older I get the less intolerant I become of corrupt bullies and infantile behaviour by supposedly-grown men. In our jungle rules, corrupt idiots are being allowed to bully their way around in the country, wreaking havoc on society and our businesses indiscriminately. It is my job and my duty to defend the interests of the local book industry and I will keep doing so as long as the law allows me to.

Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it. A reply to Grace Blakeley.

One of the problems with the left of today is that it is stuck with the ideas of its peers which apart from being outdated have been misconstrued by many years of Leninist and Trotsykist influence in European socialist literature. I have great admiration for Marxists like Ernest Mandel who in the Second-World War fought with the Resistance, but the Marxist ideas of our peers have a particular history to them which is completely different from the historical conditions which have caused today’s state of affairs. Mandel was born in a world run by empires and where capitalism was ruthlessly oppressive, where racism was the official normal, and wars took place which massacred millions of people. Post Second-World War, the world changed to a great extent. Western Europe adopted the social-contract and the traditional empires were dismantled, however great injustices like the Vietnam War still echoed the oppressive vicissitudes of capitalist-imperialism of the old world and international communist movement lived to fight these injustices.

Back then socialism was an incredibly innovative political-ideology which was adhered to by political-movements that directly addressed the needs and aspirations of ordinary people. It was also fueled by countless of political, economic and philosophical debates. For example, Anuerin Bevan’s programme for the National Health Service to provide free health-care for all was a very radical concept back then which even some of his fellow members of the Labour Party were opposed to. Today, free-health care is embedded in the European psyche as a given-right, but the historical thought process which brought about this idea in our psyche was fraught with many barriers. Just look at the debate in the US on the student debt-jubilee proposal. Some of those who oppose it claim that it is unfair on them after having paid off their debts themselves. The idea that someone else is going to get something for free while I had to pay for it may be, for some, unfair, but the simple logical answer to this should be that if I have suffered injustice, it doesn’t mean that I am going to accept that it is repeated on others. Indeed, from my European perspective, forcing young people into debt for a basic university education is an injustice which restricts social mobility.

This is why it was very refreshing to see AOC coming in defense of the Reddit users in the GameStop saga – a glimmer of light amongst the recycling of idealist left-wing critique which doesn’t make any sense. Rashida Tlaib’s proposed bill on stable-coins signals to me that the left still doesn’t understand the world we live in and refuses to think outside its dogmatic box. It is after all true that the leftt keeps failing to relate to ordinary people and keeps being sidelined to the periphery of politics. Grace Blakeley‘s text on the GameStop saga produces the same kind of frustration. Hers is a very dogmatic and idealistic critique which once again re-affirms the left’s refusal to re-read Marx in the light of the events which followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. Even Slavoj Zizek is not meticulously engaged with Marx and history as he is more concerned with Hegel and Lacan, but at least he has been one of the only few contemporary left-wing intellectuals who brought some tangible and rational discourse forward that broke away from left-wing idealism – case in point was when Zizek actually extolled the virtues of voting and inspired many young English left-wingers to eventually join the Labour Party and militate for Corbyn.

Post-GameStop saga, Blakeley argues that the fact that people can buy a company’s shares in an economy where most shares are owned by a very few number of people may create the illusion that somehow, ordinary people can successfully become owners of capital and achieve economic emancipation by becoming capitalist owners. Blakeley says, somewhat bizarrely, that neo-liberalism entices workers to believe that they can only exercise power as capitalist owners. I find this sentiment strange given that the point of Marx was that workers should become collective owners, but it seems to me that Blakeley sees this as an abstraction and an impossibility in today’s capitalist framework. Never mind the current phenomenon were countless of small businesses are being decimated and the aspirations of young people to open their own business in some of the most difficult conditions ever – from Blakeley they should rather keep their pay-cheque. But let’s drop this for a moment and go into some theory. The problem with Blakeley’s argument is that she does this from the stand-point of Mandel’s Marxist idealism whereas private ownership of assets under capitalism, primarily what used to be described as the workers’ collective ownership of the means of production, is not emancipatory given that this collective ownership will still uphold the rules of capitalism in trade and probably even finance. She highlights this point hyperbolically by saying that ordinary people buying stocks “are in an alliance against workers” and supporting companies which do great damage in the “Global South”.

I find this argument non-dialectical, simplistic and akin to Lassalle’s argument of the abolishment of the wages system which Marx derided. The failure of the re-reading of Marx by the left probably stems from the lack of appreciation of history itself which was essential for Marx to break with Hegel through Hegel himself by outlying the dialectical forces of history. And the lack of appreciation for history also stems from the rigid and dogmatic Leninist and Trotskyist views which were adopted by the left as the mainstay of Marxist philosophy. It seems that the left is confident in its misconstrued world-view and speaks as if it is a textbook of Andre Gunder-Frank’s theories while ignoring the massive historical changes that have happened ever since Marx wrote his Communist Manifesto. The point of Marx is to break from economic idealism, but the left is instead building its own idealistic bunker.

Marx can not be read idealistically or from the lack of a historical stand-point. I would say it is even non-Marxist to apply many of Marx’s concepts in today’s world. It should be obvious to a historian that even capitalism itself has changed its form and nature and this is also where Fukuyama gets it wrong with his constant hip-hopping of his endless list of static categories which are imposed on a linear course of history that supposedly explain how and why liberal-democracy and capitalism have mutually grown together. Feudalism took many hundreds of years to change and transform itself, so much so that historians have a difficulty and disagree between them on marking its beginning and the end on exact chronological terms. It is also similar with capitalism. We have seen through the course of the last century great changes to capitalism, most noteworthy, probably, the abolishment of traditional empires and the emergence of new global economic powers like Japan and today, China. Western Europe in the post-Second World War era adopted a new social contract which ensured free healthcare, free education and social mobility and the 1960s European Social Charter also echoes Marx’s words in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts that we should live in a meritocratic economy where people can freely chose their career out of will, desire and ambition and achieve success at it instead of having to forcefully choose a job and work simply to pay the bills. Additionally, the taxation regimes have changed and liberal-democracy have provided the opportunity for people to fight for their interests with their vote creating a wave upon wave of social-legislation which improved people’s lives.

Blakeley underlooks history. Europe after the plague epidemic of the 14th century had a serious labour-shortage which led to many serfs becoming peasants and this was a decisive hit to feudalism in its transition to capitalism. After the Second-World War we have seen changes in capitalism which are distinct from Victorian era-capitalism such as the nationalisation of companies to protect jobs, workers becoming capitalists, the booming of small businesses and the rise of the middle-class, free healthcare and free education, strong welfare states and much more. Although the rich got richer, workers and ordinary people also got richer and had greater access to money and the financial markets. The boomer generation is indistinguishable from the workers and ordinary people of the 1920s and the 1930s. The great material progress made ever since Marx wrote on the abolishment of capital is overwhelming. Marx never denied the incredible forces of capitalism which can produce great wealth. Marx’s problem with capitalism is that its basic legal system was built to make the wealthy wealthier at the expense of free labour. But Marx’s problem with the system of production also had a historical aspect to it and Marx was very aware of this:

The so-called distribution relations, then, correspond to and arise from historically determined specific social forms of the process of production and mutual relations entered into by men in the reproduction process of human life. The historical character of these distribution relations is the historical character of production relations, of which they express merely one aspect. Capitalist distribution differs from those forms of distribution which arise from other modes of production, and every form of distribution disappears with the specific form of production from which it is descended and to which it corresponds.

