Observations of an expat: America on trial

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Donald Trump is on trial in the US Senate. The Republican Party is on trial. America is on trial. The likely verdicts are: Not Guilty, Guilty and Guilty.

This will undermine democratic values and the rule of law which underpins it. This is bad for America and bad for the world. The United States is more than a nation. It is also an idealised aspiration.

Trump is accused of inciting an insurrection. He is alleged to have provoked a mob to attack Capitol Hill in order to reverse an election in direct contravention his oath to “preserve and protect  the constitution.”

Prosecutors (aka House Managers) from the House of Representatives have laid before America’s senators what Republicans admit is a “compelling” case against the ex-president. But the smart betting is that they will still vote to acquit the president.

Trump did more than give an incendiary speech on 6 January. His crime was committed over several months. Before the election he prepared the ground for insurrection by claiming – without any evidence – that the mail-in voting system would result in massive fraud.

Then, as the vote went against him, Trump attempted to stop the count in key states. When the result was clear he refused to concede defeat and challenged the vote in 86 different court cases. He lost all but one. Trump still refused to concede and repeatedly tweeted the fraudulent lie that he was the victim of fraud.

He tried to bully Georgia’s top election official into fabricating 11,780 votes in that key state. He failed. Increasingly desperate, Trump demanded that Vice President Mike Pence reject the Electoral College vote when Congress convened on 6 January to certify the results. Pence refused. His oath to defend the constitution was more important than winning an election.

Trump now summoned his supporters – which included violent right-wing militia groups – to a Washington rally on 6 January while Congress met in its certification session.  The president exhorted them to “fight like Hell” to “Stop the Steal” and to “march up Pennsylvania Avenue” to Capitol Hill. His personal attorney Rudy Giuliani said it was time for “trial by combat.”

The mob acted as instructed.  They broke into the icon of American democracy and demanded the death of Vice President Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Five people died and 140 Capitol Hill policemen were injured.

Trump watched on television and did nothing. Terrified Republican Congressmen called him from a besieged Capitol begging him to call off the mob. He did nothing. His own staff begged him to stop the riot. He did nothing.  It took Trump three hours before he called on the rioters to stop, and then he described them as “patriots.”  Trump has yet to show any remorse for his role in the riot and continues to claim that the election was stolen.

Trump’s defense is that he was exercising his First Amendment right of Free Speech and cannot be held responsible for how others interpreted his words. Furthermore that Democrats are hypocrites because they had used the same or similar language. They also claim that the ex-president has been denied “due process” because witnesses weren’t called. And finally, that the trial is unconstitutional because it is being held after the president left office.

The House Managers have already rebutted these arguments. Trump knew the impact of his words. In the weeks before 6 January the FBI intercepted emails revealing right-wing militia plans to storm the Capitol. These plans were reported by the media and communicated to the White House. Trump could have used his speech to defuse the situation. Instead he pulled the trigger of a weapon that was primed and loaded.  Arrested rioters have told the FBI that they believed they were instructed by the president to storm the Capitol and that he would block their prosecution.

Democrat politicians have used intemperate language. But they were not the president. Their language was not a sustained effort aimed at subverting the constitution. It certainly did not result in the storming of the Capitol, five deaths and 140 serious injuries.

As for due process, the House Managers did not call witnesses because the witnesses are the congressmen who impeached the president and the senators sitting in judgement.

Donald Trump will almost certainly be acquitted because 17 Republican senators are needed to vote with the Democrats to reach the two-thirds majority required for a guilty verdict.

The latest opinion polls show 80 percent of America’s Republicans still support Trump. He is a vindictive person and is reported to have said that he will seek revenge against anyone who votes against him. Republican senators are scared. They are putting their jobs before their principles and before their oath to protect the constitution. They are guilty of cowardice and of breaking that solemn promise. The Republican Party is guilty because they support Trump and Republican senators.  American voters are guilty because they continue to vote them into office.

* Tom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and author of “The Encyclopedia of the War” and the recently published “America Made in Britain". He has a weekly podcast, Transatlantic Riff.

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  • Paul Fisher 12th Feb '21 - 9:57pm

    Good article but, as ever with commentaries, full of circumlocution. The précis is “Trump is a fascist and democrats have not said it as it is.” More worryingly, Johnson is in the same mould, a fascist. The difference between the USA and the UK is that the former has a written republican constitution, the latter is post imperial monarchy without the safeguards of a codified State. Time to smell the coffee LibDems and say it as it is; Rejoin the EU, Republic, written citizen’s rights and a constitutional reform.

