Tony Benn: An obituary

The strike against David Cameron is that he does not believe in anything. That’s not to say he is apolitical - he clearly believes in the values of the Conservative Party, the ability of the free market to allocate resources and western liberal democracy – but his polices lack a basis in political theory and he does not have a transformative vision for society. Lacking a coherent narrative to explain the banking crisis he simple fell back on blaming Labour overspend on benefits. His only decent new idea, the big society, wilted under lack of support and has been replaced by pandering to UKIP, petty Eurosceptism and political narrative targeted at the Conservative base.

Without a clear vision of where the government is going it is unclear why he wants power other than to stay in power. As a society we may have lost faith in grand narratives, but do voters really want a leader who gravitates towards what is popular (or at least what is perceived to be popular) and has no ideological base to be held against?

Tony Benn was the complete opposite of this. For him, the purpose politics was neither just as a mirror of public opinion, nor merely ideology-free management as New Labour and every government since seemed to see it. A man with a clearly stated ideology, who not only believed in making Britain better, he had a clear vision of where we would go and how we would get there. A vote for Tony Benn was a vote for a man who wanted power not for its own sake, but because he had a plan to use it improve people’s lives.

This plan was socialism and it informed all of Tony Benn’s career. Many people disagree with socialism, both voters and Labour Party members, but what I believe is important about Tony Benn’s political career is he had these values, backed up by ideology and theory which he could be held to, debated and challenged on. In our distaste for grand narratives we have turned away from this and towards bland politicians who have no ideology and seek power only for their own self-aggrandisement. You may disagree with Tony Benn and the virtues of socialism. But the process of democracy, in which he deeply believed, is more important than the outcome. A democratic process whose politicians have clearly stated goals and ideologies is superior to a democratic process driven by marketing focus groups and the prejudices of the right wing tabloid press.

The Benn family name is synonymous with the Labour Party. His father William Wedgwood Benn was a cabinet minister in Ramsay MacDonald’s second Labour government, whilst his son is a shadow cabinet minister in the current Labour opposition front bench. Tony Benn’s career in politics has always been lively. He campaigned not to inherit his father’s peerage and remain in the House of Commons. He fought a bitterly contested election for deputy leadership in 1988 and led the Stop the War coalition against Blair’s invasion of Iraq. Always he acted with principal and integrity. In 2001, he stood down from parliament saying he wanted to "spend more time on politics".

Benn was unusual, if not singular, among Labour Party MPs who have served in cabinet in that he became more left wing as he aged. But his belief in collectivist economic principals of national ownership and state intervention weren’t always as fringe as they now seem. It is difficult to overstate how different a country Britain was when Benn began his career: whole swathes of the economy nationalised, and governments of both parties seeing part of their role as maintaining full employment. Whilst Benn did undoubtedly become more left wing during the ‘70s and ‘80s, the centre ground under Thatcher moved in the opposite direction at the same time. Unfashionable as it subsequently became, Benn believed that politics and economics could change peoples’ lives for the better.

To those on the British left Tony Benn was a man who meant a great deal to a lot of people. An icon of what we want to be and achieve. There will be many questions about the identity of the modern left asked in the wake of his death - I asked some of them here. These are important questions, but what I am mourning the most about Tony Benn’s death is the loss of grand narratives, of transformative visions of society and clearly defined ideologies.

Our current governments believes in nothing except their own vested interests and their wealthy, privileged supporters. What is needed to chase to these Etonians from power is politicians who have ideologies to be held against and a vision for a society where we will all be better off. Tony Benn is no longer with us, so we cannot rely on him to lead the way. Now we are alone we have to find the way there ourselves, and it starts today.

Bob Crow: An obituary

Unpopular with working people, excessively confrontational, out of touch with the modern age, the product of a bygone and obsolete ideological system, should have retired years ago. But enough about Ian Duncan Smith. Bob Crow is back in the papers, this time because he passed away in early hours of Tuesday morning. With the death of another controversial figure on the left, there will be much soul searching in the coming days about where the left stands in the 21st Century.