The relations of production are taking a different character in their historical course thanks to technology and also thanks to the introduction of intellectual property. The invention and widespread use of computer coding drastically increased the meritocratic opportunity in the world of business while the process of value creation took historically different characteristics wherein young and capable coders could build their products and their businesses even single-handedly. Today, the problem is that some of these businesses such as Microsoft and Apple have grown so big as to effectively wield monopolistic power. On the other hand, we have also seen digital companies extracting value from small-business and replacing them with cheap-paying jobs and huge returns to shareholders – case in point is Amazon. Oil brought great changes to the economy as well, but the green-energy transition is also changing that again. Surely, the process of value creation is changing and one can not apply Marx’s literal texts on these themes because they have historical distinctive characteristics from the process of value creation in Marx’s time. Undoubtedly the concept of free-labour in relation to the surplus-value still exists in the capitalist system, and in some sectors of the economy this aberration has actually got worse with new digital brokers and middle-men coming into the scene and taking a cut of the profit from both businesses and workers – Gig economy, Bolt, Uber etc…

Classes are also changing dramatically. The old capitalist-elite has changed dramatically. The financial elite who took over from the industrial elite in the 19th century are now being taken over by the digital elite. The old families who were in the car business ever since cars were invented are being challenged by a young entrant who coded Paypal and then sold it to start an electric-car company and space-company with the aim to go go to Mars. The historical rise of the middle-class, the house equipped with the domestic appliances and the family car, mass-literacy, the huge decrease in poverty and the eradication of polio, has also been met with advent of space-capitalists.

We are of course, still living in capitalism and the financial markets are clear testament of this. The stock market mirrors society’s hierarchy of classes quite explicitly as the massive number of assets available are mostly owned by the very few while the masses own a tiny fraction of it. At the same time, the architecture of finance is changing too. Bitcoin and crypto-currency are changing finance to the extent of making banks obsolete with decentralised finance and Bitcoin platforms which take on the banking role of providing loans and paying interest. So far the left has overlooked this incredible development, despite the fact that the banking system is one of the most important structures which make the system of capital so skewed in favour of those who hold assets at the expense of those who don’t (more on this another time).

The GameStop saga also shows a very interesting reality which was non-existent even a few years ago. Ordinary people can actually, and with concentrated and collective effort cause significant events in the financial market. No, we are not speaking of a systematic event here, and sure, there were investors in the GameStop long like Michael Burry who also made a lot of money on the trade, but by now no one can deny the power of the collective retail investor which can in some situations be very effective and may even put hedge funds out of business. But not only so. GameStop was in fact a classic case of a business going bust due to severe economic conditions and competition by bigger businesses like Amazon. It was shorted aggressively and greedily by hedge funds who were fought back by a retail army who loved their brand. This was a very rare occasion in history where the small fish gathered together and successfully exerted their power in the stock market. Now, of course, the retail guys could have been front-run by the insiders who manage of the plumbing of the system, but no one can deny that this event actually happened just like no one can deny that hedge funds and rich people have been buying billions of Dollars of Bitcoin from small fish who bought in early when hardly anyone wanted to buy it, creating as a result what may be described as one of the biggest wealth transfer events from rich to poor in recent history.

Just because wealth re-distribution doesn’t necessarily abolish capitalism as Mandel said it doesn’t mean it isn’t emancipatory. For many years people have fought for their right to be represented in parliament and be able to vote. When everyone was eventually able to vote, social legislation became more popular. Nowadays, we see more people wanting to participate in the financial markets and many of them feel entitled to make money out of it – this is good. Eventually financial markets will also change due to the increased popular participation and they are already changing – case in point is Bitcoin and crypto-currency. As more and more young people come into the financial markets, the political, financial and economic aspects of the financial system will also change. I’m not saying it will change for the good, but this is history in the making and refusing to accept is akin to once again ignoring the aspirations of ordinary people. The financial system is run by bankers, bureaucrats and big capitalists who set the rules of the game in their favour, but, if thanks to the internet and the democratisation and profusion of knowledge ordinary people are becoming well versed in financial markets, and in some cases even beating hedge funds, then that’s welcome. This will not bring more injustice to the world. So, instead of admonishing young people for trying to get rich from the stock market aby condemning them as “allies of oppressive capital”, socialists should be trying to make sure that many more ordinary people owned assets and even more power in the financial markets. It’s like Proudhon has taken over the left and the moralistic disengagement from the system is the only way out. This idea is absurd and would be equivalent to ask workers to refuse to join trade-unions because they compromise with capitalists. I’m pretty well sure that both Marx and Lenin thought that a tangible improvement in the workers’ life is way much more valuable than a hundred political programmes. Disengaging with the system to adopt moralising platitudes will give you just that: the bleating of age-old slogans. After all, even the British left realised very well in 2010 that engaging with the system, joining Labour and voting in elections is the best way to effect positive and progressive change.

To conclude, Marx’s most famous adage in The German Ideology applies, but the left has once again entered the trap of idealistic remorse. It’s as if the left is stuck in Plato’s post-modern cave creating ideas which are not really applicable outside, a disenfranchised character in a novel by Camus or the woman in the dunes of Hiroshi Teshigahara, resigned to live in the sand for ever. And this is very unfortunate with its results apparent to everyone – the left in the periphery of power while the right keeps winning more and more.

The Return of the Jedi

In 2010, when Europe was going through austerity and lost the social contract it had upheld ever since the end of the Second World War, when UK university tuition fees were increased and during the hype of Occupy Wall Street, Slavoj Zizek made his most important discourse ever. He extolled the Leninist virtues of taking power amongst a large crowd of young, angry, left-wing kids who saw ahead of them a bleak future of economic recession with no political leadership. The Socialist Workers Party which had organised the festival, lost its credibility with a rape scandal and most of the young people who attended that 2010 debate, eventually, joined Ken Loach’s political movement which debated the way forward for the left. Then, they ended up joining the Labour Party, helped Jeremy Corbyn get elected and became Labour front-liners. It was obvious by then to the young left-wing idealists that the only possible way to change the world was to take power and power was transferred through the vote.