  • “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard,” Trump said in his speech. The cut you should refer to is the deliberately misleading video edited and presented as part of the Democrat impeachment move. That ‘cut’ has been broadcast by the BBC and others without the slightest effort made to check it’s accuracy, as the video is edited to specifically delete Trumps above mentioned statement.

  • Will Jackson 13th Feb '21 - 12:02am

    Paul is absolutely right. The time has come to wind-down the monarchy and move towards becoming a federal republic. Also vital: end private education. With respect to Eton, it’s not exactly time to ‘drain the swamp’ but for how much longer can the country tolerate the likes of Mogg and Johnson?

  • @Paul Fisher: I fear you might be right about Donald Trump, although with a slight difference. Most fascists I have met cloak their authoritarian leanings in a political philosophy. Trump’s philosophy (if you can call it that) is Trump first and foremost. To achieve that goal who demands total blind loyalty and the concentration of government is in his hands. He has secured that by developing rhetoric and policies which appeal to a large dissatisfied element of society and, like so many authoritarian figures, providing them with scapegoats such as the Chinese, the Democrats, Muslims and Mexican immigrants. Maybe we can say that he has fascist leanings.
    @Mark Seaman You are right that in part of his speech Trump called on his supporters to “peacefully” march to the Capitol. But I think that you should be more holistic in your analysis and look not only at that one section but at the entirety of the speech; the words used by other speakers; the actions of his followers after the speech; Trump’s actions after the Capitol building was invaded; the words of the rioters; and, most importantly, Trumps tweets, speeches and actions in the weeks and months before the attack on the Capitol.

  • Trump exists due to the failure of `Liberal Democrats` to deal with issues of nationalism against Hilary. The real problem Lib Dems face is that after this pandemic and Boris
    has gone away people will be demanding MORE Britain and LESS Europe (vaccines) MORE Britain First economic policy as they will demand more economic and physical certainty.

    All this safe space gnashing of teeth about someone who is no longer in power and overseas (not very liberal is it?).

    Here’s an idea – at some point get a LD Council to defy the Government work with local chambers and third sector to open up. But you won’t do that as you’ll have to square up to the local NHS establishment.

  • John Marriott 13th Feb '21 - 9:40am

    I just can’t wait for the blockbuster movie I’m sure someone in Hollywood is already working on, entitled something like “The Assault on the Capitol”, starring Bruce Willis, unless he’s now too old, as a fictional senior cop bravely fighting off the hordes and escorting a beleaguered Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi (strange bedfellows, hey?) to safety, before he leads the counter attack on the White House, where, in the Oval Office, he disables a machine gun toting *Donald Trump by throwing a bust of Winston Churchill at #45’s head, penetrating the helmet he is wearing crafted as a toupee, before departing in Marine One into the sunset with co star, Oprah Winfrey, in the rôle of Kamala Harris, complete with body armour and assault rifle.

    Wait a minute. Why watch fake history when you can view the real thing in the gruesome footage from inside the Capitol shot on 6 January? The real thing is SO much better! Some of you might consider my ‘observations’ as frivolous; but I’m not an ‘ex Pat’, but a cynical old Englishman, who can’t help seeing the funny side of things.

    In any case, Trump is not going to be found guilty by the Senate, possibly today. Now, on the other hand, if they held a secret ballot then, as our cousins across the pond might say, that’s a whole new ball game. However, liberals, do not despair. There are other ways to skin a cat (apologies to all you animal lovers). There’s that phone call in Georgia for starters.

    * Why didn’t he get to fire his gun? Well, you see, he never served in the military so he couldn’t figure out how to release the safety catch. At least that’s what he might have said in a possible sequel, provisionally entitled ‘Assault on the Capital – The Reckoning’. It couldn’t have been that, in the immortal words of Lady T, he was just plain “frit”?

  • America has always been sharply split between the Dark & The Light, Genocide & Slavery on one side & a long tradition of Liberal Democracy & tolerance on the other. That “Shining City on a Hill” isnt just an abiding Myth, its a real thread running through American History. The same Country that elected Trump had chosen Obama just four Years before.
    Its too soon to guess where America is going but there are lots of hopeful signs – Biden is popular, The Democrat plans are Very popular, Voters are getting used to having a Real President again & some 300,000 Republicans have already left their Party.
    The Mid-Term Elections in 20 Months time will be crucial – if Republicans lose ground its hard to see how they can avoid a formal Split & under the current system that would guarantee The democrats a permanent National majority & control of most of the States, a deeply unhealthy situation.
    The Democrats need to begin thinking about serious Electoral Reform – either two-round Elections or preferential Voting.

