Archive for June, 2015

Comedy Fuhrer Joshua Bonehill in Court Again

June 29, 2015

I found a tiny piece on page two of today’s Mirror, reporting that Joshua Bonehill, Yeovil’s comedy caudillo, is up before the beak again in Taunton. Bonehill’s a notorious fantasist, who imagines himself as the ‘Founder’ and leader of a mighty Fascist legion, ready to take Britain back from the failures of democracy and multiculturalism. In reality, he’s like so many other past sawdust Caesars in that his awesome Fascist army consists of, er, just him actually. And it’s even debatable how seriously he takes his role as Britain’s Fuehrer in waiting. In a now deleted blog post, he declared that his stance as a Fascist leader was merely a carefully contrived post in order to troll the real Nazis and the rest of the British public.

According to EDL News, an anti-racist website set up to tackle the English Defence League, Bonehill had announced on his blog that he was planning to descend on Glastonbury to give out anti-Semitic pamphlets and challenge ‘Leftist tyranny’. See their article ‘Joshua Bonehill goes to Glastonbury Music Festival’. They declared that he’d probably be going with some imaginary friends, in other words, all the Fascist stormtroopers he claims he has following him, but who strangely don’t appear anywhere and seem to exist only in his head. They also forecast that, as it was a cool pop festival, Bonehill probably wouldn’t get very far before being turfed out.

The Mirror article made no mention of whether Bonehill had actually gone to Glastonbury. It merely reported that he was being charged with inciting racial hatred ahead of this Saturday’s proposed Neo-Nazi march on Golders Green. I’ve got a feeling that even if Bonehill hadn’t been charged, he still wouldn’t have been able to go to that noxious rally as there’s a court order against him, but I could be wrong.

Not that this is the first time Bonehill’s been in court. He’s got several convictions already for harassment. The last one was for his harassment of a woman in Hertfordshire, because she spurned his advances. Even after he sent her a Nazi swastika, which he claimed had been touched by Adolf. Well, who could resist a romantic gift like that? He’s also been guilty of hacking into people’s blogs to present them falsely as paedophiles, and spreading all manner of lies about the pubs out of which he’s been thrown. Quite apart from trying to break into a police station to steal uniforms and equipment, and being thrown out of a supermarket, in which he’d tried to defecate.
He really does appear to be quite a charmless thug.

He’d better be careful though. I think that some of the punishments meted out to him have been suspended sentences. In which case, if he’s broken one of these, he could find himself whisked off for a holiday at Her Majesty’s Pleasure, and one which he very definitely won’t enjoy.

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The French Islamist Assassin and Steven Sondheim’s ‘Assassins’ Musical

June 29, 2015

Musical theatre isn’t a word you often associate with serious politics. I don’t think the song and dance spectaculars of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers had very much to say about the threat of political or religious extremism, or the dangers of inadequate fiscal and economic policies. The same with the great musicals of Rogers and Hammerstein, though the song, There Is Nothing Like A Dame was used as the main song for a feminist ‘Golden Gala’ broadcast on ITV in the late ’70s – early ’80s, and reviewed by Clive James.

Steven Sondheim’s musical, Assassins, is different, however, and very relevant to the psychology of the Islamist murderer who killed his boss and attempted to blow up the oxygen plant at which he worked in France on Friday. Glancing at the headlines for the MSN news on the ‘net the other day, I found the headline that personal and job problems were behind the man’s brutal attack on his boss and his attempt at mass murder.

This is very much of a piece of the psychology of the long line of men and women, who have tried, and sometimes succeeded, to kill the president of US, according to Sondheim’s musical. This traces the personal histories and motives of the killers from John Wilkes Booth, the murderer of Abraham Lincoln, onwards. They include Italian anarchists, truckers and a young woman, who wanted to kill Gerald Ford out of her love for Charles Manson. After Ford pardoned Nixon, my guess is that a lot of severely normal Americans would’ve liked to kill him. The vast majority wouldn’t have done it out of adoration for a racist thug and butcher like Manson.