Bob Crow, trade unionist, head of the RMT, thorn in the side of Tory politicians, and especially Boris Johnson, was in many ways what a lot of the left of centre wish they were. He had little regard for public image, well aware that the right wing press would demonise him whatever he did, but he led campaigns to stand up for the rights of working people. Crow opposed job losses, pay freezes, rising University tuition fees, pension cuts and austerity. When Labour were found scratching their heads trying to find a way to say they disagree with the Tories but not too strongly, Bob Crow could reliably be found on TV laying out the case for the opposition better than the opposition themselves. Not to mention the fact that he was probably one of the only union leaders that most people have actually heard of, demonstrating the extent of the labour movement's decline in the post-Thatcher era. His approach attracted more people to his union, with membership rising by 20,000 during his time in charge.

Criticism of Crow has often centred on disruptive tube strikes and his £145k a year salary. Whilst undoubtedly a more money than what most trade unionists earn in years, it can at least be said that Crow was successful in his job, in contrast to the bankers who dragged home huge bonuses whilst causing the financial collapse of their own institutions.

It has been argued that his confrontational approach to leadership alienated more people from the left. Of course tube strikes are unpopular, especially in London where most of the commentariat live, but strikes are supposed to be inconvenient and annoying, that's the bloody point. The people who complain about Crow's tactics want all left wing criticisms to be phrased in a reasonable and polite way so that they can be completely ignored. In a future where rioting maybe the only available form of dissent, Crow's strikes and picket lines may look reasonable and polite.

There is another future the left can see after Bob Crow, which is the continual removal of the spine from the movement. Ed Miliband states that he "didn't always agree with him politically", the fact that the Labour leader made this clear in his statement highlights the degree to which the mainstream left wants to distance itself from the trade union movement. I am genuinely confused about what form political dissent is supposed to take (other than through writing blog posts) when unions are disproved off as a relic of the past, student activists are labeled as violent thugs and any form of protest is to be met by water cannons and rubber bullets. I cannot think of many rising stars of the Labour party who can be said to have thoroughly obstructed the goals the right. The current level of ambition seems to be aimed at being a slight inconvenience.

As the titans of the old left die out or retire we need to be asking question about what sort of movement we want to be. We do not have to be the same movement that existed in the past but we need to be inspired by their passions and desire for change. We need to the sort of movement someone like Bob Crow would approve of and not a shrinking, apologetic movement. The right will try to demonise us, the public maybe temporarily inconvenienced but in the end everyone will be better off. Bob Crow fought for a better working conditions for all RMT members and the wider population, and it is important that we remember that.

Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda and the important of strong beliefs

It is one of those strange footnotes to history that there were still Japanese soldiers fighting World War Two up until the mid-1970s. It seems almost farcical and would doubtless make the subject of a great comic tragedy, a cross between Blackadder Goes Forth and Letters from Iwo Jima. This bizarre occurrence is back in the public’s perception with the death of 91 year old Hiroo Onoda.

Hiroo Onoda was a Lieutenant in the Imperial Japanese Army during World War 2. He was ordered not to surrender and was cut off from the main Japanese army when they surrendered on 15 the August 1945. Lieutenant Onoda continued to hold out on the jungle island of Lubang, part of The Philippines, until 1974 when his elderly former superior officer was dispatched to rescind the orders he had been carrying out for three decades. 

It is easy to mock Lieutenant Onoda as someone who ignored the blindingly obvious truth that Japan had been defeated and that continued resistance was futile. It seems logical that after ten years with no word and no one sent to relieve his position Lieutenant Onoda would give up, which makes it is easy to dismiss him as crazy, deluded or fanatical but I admire his strength of will and refusal to give up despite very difficult circumstances.