Enter Satoshi

You had to be fucking crazy to buy Bitcoin at 100 Dollars. I had friends back then who were mining it in their bedrooms. It sounded like an experimental game by a bunch of highly-intelligent computer nerds who were building their own financial eco-system. Give me a break. I had too much interesting stuff to read back then to get remotely interested in an article describing a peer-to-peer financial eco-system which was being used to buy illegal stuff on the internet. Back then this kind of stuff was all over the place and we used peer-to-peer software to share our files and music with each other. There were so many experiments, so many new things coming up that Bitcoin was just one of the many. But then many things started happening. Young people were suddenly finding it difficult to buy homes. The cost of education was rising fast and many traditional industries were shedding jobs. Many of the new jobs that were being created seemed to be low-paid – the Gig Economy – they called it. Today, I read with astonishment stories of nurses and academics who have to do sex-work to get-by.

For me it was always obvious that traditional Keynesian economics did no longer make sense in today’s conditions, so I never really understood why economists kept harping about deflation. Does the correlation between employment figures and the rise of prices actually mean anything at all since the 1970s petro-crisis? Why do we keep deluding ourselves we are living in a deflationary world when the quality of life and purchasing power of young people is drastically less than their parents? Does it actually make sense to keep discussing traditional economic principles on inflation when your purchasing power is eaten away by housing and you can’t save for your retirement? I’m sorry, but the argument on the transfer of wealth from the boomers to the millennials does not provide any consolation. Boomers didn’t need their parents wealth to achieve a financially prosperous life.

Apparently, the only hope of the bureaucrats of Europe is China. The Chinese are supposedly going to buy so much stuff from us that we are going to pay off our debts. Economic recovery will surely ensue. Europe’s next UNESCO cultural heritage nominee is going to be a Louis Vuitton hand-bag (maybe they already did it, who knows?). But then, Bitcoin bottomed at around 3000 Dollars and then started climbing up. So, like the sheep, that I am, I read the white-paper only because many other people were taking it very seriously, and after reading the white-paper, I realised that Satoshi really had something going on there.

The Return of the Jedi

Trump in power. Bernie out of the game. Corbyn humiliated. Merkel as the aging complacent conservative who does deals with dictators while the European house is in shambles. Macron as the young-shining light of Europe? Maybe, but really nothing is changing. Except that our energy is getting slightly cleaner and a bit better. Ok. But other than that? How has your life changed for the better? What did the European leaders do for us? Much of this rhetoric can be applied elsewhere, especially the US. People would like to live better lives and see a better world for their children and no one is giving it to them. So, suddenly, people are finding ways to change the world by themselves outside the traditional spheres of power and Bitcoin is one of them. No, it is not going to solve the world’s problems, but it is and it has, transferred wealth from the rich to the poor. If you are not paying attention, then I’m sorry, but I am not going to bother to source the references and do the research for you. It’s too late and there has been too many drinks passing around to do that. Hedge funds are a dying breed and have been closing down while retail investors have been beating Wall Street ever since the pandemic begun. Now, central banks are fretting and getting worried that they are losing control of the financial system. They hate Bitcoin and don’t want young kids dictating stock valuations while they squeeze out hedge funds from their shorts.

They say that quantative easing creates bank reserves and doesn’t cause inflation nor does it affect market valuations. Sure. That’s why the stock market bubble is solely being pumped by the retail trader in one’s bedroom. I’m not so sure. Maybe the correlation between the money-supply and the stock-market does actually make sense and has some interesting significance to what’s going on in the economy. Our debt keeps growing, public expenditure keeps sky-rocketing and yet economic growth is subdued. These are not the consequences of the pandemic – we’ve been going through this ever since the financial crash of 2007 and if anything the pandemic has just exacerbated the cycle of stagnant economic growth.

With no political leadership to look up to, and nothing new in the economic horizon, Bitcoin just keeps making more sense. If we don’t have the opportunity to be involved in a political movement which actually aspires and aims to change the world, we have no choice but to change the world ourselves. We can start with the financial system itself which actually serves, as of today and first and foremost as a casino for those who already own assets ( and those who do, generally own lots of them). Bitcoin can serve as a decentralised financial system which can be rather difficult to control and transfer some of that wealth back to those who have no assets. Our parents had the opportunity to own interest on their savings through bonds. The advent of crypto-exchanges which provide lending services and interest payments against crypto-currency is a total game-changer in the world of finance. Theoretically, crypto-currency, is actually and really making banks obsolete. I really did not see this coming when Bitcoin was 100 Dollars. And neither did I see coming the young nerds defending their favourite companies by buying their stocks and squeezing out hedge funds’ shorts. If only the big book-publishing bosses (mostly, old and white men) stopped ingratiating with Amazon and took a dose of courage from the young kids today, we’d have a better book industry.

The long march in the mountains

Do you know how revolutions were made back then? Mao Tse-tung lived in the mountains and had to march armies through mountains and rivers. Lenin and the Bolsheviks lived for many years in shabby apartments in Europe, struggling to survive on donations while writing pamphlets of communist insurrection. Eventually they all had to fight or die. As of now, today, politics seems more civilised. People are becoming ever more aware of the power of the vote and when the vote fails alternatives are being sought. Usually, we are not very quick to realise about the historic changes we go through. It’s like when the city you live in is changing block by block and you only become aware of the change when the whole sky-line has become completely different from what it used to be.

I don’t think we live in a deflationary world and I don’t even think the word itself makes sense in the current economic context we live in. We live in a very rapidly-changing world, for good or for worse and many economic concepts of the past are no longer applicable. Bread and eggs aren’t getting cheaper either. Seriously. I’ll start believing I live in a deflationary environment when people buying stuff at the supermarket don’t actually need to check their exact quantities in fear of exceeding their budget for possibly defaulting on their credit card.

Let’s get this straight – no one ever said capitalism wasn’t productive. Back in the bleak days of the Victorian era, Marx was astonished at the riches that capitalism could produce only to be dismayed by how, despite these riches, most people lived in poverty and grueling conditions. The great change came after the Second-World War with the new social contract. Now, as we lose that contract, we are desperately looking for a new world and a new paradigm. It’s going to be a very long march.

God’s Magical Formula – ONE and NET

In the short-story “The Writing of the God” by Borges, God writes a magical formula to ward off a big calamity which would befall humanity in the future. The formula is stored secretly in perpetuity and would eventually be accessed by a chosen one.

Maltese political parties don’t need this magical formula. They have TV stations to ward off big calamities. Highly-calibrated machines oiled by construction money which will constantly pump a tirade of bollocks to their viewers presented as news, information and political commentary. If you want a political career, you don’t need principles, back-bone, education, and some real life-experiences which provide you with enough wisdom to lead the people’s interest in parliament – you can just go and shill yourself on your party’s TV station pretending to give a damn, and eventually you will get an advantage over the ones whose physical appearance disqualifies them from being TV presenters by the station’s board-rooms. Lovin Malta objects. They have filed a constitutional case arguing TV stations go against impartiality rules as prescribed in the constitution article 119.