  • Steve Trevethan 13th Feb '21 - 12:45pm

    Might an antidote to fascism be socialism?

  • As I said and no would would comment the Lib Dems have become so emotionally correct they are intensely focussed on process and emotional correctness.

    Where were the Lib Dems on BLM/Antifa rioting against small businesses (many of them BAME)?

    They seem far more interested in what goes on in a far off land (however important that land is) than what’s going on in the here and now in the UK.

    At the moment due to criminal negligence by another superstate, China, and its over-reaction to that criminality people are UNEMPLOYED, COMMITTING SUICIDE, NOT GOING TO HOSPITAL WITH CANCERS, NOT BEING EDUCATED now.

    The problem for Lib Dems is their inability to tackle CURRENT vested interests.

    Here’s a challenge – once all the over 50s/60s/70s (take your pick) have been vaccinated get one of your councils to champion schools/SMES/the mentally ill and DEFY THE TORIES by defending all the businesses, pubs, community centres that want to open up in whatever way that is.

    Take a stand for once away from believing this country is in terminal decline and towards a brighter future otherwise the Lib Dems won’t be afforded one by the electorate.

  • Cant believe the farcical speech that just came out of Mitch Mcconel’s mouth

    He just voted to acquit trump and yet had the audacity to stand up afterwards and say that trump was responsible for the mob and was guilty of derelict of duty, talk about contradictory.
    He justifies his vote to acquit by saying that it was unconstitutional to impeach a former president, however, The senate already had that vote earlier in the week and voted by a majority that it was constitutional, hence the reason that the trial should proceed.

    Surely the senates job was then to vote on the evidence of the case of whether Trump, incited the violence and was in derelict of duty. The question on whether the case was constitutional or not was already settled by a majority vote.

    I heard time and time again during the last few days that American democracy is a shining beacon a “North Star” to the rest of the world.
    Judging by what I just observed, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

    The UK has it’s problems thats for sure, but compared to this farce I just observed…….

  • John Marriott 14th Feb '21 - 7:52am

    What do you except, old son? This is the goddam US of A, the home of fake news, Hollywood, Twitter and all the freedom of speech loving, gun poaching old boys and gals, wearing red MAGA baseball caps, wrapped in the Stars and Stripes and eating quadruple cheeseburgers!

    Actually, there’s another America over there, and over here as well, in the likes of Mr Arms (unfortunate surname, Tom, under the circumstances), that saved our bacon in two world wars and on whom we rely for keep us a bit safer today, whether we like it or not. It’s also the land of decent folks like Jo Biden, who I hope stays healthy, mentally and physically, for at least the next four years. For the sake of democracy, we need more Biden’s and less McConnell’s.

    Don’t give up on the US justice system. There’s a lot more out there to come out, and plenty of lawyers, salivating at the prospect of all those $’s no matter which side they are on. As one of my US relatives (all decent Democrat voting folks) wrote me last year “They say that the cream rises to the top. Unfortunately so does the scrum”. In those immortal words of Al Jolson; “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

  • John Marriott 14th Feb '21 - 7:56am

    Apologies; but all the typos in my last contribution are down to bloody predictive text. I’m sure, if you’re that bothered, you can work out what the words were supposed to have been.

    Have a nice day😄🤞

  • Steve Trevethan 14th Feb '21 - 12:38pm

    The U.S.A. may well have saved our bacon in Two World Wars but did they charge a cripplingly high economic price for it?
    “It (the U.S.A.) developed a strategy designed essentially to bankrupt England (ie the U.K.) with the 1946British Loan” (Michael Hudson)
    https://michael-hudson.com/ At the Oxford Economics Society

  • John Marriott 14th Feb '21 - 1:19pm

    @Steve Trevethan
    Yes they did and yes, as in both conflicts they dithered about engagement; but thank goodness they did, worts and all. Certainly, in WW2 it was because it was in their interest to do so, and, if you like, they charged top dollar for it. But, what alternative did we have? Put all our faith in Uncle Joe?

    In some ways, our relationship with the EU mirrors in economic terms, our relationship with the USA in geopolitical terms. We can easily point to where both have made and continue to make mistakes, but it is in our interest, as a small, offshore ‘independent’ state, to keep on good terms with both.