This not to say that I condone the killing of up to 30 other inhabitants of Lubang through raids and skirmishes with Lieutenant Onoda over the 29 years where he kept fighting the Second World War but his circumstances are clearly extraordinary, which is why The Philippine government pardoned him when he finally did surrender to Philippines President Marcos in 1974.

The story of Lieutenant Onoda, and the humour which usually accompanies it, is a reminder that it is easy to scorn and mock people of strong, sometimes unmovable, beliefs. Many people believe that an ideological flexibility is superior to the petty squabbles of politics and look down on those who identify as belonging to either side of the spectrum. A lot of the time this is just aggressive centrism and a healthy sense of self-superiority but it indicates a marked distain for anyone with strong principals. I for one prefer identifying as belonging to an ideology and having a set of principals which I can be held to. It makes it easier to tell who has genuine principals and whose beliefs are mutable to whatever is fashionable.

In my life I have been accused of a certain ideological Onodaism; not changing course, denying plain evidence and refusing to accept when I have been proved wrong. I believe having strong beliefs is not a character weakness, I believe it shows strength of character and courage of conviction. Having strong beliefs gives people courage during hard and testing times; as I am sure Lieutenant Onoda’s belief in Japan gave him the strength to continue to carry out his orders. Sometimes it seems easier to flip-flop in the face of great opposition, but the most interesting and courageous people are the ones who stand by what they believe in.

This is not to say that it is acceptable to be aggressive towards people who have less strong or different convictions to yourself; just as it was not acceptable for Lieutenant Onoda to kill those people. However it should be remembered that what is a plain and obvious truth to one person can be opaque to a different person in different context. We can see that in the leaflets dropped on Lubang to encourage Lieutenant Onoda to surrender. He later said in an interview: "The leaflets they dropped were filled with mistakes so I judged it was a plot by the Americans". A simple fact can be viewed differently by different people. This is why we need a spectrum of political debate to ensure that different interpretations are taken into account. Ideological flexibility or aggressive centrism can be bywords for letting the majority always have their way.

It is easy to laugh at Lieutenant Onoda and his three decades of personal warfare but I feel it shows exceptional strength of character and determination to continue for so long. I hope these are characteristics we value as a society and aspire to individually. I hope we can all show some of the determination of Lieutenant Onoda.

Iain M. Banks: An obituary

“I’ve seen the Chebalths of Eyske in their Skydark migration, watched field liners sculpt solar flares in the High Nundrun, I’ve held my own newborn in my hands, flown the caverns of Sart and dived the tube arches of Lirouthale. I’ve seen so much, done so much, that even with my neural lace trying to tie my elsewhere memories as seamlessly as it can into what’s in my head, I can tell I’ve lost a lot from in here.’ He tapped one temple. ‘Not from my memory, but from my personality. And so it’s time to change or move on or just stop.”

These words are said by Ilom Dolince – a four hundred year old citizen on the Culture in Iain M. Bank’s novel Look To Windward – on his death bed. When the Scottish author gave a talk on utopias in fiction at the British Library in 2010, he choose to read this section from his writing and discussed his views on death in detail. He remarked that he had no problem with the concept of dying and not existing, having not existed quite pleasantly for around thirteen billion years before being born.

Two months ago he announced that he was dying of gall bladder cancer and that The Hydrogen Sonata would be his last science fiction novel. Appropriately, The Hydrogen Sonata is itself a novel about moving on from one existence to another. In this book, the Gzilt, the Culture’s sister civilization, are in the process of Subliming and moving on to another dimension where they will be changed forever. Today it has been announced that Iain Banks has died from his illness and fans across the world are in mourning.

It’s easy to see death as a recurring theme in his more recent work from virtual hells in Surface Detail to Guy, dying of cancer, in The Quarry. Whether this is intentional or not is unclear, but as ever Banks approached the subject sometimes with humour, sometimes with astonishing imagination and sometimes with stirring human emotion. He was always a writer who could approach a subject in many different ways and find the best way of expressing an idea. I hope that his end was like the role he imaged for Chay in Surface Detail, ending suffering and providing a final rest for those weary of living.