Chris Peregin, the young stalwart who launched a successful online news portal while the traditional media houses were running into big financial challenges, has picked up a gargantuan fight against party-TV stations, namely ONE and NET which are owned by the Labour Party and the Nationalist Party respectively.

I’m compelled to write about this because I have authored various Maltese laws on free speech and have been vociferous on this cause for some time. Some of my friends want to know what I think about all of this, so, now they may know.

First of all, sorry Chris, but fat chance party TV-stations will close down or stop serving as propaganda machines. The Constitution is not a Godly-secret magical-formula – it is a malleable document and political parties will get together to change it if it transpires that it may not serve their interests. So even if the case is won, I don’t see any way party TV-stations would ever start being impartial. In addition, political parties will retain their right to free speech even if their speech is impartially-bullocks and they will fight for their right to propagate it in any way possible.

But, and this is a big but, the case does put a dent into the political status quo which currently incentivises corruption and outright nepotism. The problem with party TV-stations is not an issue about free-speech and convoluting the issue on these grounds will make us miss the woods for the trees.

Chris is right in arguing that ONE and NET incentivise corruption in politics because they are bankrupt and depend on construction money. The only way Karl Stagno-Navarra gets to go on ONE to ingratiate with corrupt politicians and defend their antics is because someone like Sandro Chetcuti is willing to go to the Labour Party headquarters and hand over wads of cash. Of course, the Sandro Chetcutis who do this are only doing so because they want something in return from the Government.

So, the more bankrupt ONE and NET are, the more entangled will the political parties become with the corrupt construction industry. Things took a slippery slope when the Panama scandal broke out. ONE turned into a festival of corruption-apologetics where corruption and grave political misconduct were justified on a daily basis and cheered on by the likes of Karl Stagno Navarra to the amusement of die-hard Party supporters. Thanks to ONE, there can never be a bad Labourite politician. Even during the November-December political-crisis of 2019, top ONE executives like Jason Micallef had no shame in allowing these apologetics to continue still. And guess who was a main fixture at ONE during those trying times, when the good men and women of Labour were screaming and hitting at Joseph Muscat to resign immediately – the darling of the construction industry Robert Musumeci who wrote a construction policy so friendly to the industry that it allowed it to destroy people’s homes with impunity. Of course, Musumeci made money out of the self-serving fabricated rules he himself helped create.

Imagine Mintoff coming back to life just to see all the PN-rejects conglomerating on ONE to defend the corruption of their fellow Labour political masters. Houston we have a problem – things really look messed up. Apparently, the new Deputy-Leader of the Labour Party, Daniel Micallef, is very happy about this situation. Let’s show them. We’re here to stay, he said. What’s staying Daniel? All the corrupt Nationalists who joined Labour because they saw in Joseph Muscat a corrupt master who could give them what Gonzi didn’t?

It’s about time we realise that party TV-stations are a serious and structural problem in our political status quo. No, I’m not saying that the party should not do propaganda. I’m neither saying that a party should not have its own TV station. But clearly, the situation is gravely messed up and if you are proud of this situation you may as well be totally dumb. It is clearly not in the interest of the Labour Party nor of the Government nor of the general public to have a publicly-funded party TV station which is compromised by corrupt money. Something here has to give. Otherwise, we’ll keep celebrating the trash-fest ONE has become with all its PN rejects lining up to its studio to show their faces and make sure their ingratiation is delivered and broadcasted wide and clear for the assurance of their new political masters.

Look. I’m just bringing up the PN-rejects as an example. The problem here is twofold: a non-commercially viable entity which depends on corrupt money for its existence and thus compromises its political owners, and secondly, the fact that both ONE and NET have no compunction in using their arsenal to further incentivise corruption by defending their corrupt politicians.

But ONE is also reflective of the state of the Labour Party itself. By now, all the failed PN rejects have joined in and have become regular fixtures on ONE: Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, Ian Castaldi Paris, Robert Musumeci, Jean-Claude Micallef and more. No surprises here why Musumeci was so adamant to defend Joseph Muscat during the Nov-Dec crisis. These people have no principles – they are opportunists and morally corrupt and Labour is having too much of them. ONE gives them a platform.

Meanwhile, as ONE sucks all the money from the Labour Party’s coffers, I can’t get party top-brass to continue investing in the Party Library and archives, an investment which was cut-off as soon as Gino Cauchi stopped being Party CEO. My lament is finally recorded but it is only one of the many deficits of Labour Party. Too much attention, energy and money is wasted to keep ONE running while the Party is left abandoned only to be wrecked and invaded by the PN rejects looking for some silver.

Clearly, the situation needs change. If political parties are immature enough to refuse change, there’s nothing wrong in forcing change from without. So, although I don’t agree with Chris’ view on the case he instituted, I still bid him Godspeed and good luck. If the case doesn’t serve its purpose, it will at least threaten an institution which is actually harmful to our society.

The Pathetic Trolling of Yorgen Fenech’s Lawyers

Today, Juliette Galea, one of Yorgen Fenech’s lawyers messaged me privately on Facebook to supposedly teach me why the publics inquiry on The State’s Involvement in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia should be shut down.

Naturally, I told her to shove her and Yorgen’s letter up her arse.

I then posted the conversation publicly on Facebook and she came back saying I should be fired from the National Book Council.

I retorted by saying that she could kiss my glorious, brown Marxist ass.

She then reported the Facebook post and it was deleted. For the sake of posterity I’m posting the screenshots here, safe from the censorship of big tech.

Please also note that Facebook has blocked me from making any posts right now.

The Empire Strikes Back

Joe Biden’s election victory has brought a great sense of relief in the cold and bland corridors of power. Diplomats and politicians were relieved, the stock market went to an all-time high, and businesses hope they will be spared the excessive volatility which is brought by an impulsive, erratic and incompetent President. Fukuyama’s “end of history” is finally back, but is it, really?

Ottoman Emperor Suleiman the Magnificent

Trump’s America-First Policy was meant to re-gain jobs lost to China and to bring the troops back home, but this policy failed to materialise. It seems that the trade-deficit with China is still at the level where Trump entered office , while electronic-components industries moving out of China went to India and and Vietnam instead of the US. On the other hand, US troops are still stationed in many parts of the world even if their level of engagement has been reduced significantly. Trump did successfully increase the diplomatic leverage over China by targeting Huawei and putting a dent in its wheels over security grounds, but the Chinese dragon reared its ugly head, still, by increasing its bullying manoeuvres against its neighbours over territorial claims.

As the pandemic steals our attention, overlooked is the fact that as Trump leaves office, the hubris left behind him is a world where the dictator has been empowered. We have always imagined the literary narrative of a dystopia which comes from within, but gradually and unconsciously we are also moving in a world where democracy is made more fragile by exterior forces while dictators gain the upper-hand in the geo-political game.