    “A crippling amount”? I’d say cheap at the price. After all it’s allowed people like you and me to argue the toss over many decades.

  • I really am confused by what happened in the senate. I really do not understand how you can have two votes in the senate on whether the impeachment was constitutional. That matter was dealt with by the senate in a decision that was not appealable and the senate decided that it was constitutional to impeach a former president.

    I therefore cannot comprehend how the system works. If that matter was addressed by a majority vote in the senate and that ruling was not appealable, how can senators then ignore that ruling when it came to the actual vote on whether Trump was guilty of the charges put before them, how can they vote to Acquit on the basis that they believe it was “unconstitutional” like I said that makes no sense due to the previous ruling.

    Surly that has set a precedence that no matter what ruling the senate sets out, senators can totally ignore those rulings and they are meaningless?

    Like I said I have no idea on how the American system works and would appreciate anyone who can enlighten me.

    The reason I am so interested is because, I know a lot of people want to overhaul our political system and do away with the monarchy and the House Of Lords.
    I am not totally sure what kind of system they want to replace it with, but after seeing first hand how the senate works in the US, I hope it is not anything like this system.

    Btw, I am all for abolishing the House of Lords and believe in system where all representatives are “directly” democratically accountable to the electorate

  • @ Steve Trevethan– The antidote to fascism is democracy.
    @ James– I am sure your little Englander views are mirrored by many. But the fact is that in this increasingly shrinking and interconnected world, what happens beyond our shores is important. It becomes increasingly important as our influence declines, because it means that more decisions that directly affect the citizenry of the UK are made elsewhere. Foreign news and an understanding of foreign affairs has become more– not less– important with Brexit.
    @Matt– I too am perplexed by Mitch McConnell for all the reasons you stated and then some. He appears to be running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. But part of me thinks that Mitch is a clever operator with a vast array of tricks stuck up with his sleeves. If I am right, it will be entertaining finding out what they are.
    @John Marriott– I will forgive your typos if you forgive mine. As for my name, I love it. It lends itself to a wide array of puns, and self-deprecating jokes and tales. For instance, I am the author of The Encyclopedia of the Cold War. But perhaps more amusing is a story from the 70s when the Horn of Africa was a Cold War hot potato. I stumbled across a story that Britain was sending “arms” to a pro-Western Somali group. The headline was “Britain to Send Arms to Somalia.” The next John Dickie The Daily Mail, asked at the daily FCO news conference: “Can the spokesman confirm that HMG will be sending one of our more distinguished diplomatic correspondents to Somalia.” I immediately stood up and thanked John for calling me “distinguished.”

  • Steve Trevethan 14th Feb '21 - 1:49pm

    Perhaps Mr Hudson’s article indicates the exploitative nature of the economic policies of the USA which were imposed on the World through the Bretton Woods « agreement » which have brought so much suffering to so many?
    Perhaps our party should be working towards a worldwide financial set up so that the USA does not get a regular rake off through dollar dominance?

  • Dennis Wake 14th Feb '21 - 4:57pm

    John Marriott: Yes our system does allow us to argue the toss but many people want some action to make life more agreeable. In China a train journey which took 22 hours 10 years ago can be done in about 5 hours and everywhere things are improving. Maybe some of the infrastructure is a bit over the top but you can hardly say that here. In 2014 the railway line from London to Penzance was disrupted for many weeks because the track at Dawlish/Teignmouth was washed away by the sea and it took millions of pounds to repair it so guess what happened a few days ago – yes the line had to be closed because the naughty sea had done it again ! Until Richard Beeching, on the instructions of Ernest Marples, the head of a road building firm and Minister of Transport, closed most of the alternative routes there was another one from London to Plymouth via Okehampton, quite a few miles from the sea and some of it still exists except for a gap of 20 miles west of Okehampton. If this had been reinstated the trains could have been kept running and large areas of Devon and Cornwall could have something like the public transport they have every right to expect. Curiously the track between Okehampton and Exeter is being relaid at great expense, even working at night, although no regular trains have used the route for some time but they are still arguing about the missing link between Okehampton and Bere Alston which would enable the alternative route to be reopened. Would this happen in China ? I expect that they would have relaid the whole route and returned the lines reduced to single track back to double track so passengers would not have to wait for the up or down train to get to the passing loop. I kid you not. Just one example of modern free market Britain under the Conservatives. It seems they would rather pay people to do nothing than do some useful work.