The hardest thing about being a fan whose hero dies is coming to terms with the fact that there will be no more books, no more works of genius to look forward to. What we have is all we’re going to get and if we have read it all, then we can never again capture the feeling of reading new writing from our heroes for the first time. However being a fan is a lot like having a large family. We don’t have to be alone in our grief as there are people who grieve with us.

I have saved one of Iain M. Banks’ novels, Use of Weapons, to read after his death - there’s no reason why it should be that one, but I want once more to open one of my favourite author’s books and for the last time read something by him for the first time.

Margret Thatcher: An obituary

An octogenarian head of state has passed away, a former leader of a major economy who has divided opinion the world over, loved and hated, who instigated sweeping reforms and polarised a nation. Judging from recent headlines most people would expect the above to have been written about Nelson Mandela but in fact it was announced today that Margaret Thatcher has died of a stroke aged 87.

Divisive is the polite word the left leaning press and bloggers will use to describe Thatcher in an attempt to not speak ill of the dead. She was a leader who divided public opinion every step of the way. In recent years her request to have a state funeral became another contentious issue as the nation was once again divided over their opinion of Margaret Thatcher*. Throughout her life she sought conflict over consensus and drove deep permanent divides into the national psyche.

Right that’s the polite divisive bit out of the way…

Margaret Thatcher eviscerated this country’s manufacturing industry out of ideological zeal and a religious devotion to the free market. The resulting economy fallout devastated small towns that depended on manufacturing industry or coal mining. Some of these areas took years to recover (Liverpool’s dock yards is a good example) and some will never recover from their slide into urban decay after being forgotten about by successive generations of political leaders.

She passed laws deliberately designed to curtail the political power of her opponents, namely the trade union movement. Today’s trade unions are a shadow of their former selves and lack the influence not only to improve conditions but even to protect the rights workers already have which are bring eroded. In the 1980s she was content with making three million people who were unlikely to vote for her unemployed, something which would have been considered an economic disaster by previous Tory or Labour governments.

Thatcher expounded the idea that we would be better off if we all looked ourselves and the degree to which this idea has been taken on by the population is one of the reason we remain such a deeply divided and unequal society. Her government behaved appallingly to Ireland, attempted to levy taxes which fell disproportionately on the poor and passed laws forbidden teachers from telling students that homosexuality is natural. The swing away from manufacturing and towards financial industries lead and the aggressively corporate culture her policies encouraged lead to the financial crash and the banking crisis.

Thatcher’s greatest accomplishment (apart from becoming a one word political exclamation, an hour she shares with Tony Blair) is how she fundamentally changed British politics. Her emphasis of the free market over the state is now a universally accepted political truth. Thatcher successfully dragged the entire political spectrum to right, at least on economic issues, and her influence has been felt as profoundly on the Labour party as the Tories.

Labour leaders from the 1980s to today have accepted Thatcherite principals to a degree. In his statement following her death, Tony Blair commented that “some of the changes she made in Britain were, in certain respects at least, retained by the 1997 Labour Government” (full statement can be found here). The current Labour leader Ed Miliband summed her legacy up most effectively by writing “she will be remembered as a unique figure. She reshaped the politics of a whole generation” (same source as above). I find it hard to imagine Tory party leaders speaking so highly of recently departed icons of the left. In fact when I think of the death of Labour party leaders from the 1980s and how the right responded I think of this disgusting Daily Mail piece.

Thatcher won three electoral victories and led the country for 12 years. In that time she permanently redefined the political and economic landscape the Great Britain. By the time she was ousted by her own party in November 1990, the trade unions had been diminished, manufacturing industry was one the way out, financial services and tertiary industries were on the rise, nationalised industries were privatised and Nash’s enlightened self-interest was the prevailing view in both the private and public sector. In short the Britain of the early 1990s was entirely changed from that of 1979 and no one person has had such a singular impact on the country as Margaret Thatcher has.