Back to the past. The Anti-War coalition in 2003, which propelled the political career of Jeremy Corbyn to the top-class of the political game, brought the anti-American sentiment to the mainstream of politics. Back then it was easy to hate George W. Bush and Tony Blair and after Iraq was ruined, the verdict was sealed that American-intervention brings more harm than good. So we thought. By then the memories of the the Second World War and the invasion of Normandy were fading. And Trump capitalised on this. Bring back the troops home. Let’s not fight any useless wars he said.

Meanwhile, 150,000 Armenians living in the disputed region of Artsakh are at the risk of getting murdered. But Europe, flush with Azerbaijani oil-cash doesn’t bat an eyelid. Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, flexes his imperial Ottoman muscle with impunity leaving trails of Kurdish and Armenian bodies behind. He’s in Syria, Artsakh and in Libya too. In 2011 French warplanes flew across the Mediterranean and prevented a massacre in Benghazi by bombing Ghaddafi’s military hardware. What has changed? Seems like a lifetime ago.

“The end of history” is ending with the return of the dictator. The anti-war and anti-American narrative spurned by the abuses and violent and imperial ways of an outdated oil-industry during the Iraq War, was then appropriated by dictators across the world. The left in Europe, idiotically enough, empowered these dictators with this narrative by pressing a local politics insulated from the dangers of the world. Dictators who rule with a bloody iron-fist suddenly began victims. The world has changed dramatically since the end of the Cold War, but some people still don’t get it. Our leaders are stuck in a Byzantine bureaucracy of paper-comfort and delusional expectations. A free-world doesn’t come free. Freedom in Europe was only possible after Hitler’s armies were crushed in the freezing Soviet-East.

So, let’s say Erdogan is allowed to pursue his imperial ambitions in the Mediterranean and the Near East. What next? Hitler was allowed to run riot in Europe for six years before it dawned on European leaders that he was going to ruin the world and massacre millions of people. They even gave him their seal of approval by signing off his supposedly-innocent ambitions with the Treaty of Munich in 1938. The complacency today is uncannily similar.

As Europe becomes the old and sick man of the world, its neighbours become increasingly dangerous and aggressive. We’re sitting out these events thinking that nothing will come back to bite us. Foolish and naïve I would say. There was a time when European leaders envisioned a worldly-utopia of world-peace and worked to create a framework to bring it about in reality. Today, the Cold-War geo-political defense institutions are outdated. Turkey, a country which is pursuing imperial ambitions and massacring people in the process is a NATO member, and we, Europeans, have to supposedly trust it with our defence and consider it as a defensive ally.

At the very Far East, China too is flexing its muscle. It wants parts of the Indian border, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the South China Sea and god knows what else. It’s open season for the strong and mighty, and the weaker ones have to stick with it. China wants to be the world global-leader, but on what grounds? Because they have the biggest population in the world, get it? The more people we are, the more we get to rule. We give our people a dictatorship and to the world we give a popular-democracy categorised by ethnic groups. So, the Chinese will always win, cos they are the majority. Game over.

Not so fast. America is back, Biden said. Is the world-police back too? Or did it retire? Who’s going to rule the world now? Let’s not get so enamoured with multi-polarity. The First World War was a disaster because of a multi-polar world of empires that balanced each other, eventually to their death. Did the nuclear deterrent of the Cold-War keep the peace? Maybe. But putting our bets on world peace with nuclear-weapons seems a bit risky.

Trump got one thing right for sure, but his execution was pitiful. Leveraging the US economy and the US Dollar actually works because Dollars are needed for trade and everyone needs to access the biggest economy. Trump did this by himself, went in it alone and even alienated his allies. Under Trump, the West could no longer function as a single international-political block. Biden can bring this back.

This is a basic reality which even the dictators from China to Turkey will admit. They need the European and American markets more than we need theirs. They also need Dollars or at least Euros to transact internationally and their currencies are dependent on the whims of our economies and central banks. As the Turkish Lira craters, guess to what currencies the Turks are turning to? It’s Dollars and Euros, and crypto-currency helps them do this.

Let’s be very simplistic here. Let’s say we create a new utopia where bloody hands can’t get access to Euros and Dollars. Fantastic. Erdogan can buy his bombers, drones and missiles from Russia and the Russians and Chinese may very well transact only in their own currencies. A new alternative political-block is created where the Ruble and the Yuan are the main currencies and countries like Iran, Turkey, Syria and Venezuela are members of this block. Do you really think that this is a feasible idea? Here is where the problem lies. This idea is only feasible as long as this block of countries has access to Euros and Dollars. It is already happening but since it is happening in front of our own eyes it may be even harder to realise its existence. Merkel even wants to buy more gas from Russia, and hindsight always comes too late.

So, one on side the West is fragmented and without any sturdy leadership, vision and guidance while alternatively a block of dictators are ganging up to run the world on their own terms. Let’s not get too hyperbolic though. This is not Rome is burning while the barbarians are at the gates. We’re already intermeshed with trade and legal structures. We’re living in a single civilised world with some dictators running amok with impunity. The scenario is very different from that of the Cold War.

Europe and the US have the authority and the power to incentivise world-peace with the right economic and monetary incentives, but it’s a mixture of factors like corruption, incompetency and short-term gains which are dragging us down to complacency. We know very-well how this turns out though. After the massacres in the Balkans it was already very clear that NATO was defunct and our post-World War structures which were meant to guarantee peace had failed. Today, we can sit on our fence and take a look at the massacres being perpetuated on the other side of the horizon and then watch the same murderers coming to our banks to cash-out their blood money.

It is, after all, also in our self-interest to ensure that we are not leveraged by neighbouring dictators who are easily prone to push the button. If international trade and politics are increasingly being dictated by the barrel of the gun we are now at a considerable disadvantage given that Europe has long stopped being a despotic-coloniser and our defense capabilities are, relatively, practically down to 0. The European Union has many problems but at least we didn’t invade Britain when the Brits voted to leave the Union. Sounds funny, right? Well Putin did just that in 2014 with Ukraine despite the fact that he had previously ensured to uphold the Kharkiv Pact supposedly-ensuring Ukraine’s autonomy over its territory and affairs. Practically, Ukraine has been forced to remain fixed with a Russian-trading framework against the potential and alternative choices which Ukrainians had at their disposal. For now, the Ukrainians can no longer chose.

But we’re weak and incompetent. Erdogan scares us by theatening us to flood us with Syrian immigrants. Bring them on the leader with a vision would have said, and we’ll cut your Euros gradually until you start bleeding to death. Our cowering today will cost multiple bombings and deaths tomorrow. And then who knows what the dictators will do next? As long as they have impunity, they can do anything.

On the case of the “Nazi” actress

After reading Magistrate’s Rachelle Montebello’s sentence on Pia Zammit vs It-Torċa, I have some remarks to make.