The play consists in the various eponymous assassins telling their stories. All of them are, to some degree or other, failures, who have found themselves at the very bottom of society. They’ve lost their jobs, or their businesses have folded, and there have been other, personal problems. So some of them ended up like the archetypal crazy on the street corner, shouting their hate and personal bile to the winds and to surprised passers-by. One of the would-be assassins is shown in a Santa Claus costume, holding up a sign saying, ‘I Demand My Constitutional Rights’. The circumstances may be different in each case, but with nearly all of them it’s a moot point how far they are acting out of altruistic, purely political motives, and how far they have just made the president of the US the focus of their hate simply for their own, personal and professional failures.

Which is the precise point the play makes.

And that appears to be pretty much the case also with the French assassin on Friday. He was a failure, having difficulties at work and home, and so decided to kill his boss and then destroy the plant, taking with it himself, his co-workers, and no doubt many of the local townspeople. Radical Islam and its jihadi ideology provided the rationale, a pretext to excuse and justify his terrible actions. But in the end, they were far less noble than he attempted to fool himself.

This doesn’t alter how terrible they were. He still killed an innocent man, and attempted to take the lives of many more innocents. But despite his professed motives, he was like the Assassins of Sondheim’s musical, just another sad loser trying to find a political scapegoat for their own personal and professional failings.

Vox Political’s Mike Sivier in Today’s Indie Asking Tough Questions of IDS

June 25, 2015

Mike from Vox Political has written a piece in today’s Independent, ‘All I want is the Government to say how many people on benefits have died under their watch – why does Iain Duncan Smith think I’m ‘disgraceful’?’ with the significant by-line, ‘You can’t help think that the Government is trying to hide something’. It follows IDS’ recent attack on disability campaigners, in which he declared that they were ‘disgraceful’ for demanding he release the information on the number of people, who’ve died after being assessed as ‘fit for work’.

Mike’s piece begins

David Groves was 56 when he died of a heart attack the night before taking his work capability assessment. His widow claimed that it was the stress that killed him. Terry McGarvey, 48, who suffered from polycytheamia, asked for an ambulance to be called during his Work Capability Assessment. He knew that he wasn’t well enough to attend his WCA but feared that his benefits would be stopped if he did not. He died the following day.

When the sick and disabled have to fight the Government for their lives it’s a sad indictment against our nation. Why is it so hard for our Tory Government to tell us how many people on benefits have died under their watch? And why has the campaign for the numbers to be released been called “disgraceful” by Iain Duncan Smith?

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As a political blogger specialising in welfare issues, I have been aware of the horror stories facing benefit claimants for years. It all began with claims in a 2012 Panorama documentary that the “work capability assessment” medical examination on claimants of Employment and Support Allowance was causing extreme, occasionally life-threatening stress.

He briefly discusses the inadequacy of the ‘tick-box’ assessments for judging whether people are able to work, and his shock at the Panorama report, which described how those with suicidal thoughts were asked why they didn’t try to end their lives. He also mentions the stress caused by the lengthy appeals process, before talking about his campaign to get the mortality statistics from the DWP. He describes how IDS’ department refused, and how he was forced to appeal against the decision. He has won the appeal, but the government is planning to publish the stats in a deliberately fudged manner.

Mike concludes by asking why it is that the government has not already published the information, in a form people actually want, without Mike having had to launch a petition to get them to do so? After all, he has a letter from them from two years ago stating that they have the information at hand, and ready to publish. He states

The DWP’s appeal against me states that the statistics are likely to be misinterpreted: “Incorrect conclusions were likely to be drawn as to causal links between assessment outcomes and mortality.” But FOI requests are motive-blind; it doesn’t matter how the DWP thinks the figures will be used. All that matters is whether the DWP has the information and can publish it within cost limits.

It does, and it can.

So let’s have it.

The article also has a link to Mike’s petition to get the government to release the petition. This is at https://www.change.org/p/hm-courts-and-tribunal-service-publish-stats-showing-how-many-people-have-died-after-their-benefits-stopped

Mike’s article is at http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/all-i-want-is-the-government-to-say-how-many-people-on-benefits-have-died-under-their-watch–why-does-iain-duncan-smith-think-im-disgraceful-10345080.html

It has a piccie of Mike himself, as well as one of IDS, where he looks like he’s looking into a long, dark pit. Hopefully, it’s the one that’ll swallow his career.