Describing Thatcher as divisive is more than just a polite way to say that she is very unpopular in certain circles (or parts of the country) and that a lot people strongly disagree with her values and policies. Someone’s opinion on Thatcher cuts to the heart of where you stand in British politics. We have seen leftist leaders saying that they disagreed with her but respect who she was, which some would argue reflects how centrist the leftwing establishment has become in the post-Thatcher years. Her biggest champions are the leaders of the economic right; her biggest critics are the darlings of the old left (Ken Livingston described her as clinically insane in an interview with the New Statesmen magazine before 2012 London Mayoral elections).

Personally I feel her views on the merits of self-interest, especially the infamous ‘no such thing as society’ comment, are the most despicable of political opinions. I cannot disagree enough with this view and feel that society has been made a colder, darker and less compassionate place by the ruthless pursuit of money which her polices endorsed. It is because of the values she inspired that it is always acceptable to disregard human well-being when doing business. The worst excesses of private business from the banking crisis to third world sweat shops are legitimised by governments who refuse to involve themselves in market and by individuals who argue for enlightened self-interest. All of which Thatcher was an icon for.

I began by saying Thatcher was divisive, as is anything written about her. Most people’s response to this article will have already been determined before they started reading as their opinion on Thatcher is fixed deep within their political ideology. At the time of her death, we remain a deeply divided nation. Divided by class, region, wealth and how we response to the death of someone who will continue to cast a very long shadow over British politics.

*Contrary to her request she is receiving a ceremonial funeral with military honours, the level below a state funeral)

Hugo Chavez: An obituary

In 2008, I was standing between a garage and a storage bin in the DUBO area of New York, talking to a Venezuelan woman about her animation business. As I was on another continent and unlikely to ever see this woman again, I decided to ask her what could have been an awkward question: What did she think of Hugo Chavez as president? The woman, whose company was based in New York and Caracas, thought about this for a while before commenting that given the choice most Venezuelans would opt for Western liberal democracy, but given South American's history with dictators, they knew they were better off than a lot of other people.

This response is typical of the way the left view Chavez. To some, he was a hero of the people, nationalising oil reserves, standing up to America and reforming society for the benefit of the poorest and most disenfranchised. To others, he was the embodiment of overbearing authority, intolerant of criticism, restricting civil liberties and harbouring foreign criminals. Regardless of where you stand on the history of Venezuela under Chavez, most people have to admit (at least grudgingly) that Venezuelan was probably better off with him than without him.

Hugo Chavez was President of Venezuela for nearly 14 years and, in that time, survived international pressure to remove him, attempted coups and won four successive elections. He also changed the constitution to allow himself to keep running for successive terms of office. Chavez nationalised Venezuela’s oil industry and played a difficult game, balancing American and Chinese oil interests against each other so that he never become too indebted to either side. He invested money in education and improving the lives of the poorest members of society, amongst whom he was hugely popular. He founded workers co-operatives and implemented a program of land reform. He also once sent a judge to prison for being lenient in sentencing a political dissident.

Chavez was born in Sabaneta in 1954, and grew up to join the army. In 1992, he attempted to lead a military coup, which was unsuccessful and landed him in prison. Two years later, he founded the social democratic political party and was first elected president in 1998. During his time in office, he had to contend with numerous democratic and undemocratic attempts to remove him from power. Chavez also cultivated friendships with Fidel Castro and Ken Livingstone, with the latter he arranged a competitive petroleum export contract which allowed the then Mayor of London to prevent transport costs from rising.