Imagine gently provided by

The Court found It-Torċa’s editor, Victor Vella, not guilty of libel for a front-page story implying that Pia Żammit, an actress, was a Nazi sympathiser. The implication was made with a picture of her wearing a Nazi-uniform on the front-page of the newspaper and an ensuing article complaining that the actress was making a light-hearted and funny gesture with a Nazi-uniform without mentioning the fact that the actress was wearing the uniform specifically for a play.

Basically, what the magistrate concluded was that the newspaper made a legitimate value-judgement instead of publishing an explicit defamatory statement which is conveyed as a state of fact.

Now, the magistrate may have some very good reasons why the Media and Defamation Act may have not been able to provide the tools for a guilty judgement. The judgment may also be advantageous to the press in general. After all, the advantages of having a liberal-libel regime greatly offsets the disadvantages of having a tight-legal regime which can easily find its defendants guilty. So, in actual fact, and admittedly, the magistrate may have, unwittingly, made a favour to the media in general.

However, there are problems with the magistrate’s sentence and I would not have interpreted the case like her. The judge considered It-Torċa’s piece as a value-judgment and an honest opinion in contrast to a state of fact. The problem with this distinction here is that It-Torċa had clearly implied, even explicitly I would say, despite the editor’s acrobatic manner of delivering it, that the author is a Nazi. Therefore, the newspaper tried to sell the fact that the actress is a Nazi. After all, it is also a state of fact that It-Torċa made reference to an actress as a Nazi without alluding to her acting role. And surely, this was not an honest opinion given that the author knew very well that the actress was wearing the Nazi-uniform for a play, while deliberately not mentioning this fact. It is a deceitful opinion with the intention to deceive and libel on misconstrued facts. I can make many value-judgements which can be relative to the case of affairs, context, philosophies and ideas too. Back in my university-days, when I published the fictional-story, “Li Tkisser Sewwi”, the Nationalists were accusing me and the author of promoting pedophilia. We didn’t sue. We told them to fuck off, but you get my point.

One may debate the distinction between values and facts, but value-free judgments are also hard to come by, and values may be attributable to state of facts with clear implications. The value of being a Nazi comes with a proven and commonly-known criteria of beliefs which have direct and real impacts on society. But, and maybe, the problem here is neither with the law nor with the magistrate, but the entity which is abusing the law’s emphasis on objectivity by circumventing it with not so much ambiguous implications. It’s like stealth libel or what is recently called “fake news”.

The context of the medium should also be considered. It-Torċa is not a newspaper or journal: it is PR-machine for the bad elements of government masquerading as the General Workers’ Union’s independent newspaper. It’s more of a cesspit of fascist diatribes and authoritarian threats than a newspaper. Apart from defending on a consistent basis corrupt government ministers, It-Torċa has, also, on a consistent basis, defamed and libeled artists, journalists and activists in the most vindictive manner possible and many of these people aren’t even public persons. To add insult to injury, It-Torċa, is fully subsidised by the government. Government bank-rolled the Union in 2013 by renting its premises in Paola while the Union supports its press with its resources and personnel. Add up the government-sponsored adverts and you end up with a PR machine which is fully-subsidised by the government.

I write this with sadness, of course, because I had a very good relationship with Union Press. I used to sell my stuff to It-Torċa during my years as a free-lance writer. I was also a regular client at their printing press and also brought them many other clients. I was good money for them and I used to be happy with that knowing I am supporting a workers’ press. All of this changed when Labour entered office in 2013 and editors, Union officials, and people like me who actually brought value at the Union and its press moved on to government-jobs. We were not replaced with younger stalwarts, (Sandro Mangion made a brief stint and left soon after), but with Labour Party and government cronies without any values and principles who were ready to publish anything they were fed. Victor Vella, the current editor is one of these mercenaries. He is the kind of person who will prostrate in front of the powerful-all-to-be because that’s the only thing he knows. At L-Orizzont, Josef Caruana had already degenerated into a fascist-punk bullying other journalists for covering government-corruption. I don’t think the Union Press will change its ways either because its editors today don’t know any better and Union leaders also don’t have the will to use their means of communication in the interests of their members and workers in general. Artists, journalists and writers have always been associated with workers in their daily-economic struggles and the Union should strive to fight for their interests too.

It always better to err on the side of caution, so once again the magistrate may have done the media a favour by delivering this verdict. On the other hand, I’m also convinced the law does provide the necessary tools to define the matter of this case as libelous. It is an untruth to describe an artist as the character he or she is trying to portray. Imagine an author writing a first-person fictional account of a guy who kills the Prime Minister. In his role as servant to the ultimate master, Victor Vella would probably launch a tirade on how an author is planning to kill the Prime Minister. Is that libelous? Maybe not. Is taking the artist’s work literally and implying it as a state of fact libelous? Is a man a pedophile for playing the act of a pedophile in a play? I think that may be more libelous than not.

Reforming the book industry

Everything we have done at the National Book Council since 2013 has gravitated around one single and main objective: to boost the revenue streams of the publishing industry stakeholders, giving priority to publishers and authors.

In order to achieve this, we had to develop a roadmap which first of all involved rebuilding the entity itself. From a starting budget of €50,000 a year and one employee, we developed to a team of seven employees and an annual budget of €1 million a year, excluding salaries and capital expenditure.

The most obvious and immediate challenge was to renovate the annual book fair, which we rebranded into the Malta Book Festival. This was an outstanding success, as year after year the Festival went on to consistently hit all-time record sales.

Meanwhile, we started building a legal framework on par with EU standards, which was also meant to increase revenue streams. We introduced Public Lending Rights at our public libraries, and we are currently lobbying the University of Malta to adopt the same legal framework to introduce a PLR scheme at its Melitensia section. We are positive that an agreement will be found with the University of Malta and that they will comply with EU law under our direction.

Having built the entity’s financial and adminitrative foundations, we then started a legal process to reform the book industry and bring it into line with EU standards. We introduced a legal notice to formally regulate the National Book Council. This was only the start, as in 2018 we initiated a very long consultation process with our stakeholders meant to implement the necessary legal reforms.

After lengthy consultations with publishers, in 2019, the National Book Council convened the first ever National Congress of Authors, where more than 150 authors had showed their support to the bills being proposed. It is the first time in our history that book industry stakeholders mediated between each other to find a common ground and adopt a coherent policy on their legal and financial affairs.

This process was concluded in August 2020, when two bills have been drawn up and published: a bill which which would give the National Book Council the autonomy it deserves, and the copyright reform bill which will transpose the EU Copyright Directive on the Digital Single Market. The former bill is a consolidation of the already existing legal notice, while the latter will introduce new legal rights for publishers, authors and also press publishers.

Simultaneously, we drew up a legal notice, which has been approved by the Ministry of Finance, to introduce tax incentives for publishers and authors. This financial reform will give publishers a 100% tax break on all royalties paid to authors, while simultaneously make authors’ royalty payments tax free. The long-term plan is to eventually create a publishing tax-free industry, which would not only alleviate the local industry, but hopefully also attract foreign publishers to set up house in Malta and bring in foreign direct investment into our industry and our country.