  • nvelope2003 14th Feb '21 - 5:20pm

    Matt: The founding fathers of the USA were a bunch of tax dodgers, smugglers, slave owners etc. The Boston Tea party was not a protest against higher taxes but how they got rid of the tea they could not sell because the British Government had reduced the duty and not increased it. Franklin Roosevelt was determined to destroy the British Empire although he need not have bothered as we were quite capable of doing it ourselves, thank goodness.
    The House of Lords is not ideal but if the elected House of Commons and the US Senate are anything to go by we might be better off keeping it but reduce the numbers because not being elected it lacks the arrogance and power of the supposedly democratic bodies and confines its activities to correcting mistakes in the legislation passed by a heavily subsidised alcohol fuelled Commons. Most of the opposition to the Lords now seems to come from the Right as it challenges their self serving schemes. They also want to abolish the Supreme Court, no doubt for the same reason. No I do not think we need to copy the US system but maybe many people like a thoroughly corrupt system which mistreats some of its citizens.

  • In the early 1960s when I first worked in the USA there were no signs of these divisions..The white middle income groups I mixed with showed little interest in the civil rights’ movement and the spirit of the Civil Rights’ Acts of 1960/64 were largely ignored in the southern states.

    The Vietnam war changed all that with the campus protests and the condemnation of the war by Martin Luther King jnr. Those blue collar families (whose kids had been the vast majority of those drafted) saw their ‘patriotic sacrifice’ being belittled by ‘privileged elites’ …It should not be forgotten that the LBJ and Nixon administrations made every effort to convince the nation that the anti-war/civil rights’ protests were organised by China/Russia/N. Korea (take your pick)…Merle Haggard’s “Okie from Muskogee” was their anthem.

    Today, those who consider themselves ‘patriots’ are pro-gun and believe that the words ‘liberal’ and ‘social’ are code for ‘anti-American’ and ‘communist’; they are followers of Trump’s conspiracy rants and believe that Biden will ‘steal their USA’..

    Sadly, instead of being left in the past (where it belongs) “My country right or wrong” is stronger, in such communities, than ever before..Don Trump Jr’s “This is Donald Trump’s Republican party” has been borne out by the vote for acquittal..

    Again, sadly, I can’t see things changing and a more and more polarised USA is the future..

  • John Marriott 14th Feb '21 - 6:36pm

    @Dennis Wake
    Congratulations, Mr Wake! Your post is probably the longest and most tangential comment I have so far read based on one of my comments on LDV!

    You know, the problems on our railways, particularly in the West Country, NEVER crossed my mind when replying as I did to Mr Trevethan. The reason that you can hijack this thread to argue the case for transport infrastructure improvements that might tick your boxes at least is because we live in a society which allows platforms like LDV on which you and I to agree or disagree. I doubt whether platforms like that would have been allowed to exist in certain regimes. It’s largely thanks to past and present actions of our friends across the pond that this continues to be the case. I think that we often unfortunately take this for granted when we do our ritual tilting at windmills.

  • Peter Martin 14th Feb '21 - 6:47pm

    @ Tom Arms,

    “The antidote to fascism is democracy”

    That’s a naive interpretation of history.

    The Weimar Republic had an almost perfect system of PR. Too perfect many would say as a excuse for it leading to the rise to power of you-know-who. I’m not saying that Nigel Farage is a real fascist, although many on this blog might disagree, but he managed to top the polls in two EU elections whereas he came nowhere in our much derided FPTP system.

    @ Steve,

    “The U.S.A. may well have saved our bacon in Two World Wars but did they charge a cripplingly high economic price for it?”

    The USA wrote off many of our debts too! The Marshall Plan was more associated with helping Germany but if you look at the figures we came out with a better deal. We had twice the benefits of Germany.

    I’m not saying this was entirely altruistic. The USA had learned the lesson that they couldn’t leave the Europeans to sort out the postwar mess, as they did after WW1. Then there was the question of the bad guys on the other side of the Iron curtain.


  • Charles Smith 14th Feb '21 - 8:37pm

    U.S. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell excoriated Donald Trump on Saturday for being “morally responsible” for the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, but said he voted to acquit him at the impeachment trial because he believes the Senate had no jurisdiction over a former president.

    Washington’s most powerful Republican used his strongest language to date to denounce Trump minutes after the Senate voted 57-43 to convict Trump but fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to find him guilty. Seven Republicans voted to convict.