Amongst those on the left, where Chavez really divides opinions is whether he is among the last of an old breed of authoritarian socialist dictators, who have faded away in the first part of the 21st Century, or the blueprint for a new type of popular socialism, rooted in alleviating poverty and traditional leftist polices. It is a testament to Chavez’s massive popularity that he was able to be as authoritarian as he was - in most other countries in the world he would have required a stronger grasp to hold onto power, or would have been voted out of office. But Chavez’s appeal was always to the poorest members of Venezuelan society, who saw real improvements in living conditions.

Chavez’s thinking was sound: nationalisation, workers’ co-operatives, wealth redistribution, anti-imperialism, anti-colonialism, public education, and all the other things we on the left want to see in our governments. Where he fell down was in his implementation. Venezuelan’s infrastructure suffers from chronic lack of investment, industry is underdeveloped and the country still heavily relies on its finite oil reserves. Chavez implemented a lot of important reforms but failed to build a modern prosperous socialist society. The real testament to his legacy will be whether the next election brings in someone of similar values or the complete opposite.

The eyes of the world will be watching very closely to see what happens next. Unlike North Korea where succession was guaranteed, the possible outcomes in Venezuela are much more varied. Doubtless opinions of Chavez’s legacy will be divided - what will be important is whether future generations of Venezuelans look back on the Chavez years and decide that they probably were better off with him than without him.


Kim Jong-il: An obituary

No right-thinking person would want to live in North Korea, or The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to call it by its official name. Aside from the general advice to avoid any country with the word “Democratic” in its name, North Korea is a poor nation, gripped by famine and an overbearing authoritarian government. They are politically isolated and potentially unstable. Most of this is largely due to the personal influence of their recently deceased supreme leader, Kim Jong-il.

Kim Jong-il led one of world’s few remaining Stalinist states and the world’s only hereditary Communist authority. He became leader following the death of his father Kim Il-sung in 1994, who lead the nation since he was installed as the head of state following the Soviet invasion in 1945. The Kim’s created a vast personality cult surrounding themselves and their accomplishments. It is worthy of note that Kim Il-sung is still technically the Korean head of state as he was made Eternal President of the Republic after his death. Kim Jong-il was the de facto leader as he was the General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, Chairman of the National Defence Commission and the Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army.

During the 17 years of Kim Jong-il’s leadership, North Korea faced political isolation and came close to wars with South Korea, Russia and Japan on several occasions. When Communism collapsed in Russia, North Korea lost its main trade partner and economic hardship sent in. Their isolation from their neighbours and poor management by their central government has led to economic ruin and a famine reported to have claimed the lives of over 2 million North Korean citizens.

Kim Jong-il’s rule also been characterised by Stalinist totalitarianism. Rumours abound about state repression in ordinary North Koreans’ lives. Allegedly citizens are required to sing songs of praise for their leaders and homes come fitted with radios which broadcast state propaganda. Radios which not only cannot be turned off, but which it is illegal to tamper with.

Pursuit of nuclear weapons and missiles capable of reaching Japan and the United States has led to a breakdown in relations between North Korea and the rest of the international community. Despite this, Kim Jong-il made some efforts to repair damaged relationships, meeting the South Korean President in 2000 and taking meetings with Russian and American representatives. He also requested aid from the international community in dealing with the famine.

Those close to Kim Jong-il have described him as having a passion for Marxist-Leninism and a strict belief that North Korean society should follow this economic philosophy. Despite this, his personal life epitomises the worst excesses of capitalism. While he dined on fresh lobster and other exotic foods his citizens starved. While he owned private cars, planes and jets, the people of North Korea lacked essential services. While he enjoyed his collection of Hollywood films his government restricted all access to foreign media.

Kim Jong-il’s death can also be situated in the wider context of the end of Maoism and Marxist-Leninism, with private businesses bombing in China and their government moving ever closer to floating their currency on the international market. It also fits into the narrative of the end of authoritarian, centralised government, with 2011 seeing people all over the world rising up against their overbearing rulers. The age of big government might not be over, but the age of the all-encompassing government is.