As of now, the new post-Muscat government administration has refused to acknowledge the parliamentary bills. It is surprising how the government has taken this position notwithstanding the huge support of the industry’s stakeholders. The government should be reminded that it is the National Book Council’s legal obligation to adopt such positions publicly and push for the Government to act.

Additionally, the Ministry of Economy is not only ignoring the National Book Council’s position and requests (through which we represent the publishing industry stakeholders), but it is also forging ahead to arbitrarily impose the transposition of the EU Copyright Directive without our consultation.

Our position on this matter is clear. The Ministry for the Economy, with its politically appointed copyright board, does not have the legitimacy nor the expertise to arbitrarily impose any legal reforms on the publishing industry.

Instead, what should happen for the sake of the industry and the arts industry in general is very clear: the copyright board should be disbanded and the National Book Council should take the lead in transposing the EU Copyright Directive.

This is the only way to create the appropriate structures for the Directive to be implemented through our bureaucratic system.

It would be wise to avoid an approach similar to the conservative government in the UK where the art industries are treated with an unrealistic and detached approach. The government should be aware that the publishing industry is not only providing a net contribution to the economy, but it is crucial for the educational, intellectual and cultural development of our society.

Allowing legal reforms to be implemented by bureaucrats who have no expertise in the field will spell disaster not only for our industry, but ultimately for our society.

I sincerely hope the government comes to term with the necessity of taking the matter at hand with the serious approach it deserves.

We have made our demands in a diplomatic and amicable manner, so the government has no excuses or claims of being under fire by our industry. It is actually us who are currently under fire, without the government’s support and with no recognition whatsoever during the hardest-ever economic crisis in our industry’s history.

The great wealth transfer from poor to rich. The great reset.

We are going through a wide-systematic reset where the current capitalist system is changing to the extent that a new world-order will be formed. Unfortunately, this won’t be like the previous resets in history. Previous systematic changes to the political-economic structure of the world were of great benefit to common people. When feudalism started collapsing in the 14th century, serfs were getting freed and the right to private property began to be shared by an increasing number of people. Capitalism had brought riches and opportunities, but eventually common people challenged the system once again to usher in socialism and build a society which is more just to them. We have seen since the Second World War in Western Europe the rise of socialist policies which had subdued the excesses of capitalism and created a fairer society thanks to free healthcare, free education, meritocracy, social mobility, decent working conditions, anti-rent-seeking measures etc…. Today we are experiencing a historical phenomenon in the other direction, that is a reset which will benefit the elite rather than the common people. This reset is effecting one of the greatest wealth transfer events from poor to rich in recorded history.

It’s all in the banks

The European Central Bank is following in the footsteps of the Federal Reserve in handling the economic crisis: quantitative easing. It’s the magical solution. Just like an intern in her first days of work, the European central banker, clueless, bewildered, and overwhelmed with the juggernaut of history, opted for the quick, copy and paste solution of the big boss. It’s what everyone does in the first days of a job after all. When in doubt, do the same thing your peers are doing. Then Merkel and Macron came up with their 750 billion Euro bazooka and the Euro broke its years-long downward trend and is now shooting up as if the sky is the limit. At face-value, everything seems to be working. Europe has made it.

But we know how this story ends because we’ve been here already. With the previous quantitative easing programmes initiated by Draghi “whatever it takes to save the Euro”, Europe did not lurch back into economic growth, on the contrary, the economic cycle upwards quickly ran out of steam and as of last year we were wondering whether Germany will remain an economic power-hub as its industry faltered and economic growth in Europe subsided. The peripheral countries such as Greece, Italy and Spain remained loaded in debt and austerity and their youths fled to other countries  scrambling for jobs. Only Eastern Europe which most of it had not yet joined the Euro was picking up some steam as factories and manufactures rushed there for the cheaper labour. Now, we add to the debt and artificially inflate stock prices higher while hoping that economic growth will surge organically given an increased money supply and higher liquidity in the financial system. The only thing missing from this equation is reality itself. If we would have had some empirical evidence which showed a strong correlation between job creation and quantitative easing then it would have been easier. But we will have the new Green Deal for that. Ok. So the jobs are coming with investments in energy and infrastructure which we will fund with more debt, and which we would then have to pay for with more jobs that are created by the multiplier effect. It’s like playing a poker game which never ends, given you can buy-in again every time you lose your money, hoping that one day you’ll get a royal flush and go home a total winner. Debts cancelled and austerity ended. We’ve won. The only snag in this game plan is that poker players who keep losing will probably keep losing even more.

Put it simply, Italy, Greece and Spain will not pay their debt. So if we can get a free buy-in, why can’t we take the money and stop playing, instead? This is exactly what private banks, central bankers, big corporations want to avoid. You’ve got to play the game with their rules. Small manufacturers who had their cash-flow dried up are getting 2.5% interest on their emergency loans delaying by default, any capital investment they would do in the future. Small businesses are stuck in a rut while the big boys get to play with free money. Subsidising a failed European banking system to keep a dysfunctional system afloat. Why would central bankers and government officials change the game-plan if there are no riots in the streets and everyone seems to be happy in the Euro’s gilded prison?

But at the end of the day, we Europeans will get the thinner end of the stick. Amazon has devoured the retail space and crushed the profit-margins of many. Google, and Facebook suck up the advertising revenue and the culture and press-publishing industry is decimated. Will manufacturing make a comeback? Maybe, but if the whole world is in tatters and their currencies are debased who will buy our stuff? But maybe we are asking the wrong questions because the problems are innate in a system. From seeking to build meritocracy and social mobility as prescribed in in the European Social charter of the 1960s, the system now feeds money to the rich and locks the masses in austerity and a jobless economy. So much for the overblown balance sheet of the Central Bank: small businesses still have no cash-flow. There’s no rabbit coming out of the hat. If we want an economy which creates jobs we have to make cheap capital available to small businesses, but we’re not doing that. Lower-interest rates come only if you are big enough and then we put all the risk on the ordinary mortals eventually suffering mos of the consequences of austerity and a slow-growth economy. So why don’t we change the game then?  Let’s play chess instead of poker. Drop the quantitative easing textbook, restructure the debt-spaghetti monster and unlock capital for a productive economy with 0.1% interest rate to small businesses and households.

Who will change the system?  

The left in Europe was mostly represented in the international media by Jeremy Corbyn. The new wave of millennials who were dejected by the capitalist machine with university fees and property prices too expensive to own and live in. Sadly, the millennials will not get a break. Corbyn’s project was a rotten failure and was as bad as to lose votes from core Labour constituents who had voted Labour on a generational basis. What a fucking mess. We knew how it would end up, but we were too hopeful and high on idealism to admit it. Corbyn was the left’s biggest disappointment after Tsipras. But the British left seems to have learnt nothing at all from this experience and remains stuck in this fantasy-reality of 1970s anti-US imperialism. So, now they’ve got Keir Starmer and they hate him because he is not an Israeli-basher. We’ll see how this plays out.