  • John Marriott 15th Feb '21 - 9:37am

    @Peter Martin
    Here you go banging on about the Weimar Republic again. You haven’t obviously taken on board my argument that two things really did for it. One was the reluctance of the SPD to enter government at the end of the 1920s and the other thing was the withdrawal of US credit, upon which much of Weimar’s recovery was based, both before, but particularly after the Wall Street Crash.

    You are clearly no fan of PR and neither am I in the pure form in which it existed in the Weimar Republic or, today, the Republic of Israel. Have you ever watched Hitler’s “34 parties” speech? I think you might be able to Google it. That’s why, for the second West German Federal Elections in 1953, the “5% threshold” (die Fünf Prozent Sperrklausel) was introduced. I’m sure that you are aware of what that means.

    As for people like Farage getting into parliament, well it took a massive, possibly illegal, effort from the Tories in Thanet to keep him out. My view has always been that, if the Monster Raving Loony Party could amass 5% of the national vote, it would deserve to have some MPs. It’s call democracy and, by the way, if your beloved Labour Party aims to get back to power, it might be PR that actually delivers that currently unlikely prospect.

    On a more conciliatory note, I am in agreement with you in your comment to Mr Trevethan. By the way, the words in inverted commas he was quoting were actually mine.

  • John Marriott 15th Feb '21 - 9:55am

    @Peter Martin
    On the subject of saving someone’s “bacon”, you could argue, as I did in the unpublished part of my letter in today’s Guardian, that COVID, or at least his government’s recent attempts to get on top of it via its vaccine programme, might well have saved Johnson’s bacon, whereas the same virus, by exposing the inadequacies of the former US administration, finally cooked Trump’s goose!

  • Peter Martin 15th Feb '21 - 10:19am

    @ John Marriott,

    “… the withdrawal of US credit, upon which much of Weimar’s recovery was based”

    And this was a “thing that really did” for the Weimar Republic? So how come it didn’t do for the later government too? If there was one thing they did understand well, it was that foreign money wasn’t important. If they had the manpower they could build factories and if they had the manpower and factories they could build tanks and planes etc. Of course they would have been better off using those factories for peaceful purposes.

    What cost them in the end was a lack of resources rather than a lack of money. They didn’t have enough oil and they didn’t have the manpower to sustain the terrible losses they suffered against the USSR.

  • John Marriott 15th Feb '21 - 11:25am

    @Peter Martin
    I recommend that you get a copy of “Weimar Germany – Promise and Tragedy” by Eric D Weiz. The Weimar Centennial Edition has an excellent analysis of the economic conditions that gave rise to the kind of authoritarianism, embodied in the recourse to Presidential Decrees from Paul von Hindenburg, that created the conditions that enabled Hitler to seize power in 1933.

    You are very clever at picking and using facts to support your assertions. I would remind you that we were originally talking about the period 1929 to 1933 and not 1942 to 1945.

    As regards having the wherewithal to reduce unemployment, which, besides the ‘stab in the back’, was one of the motivators which led to the imposition of the Third Reich, the kind of command economy (Arbeitsfront etc) which the Nazis were able to impose, with motorway construction, rearmament (which largely put paid to the slump in democratic countries as well), conscription and the circumvention of democracy through the 1934 ‘Enabling Act’, was bound to produce results in the short term at least. Anyone who had read ‘Mein Kampf’ would surely have known the ultimate direction of travel. That so many turned a blind eye was the real tragedy, which is a bit like what happened to most of the Republican Party Senators last Saturday.

  • Dennis Wake 15th Feb '21 - 1:26pm

    John Marriott: I was not advocating abolishing free speech or free elections but we must learn how to limit endless debate such as that favoured by Liberal Democrats on LDV and start implementing policies which will make life easier for ordinary people. I simply chose the railways as I had just heard about the latest hold up and I come from a background where many of my relatives worked for public services. After all the talking the Government has decided to ignore all the expert advice and spend £250 millions on converting 3 miles of ordinary road into a dual carriageway. I suppose that is better than starving thousands of Ukrainian peasants to death as the Communists are said to have done in order to create what they hoped would be the perfect society and converted a state which produced a food surplus for export into one that had to import food.

    The problem with democracy is that the interests of minorities are largely ignored unless they provide good incomes for lawyers. Most people use cars not trains so spending £250 million on a short section of road plus almost £2 Billion on a tunnel near Stonehenge is VERY popular but maybe £500 million on improving the railways to make them more attractive to travellers and cut road congestion is not at all popular and would attract few votes. What is the answer to that ?