The legacy of ruin and hardship left behind following the fall of the Titans of Communism is a reminder to those on the left that although our ideology should be informed by Marxism, we need to grow beyond the confines of this restrictive and incomplete philosophy. The left requires a new mode of thinking, focused on decentralised self-organising networks rather than the all-powerful state.

Kim Jong-il’s death leaves North Korea’s future in an uncertain state - even his son, Kim Jong-un’s succession is not certain. The world watches with bated breath to see how the famously unpredictable regime will respond. It is the hope of this blogger than the North Korean people will see an improvement in their political freedoms and material circumstances. Kim Jong-il has failed to deliver the abundance promised in theory by Marxist-Leninism and as a result is responsible for creating a society whose citizens are impoverished, hungry and repressed. Changing is sweeping across the world and we hope that in some way it can benefit the people of North Korea, who have suffered for so long at the hands of their supreme rulers.

Steve Jobs: An obituary

"It was sponsored by that guy from Apple computers." - Homer Simpson, 1996.

Today the word of Information Technology mourns the passing of a giant in the field, Steve Jobs. The Apple logo, and technical innovations such as the iPod and Macs, have become synonymous with the information age and the very idea of western capitalism. No one more than Jobs incorporated the ideal of the capitalist system. Adopted by a working class family, Jobs grew up to co-found the world's largest technology firm and amass a personal net worth of $8.3bn. He also embodied a middle-class aspiration of incorporating creativity and design into his firm's USP. Apple's innovations were as much artistic and design triumphs as they were technical and financial successes.

It is difficult to overstate the influence Jobs has had. His early Macs where the first computers to use a mouse and the Graphical User Interface (GUI), which allowed them to move away from the previous Command Line Interface and bring personal computing to the less technically minded. It is very telling that Apple's OS operating system has the most logical names for features (Finder and Trash versus Explorer and Recycle Bin); this is because they were the first into this brave new territory and were able to coin the names. As well as defining the personal computer, his firm still sets the benchmark in modern computing. All modern smart phones are modelled heavily on the original iPhone design, and the iPod is the baseline by which all personal MP3 players are measured.

Jobs' financial successes are also many. When he returned to Apple in 1997, he took the firm from being literally a joke (see the 1996 Simpsons episode Homerpalooza for proof how much of a joke Apple was before Job's return), to eclipse the behemoths Microsoft and IBM and become the world's largest technology company, with a market capitalisation of over $350bn. More than any other CEO, Jobs led from the front, his personality being inseparable from the brand and his trademark keynote addresses a defining feature of their new product launches. Apple more than any other technology company has fans as opposed to customers, and devotees would queue for hours to see the man in person and catch a glimpse of the latest products.

Regent Street

Tributes to Steve Jobs outside the Apple Store on Regents Street, London

Under Job's leadership Apple have become a powerhouse of creative and technical accomplishments. The brand has a reputation for being original and for being the best choice for digital artists, graphic designers, and many others in fields where computing and creativity go hand in hand. Always with a keen eye for good business ventures, they have sponsored smaller firms to great technical innovations. It is telling that it was Jobs who first saw the possibilities that Pixar offered when he bought the company in 1986. It is difficult to say which direction the company will move in now, but it is clear that the new CEO, Tim Cook, has some very large shoes to fill.

I started by saving that Steve Jobs epitomised a western capitalist ideal and I will conclude by returning to this point. The foundation stone of western capitalist society is the belief that personal individualism can be expressed through mass produced consumer products. Apple is the pinnacle of this, as being an apple customer makes a statement about you as a person. No other innovator or company has been the alternative, rebel in the market (against the mainstream Microsoft) whilst being the larger, dominant, top-dog firm. The mark Steve Jobs left behind will be felt by his firm and his fans, and his accomplishments will belong to the ages. Truly today we have lost a great innovator and businessman.