On the other hand, Macron represents the European’s left compromised status-quo version. France with its overly-bloated government-spending system can keep its population afloat in this very difficult economic period, the question is for how long? Macron has no interest to change the system as long as France will have its cake and eat it. Then there is Sanchez who is too busy wheeling and dealing the internal divisive shenanigans of Spanish politics and has little time on his hands to even think about broad change in Europe. So, there’s no one out there fighting to change the system, and the dejected Southerners are turning to the far-right and populist politicians. They want to change the system themselves and the left is nowhere to be found.  Fascism rears its ugly head once again.

The left needs to remake itself. The fact that there is no progressive force in Europe mobilising and fighting for the plight of the ordinary and the dejected is terrifying. After-all we’ve seen this happening in the US already. The Democrats failed to relate to the working-class and here comes Trump – the real-estate moghul who can speak to the working-class. Bring back jobs. Open those oil and gas taps and pump it full-speed ahead. People don’t want to think what is going to happen to the environment and to the world in ten or twenty years time, for fuck’s sake they need to pay their mortgage in thirty days. Get those jobs running. And the left keeps hounding on universal basic income as if that was going to be relatable to the working-class. Basic income you say? Sure. Let’s automate all the jobs, and ship the rest to India and give to the dejected a universal basic income doing an unproductive job. No wonder make America great again. The left is speaking discourse of the socialism of the early nineteenth century and Marx has become a mere symbol. Forget about complex economics and finance. And what happened to the philosophy of economy? Fundamentals, fundamentals and fundamentals. The main fundamental philosophical and economic point of Marx in all of his work was that humanity is intelligent enough to distribute natural resources in a way in which everyone can work and earn value for their work in a meritocratic manner. Isn’t this the European Social Charter speaking? Everyone should have the right to achieve one’s ambitions, to eventually work the job they desire and earn a just and decent amount of money for that job. And the social-mobility? Where is that? No, now, we have universal basic income. The economy is too broken to fix. People’s hopes are being diminished and they feel that their previous lucrative jobs are not coming back again. Then go to these people and explain about the privilege and importance of staying in the EU.

 Trump was right 

Trump reduced taxes to the rich and bloated government debt to astronomical proportions. The US has become the epicentre of quantitative easing, pulling all other central banks into its orbit. The fact that global trade is transacted in Dollars, gives the US carte-blanche to print as many Dollars as they like. Trump did in fact make America great again, but of course, it’s not ordinary Americans who are benefiting from the largess of the Federal Reserve. More automation, universal-basic income cheques, and low-paying jobs coming your way. The US has now become the unstoppable Dollar printing-machine sucking in all the foreign currencies into its fold and creating immense amount of wealth to a very small number of people. Outside the US, those who don’t have Dollars or at least Euros, will lose the game. China has lost the new Cold War before it even had the opportunity to rev-up its engine. Now, its bullishness and excessive authoritarian behaviour will only make China’s fate even worse. The debate now is not who will out-run the US, but who will out-run China. It seems that India has a very good chance to do this, but in a longer-time-frame, I think Mexico has also a very good chance of catching up.

So, Trump did actually fulfill his promise. He made America great again and broke China’s back. There was only one big snag in the whole plan – it ignored the basic fundamental economic reality and Trump now risks losing the votes of his constituent working-class base. Are the George Floyd riots a turning-point? Maybe, but literally no one knows what is going to happen and what comes next may be even worse than what we already have. I find Zizek’s theory of inertia quite irresponsible and reality shows this. Trump hasn’t opened the gates for progressive radical change in the US on the contrary – he has created an unequal society at home which is more solidified than before and internationally he has brought the whole world into an uncharted-territory which we Europeans tried to avoid for many years by creating stability mechanisms, single-currency, multi-national political institution promoting world peace etc… etc…. Now we are in the abyss of uncertainty and there are no leaders to look up to. Make America Great Again has come at the price of the whole international financial system.

And they are not going to let it collapse. They are going to Draghi it to whatever it takes.  And as long as they issue the UBI cheques, they will hope that the system will keep floating and people don’t take to the streets with the pitchforks.

Why Fight Club Matters 

As a historian, I see works of art in their historical context. Literary critiques give literary and aesthetic interpretations. Fight Club to me is a work of art which represents the contemporary struggle of the dejected in the times of hyper-finalised-capitalism. It’s not about the cult of Tyler Durden, but rather a struggle of the dejected who have no leaders, no ultimate plan, no ultimate end – just pull everything down and start from ground 0. Then we will see. Ins’t this the same spirit which lead people to vote for the far-right? Donald Trump is the real Tyler Durden, maybe a right-wing version of him.

So, if we are lost on a political level we have to start from ground 0 and that is why we have to start with ourselves. We have to take care of each other and build our communities. And we have to ask ourselves many questions. Do we want to live in a world where Amazon is the retail oligopoly of the world? Do we want to live in a world with UBI or with an economy which produces productive jobs and enables social mobility? Let’s cut to the chase. The left doesn’t seem to be a player in the political game. It’s either the quantitative-easing status-quo or the far-right which may bring the whole system down or make it even worse. We don’t have many options.

So, what’s next? No one knows, but it will only take a very small flame to light the huge powder-keg of social problems which we are accumulating over time. We’re not ready for that. One, new and unexpected black swan to wobble the ship once more.

So what’s next? 

I don’t know why you ask, I don’t know. I am just a slave like you. I can only write as a historian. And I may be totally wrong of course. I hope so.

What’s the point of it all?

What’s the point of paying taxes and interest payments on loans if the central banks can print unlimited amounts of money with supposedly no consequences at all?

When Lehman Brothers crashed in 2007, they told us that bailing out the banks was not an acceptable solution.

Then they did just that and bailed out the banks.

Then they told us that debts and deficits had to be sustainable. Quantitative easing was here only temporally and the central bank’s balance sheet would eventually contract. No one would have to be bailed-out ever again.

Then they did just what they had been warning against for many years on end and went full-on Zimbabwe with quantitative easing, this time round, even buying junk bonds of private corporations.

Small businesses are still paying their interests on their loans and ordinary workers are out of work or living on unemployment benefits.

Meanwhile private banks keep making a profit, corporations get free money, and government’s get loaded up on debt paving the way for the new austerity.

Next time round they will eventually admit that all this debt is unsustainable and can not be paid. Bonds, like oil may become a liability eventually. But, even in this hypothetical scenario, it won’t be ordinary people who would be receiving the debt-jubilees I suspect.

More than 200 years after Karl Marx’s birthday it is still outstanding to see how the financial and banking system is strongly biased towards the haves, while the have-nots are locked-out from the largesse of central banks.