  • @ Dennis Wake: Mussolini made the trains run on time. He also drained the swamps
    @ expats: You are right. America was different in the 60s but I don’t think the change is entirely down to the Vietnam War. I think other– possibly more important– factors were the sexual revolution brought about by the introduction of The Pill, The Equal Rights Amendment and civil rights legislation. Up until the 1960s the country was run by White males. The changes/legislation mentioned above injected new groups into the political mainstream. The country is still trying to deal with this.

  • Peter Martin 15th Feb '21 - 3:01pm

    @ Tom Arms,

    Lucy Worsley ran an interesting BBC TV series on how the popular conception of British history is a concoction of fibs and stories manipulated by whoever was in power at the time.

    It’s always worth checking out the facts before repeating cliches like “Mussolini made the trains run on time”. It turns out, at least according to Snopes, that Italian history wasn’t any different!


  • Dennis Wake 15th Feb '21 - 3:44pm

    Tom Arms: As regards Mussolini you seem not to have read my opening sentence and views on the Communist system. It is not so much about the trains running on time though it would be nice if they always did ( actually they usually do, late trains are often an excuse because of getting up late) but having some trains at all in rural Britain where the car is king and nothing must stop the building of more road space. I remember my 80 year old grandmother having to leave the family home so that it could be demolished to widen the road, which was done about 40 years after she had died.

    You seem not to have understood my point about the rights of minorities, such as users of public transport, to a share of the national cake (they pay taxes too), although greater use of public transport could prevent the need for more and more expensive and environmentally damaging road schemes. Yes it is lovely to have a new road until they want to knock down your house to build it. I was rather disappointed with the tone of your comment as I had always found your articles interesting.

  • Dennis Wake 15th Feb '21 - 4:04pm

    Peter Martin: Did Mussolini really drain the Pontine Marshes ? The mosquitoes that lived there had been the creators of malaria for centuries but as in Britain there was nothing but talk for centuries until someone actually did something – phew what a relief ! Maybe the Romans did not have the necessary equipment or were too busy building the Coliseum so that they could torture people they did not like to entertain the idle masses who lived on an early form of UBI while slaves ( an early form of immigrant) did all the unpleasant actual work. Ah such is progress.

  • Steve Trevethan 15th Feb '21 - 5:38pm

    “The Bretton Woods” is for austerity for everybody except the United States, which will have a free ride for ever. The question—is to create a system based on prosperity instead of austerity, with mutual support between creditors and debtors, without the kind of financial antagonism that has been built into the financial system ever since World War I” (Michael Hudson

    Might there be a need for a mixed set of antidotes to fascism?
    Might this set include genuine democracy, socialism and media which convey reasonably objective and wide ranging information and political opinion?

  • Peter Martin 15th Feb '21 - 8:14pm

    @ Steve,

    I don’t think Michael Hudson has this quite right. The principle of the Breton Woods agreement was that the US dollar would be fixed against gold , I think at the rate of $35 to 1 oz , with other currencies like the pound, the mark, the Yen and the franc defined by an fixed exchange rate, or floated between tight limits, against the dollar.

    So whereas other countries did have the option of flexibility of being able to adjust their exchange rates from time to time, the US was stuck with the need to guarantee the dollar against an amount of gold. So the amount of wiggle room was limited. Especially with costs of the Vietnam war to be paid.

    Eventually this became unsustainable and Nixon sensibly scrapped the system in 1971.

    You don’t really need socialism as an antidote to fascism. Just a willingness to operate capitalism in a socially responsible way will do. In the post war period up until about 1980 the fascists weren’t a serious threat. It was only in the neoliberal period that followed, especially in the EU, that this changed.

  • John Marriott 15th Feb '21 - 8:57pm

    @Steve Trevethan
    In my opinion we could do with a Bretton Woods Mark Two. After all, it gave us the IMF and the world bank and set the tiller for the next thirty years or so until the neoliberals like Friedman and Hayek got their hands on the playbook.

    Or is it too late for the governments of today’s world to tackle globalisation and climate change, to rein in the multinationals and to close those tax havens? Indeed does the will exist any more?

  • “Mussolini made the trains run on time”. Oh no, he didn’t. That’s an urban myth.

    There’s no shortage of witnesses to testify that even the tourist trains were often late. The pre-war Belgian foreign minister wrote: ‘The time is no more when Italian trains run to time. We always were kept waiting for more than a quarter of an hour at the level-crossings because the trains were never there at the times they should have been passing.’ The journalist Elizabeth Wiskemann, dismissed ‘the myth about the punctual trains’. ‘I travelled in a number that were late,’ she wrote”.

    What the awful man did do was to get his thugs to administer huge amounts of castor oil to his opponents. The rest was Trumpian bluster.

  • Dennis Wake 16th Feb '21 - 1:28pm

    David Raw: But he did have the Pontine Marshes drained, built several cities in the area and dealt with the malaria. Unfortunately his German allies opened the sluices for military reasons and the area was reflooded causing great distress to the settlers and the re emergence of malaria although all this was put right after the War by the new democratic Government. The new buildings were considered very attractive at the time.

    Mussolini seems to have been a bit like Boris Johnson and liked to be associated with popular projects which cost a lot of money. The workers were not well treated and the original inhabitants were not happy at being removed to enable the work to be done.

    Italy is a place which is often ridiculed for its failings but things actually seem to work and a holiday there can be a wonderful experience. Modern train services are often very good but they seem to have a problem with graffiti. The worst public building in Rome seemed to be the British Embassy. Maybe Italians do not take themselves too seriously.

    Maybe the problems for the railways and the airlines caused by the Virus will give comfort to those who think we should spend decades discussing whether to build new infrastructure such as new or reopened lines and airports but if normal life ever returns many people will feel differently as they cope with the delays and over crowding.

  • @ Dennis Wake et al my flippant mark about Mussolini and trains and swamps was not meant either as a statement of historical fact or a comment on the inadequacies of the British transport system. It was a metaphor to illustrate that efficiency is not the be all and end all. The Chinese appear to be very good at organising capital and labour to achieve economic ends. But this is at the expense of political freedoms. I do not think that should be forced to relinquish economic prosperity for freedoms, but I would give my political freedoms a higher priority.
    PS. I hope you continue enjoying my articles and challenging them whenever you think it necessary.

  • Steve Trevethan 16th Feb '21 - 3:34pm

    “Once countries were in debt, they were forced into the International Monetary Fund which said basically, ” Your only way of paying debts is to polarize your economy and impoverish your labor force.”
    “The United States is still trying to force countries into the I.M.F. as a means of controlling them, saying, “Either you engage in a pro-American war against labor and engage in neoliberalism, or the alternative is wreckage.” (Ibid)

    Perhaps the evident polarisation of wealth illustrates the first quote and Libya illustrates the second?

    “Gold is a peaceful metal because it’s a constraint on the balance of payments. If countries had to pay their balance-of-payments deficit in gold, they would not be able to afford the balance-of-payment costs of going to war.” (Herman Kahn)

    Might we consider capitalism with social and democratic attributes or socialism with democratic and capitalist attributes?

  • Dennis Wake 16th Feb '21 - 3:36pm

    Tom Arms: Thank you for your generous reply. I will indeed continue to enjoy your articles.

  • Richard Underhill.. 19th Feb '21 - 9:55am

    “Republican senators are scared.” In fact they are split. ‘The base’ are following Trump but there is not another election for two years and then only for one third of the senate seats. He should go to prison and there is hope that that will happen. Perhaps New York will bring charges. Trump has not declared his tax returns. He has lost his election case in the Supreme Court which should be enforced. The elected Vice-President has a casting vote in the Senate and has used it to provide money according to the Financial Times. Vaccines are available but not on the basis of America First. The entire world needs vaccines according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) the USA should provide as the French President has suggested. There is a role for the G20 again and for Bill Gates, who is now thinking about the future of the world before we meet in Glasgow. The number of judges on the US Supreme Court could be increased. FDR tried and was rejected but won enough elections. A constitutional amendment is possible if necessary.

  • Richard Underhill.. 19th Feb '21 - 10:06am

    A previous VP said that “If I vote we always win”.
    There is also a case for reforming the voting for the President so that the USA is one country and not a coalition. That would be modernisation and democratisation. ‘Your vote counts’ would be a reality.

  • Richard Underhill.. 19th Feb '21 - 10:36am

    Hanging chads should be abolished.
    Kamala Harris said at the VP debate that there should be more states, the Democrats have a manifesto. For instance Washington DC residents (mostly black) should vote for the President. Other places vote in the primaries.

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