Private Eye on Repeated Exposure of IDS’ Lies

June 25, 2015

Mike from Vox Political was in the Mirror, the Mail and the Groaniad this Tuesday. Ian Duncan Smith, the Minister for the Creative Murder of the Poor, had got really annoyed about disability rights’ campaigners’ continued demands for the release of the government’s statistics showing how many people had died due to sanctions after being declared fit for work. Smith had therefore made a speech denouncing them as ‘disgraceful’ for worrying the public unduly. And so the ladies and gentlemen of the Fourth Estate had come to Mike, and others, like the head of the disabled rights group, Black Triangle, for comment.

And far from being dismayed at this attack on his character, Mike was instead immensely amused, as it once again gave him the opportunity to make the true facts plain before the public, and point out IDS’ continuing lies, as well as his crass stupidity and manifest incompetence.

If IDS is going to get this upset every time someone challenges the honesty of his department, then I strongly advise him to stock up on all the stomach pills he’s going to need to control his increasingly bilious digestion. Because there’s going to be a very long line of ’em.

Mike and his fellows haven’t been the first people this year to upset the Gentleman Ranker about this. Private Eye, in its issue for the 29th May-11th June 2015, published this article on how a series of campaigners had demanded the information, and revealed how the published statistics that had been obtained very definitely give the lie to RTU’s claims. Here it is.

Dead Quiet Man

So much for work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s professed “outrage” when asked about secret government reviews into the unexpected deaths of benefit claimants.

In a televised debate before the election, Duncan Smith denied the existence of such a review and accused the Green Party’s Jonathan Bartley of making “scurrilous” and “cheap” allegations – even though his own civil servants had already admitted there had been 40 reviews of suicides and nine further benefit-related deaths in the previous year.

The Department for Work and Pensions is refusing to publish the outcome of those cases but last week, responding to an FOI request from Anita Bellows, a research for Disabled People Against Cuts, it admitted that 10 of the 49 claimants had been subject to controversial benefit sanctions.

Concern that one in five benefit-related deaths may be connected to the practice of suddenly halting payments – for example, after missing one jobcentre appointment – has increased pressure on Duncan Smith to release the reviews. Now his ministerial sidekick, Priti Patel, has unveiled figures showing that while the use of jobseeker sanctions fell overall last year, that was not the case for those who were ill or disabled. The number of people whose employment and support allowance (ESA, which replaced incapacity benefit as the out-of-work disability benefit) was suddenly halted, rose by more than a third last year to a total of 36,810 – leaping from 2,626 to 3,274 in the final month.

Patel maintains sanctions are used “as a last resort” – just as well if rumours are true that cuts to disabled people’s ESA will be part of Duncan Smith’s £12bn welfare budget cuts.

As a number of whistleblowers have pointed out, sanctions are most definitely not used as a last resort. Indeed, there have been leaks showing Jobcentres awarded prizes, like chocolate Easter eggs and mock sheriff’s badges for workers, who have sanctioned the most claimants. This shows that Patel is also a liar, which should itself come as no shock to anyone. She is, after all, one of the wretched authors of Britannia Unchained, the rabid free-market screed demanding that British workers work longer for poverty wages, without the support of the welfare state, in order for their bosses to get the same profits as their bloated counterparts in the Developing World. Unfortunately, the Eye article doesn’t mention the campaign to get the figures released for the numbers, who’ve died after being found fit for work. But it does show how benefit sanctions are causing people to take their own lives, and that the government is well aware of it. And therefore, through IDS’ actions and pronouncements, how desperate he is, to cover up this murderously failing policy.

As for Duncan Smith calling disability campaigners disgraceful, it reminded me of a philosophical system called Logical Positivism. As formulated by Alfred ‘Freddy’ Ayer, this held that any statement made about the world did not actually describe the thing it was apparently about. Instead, it was a statement about the speaker’s own mental state. For example, if someone was described as beautiful, that did not mean that they actually were so. It meant instead only that the person speaking found that person attractive. Logical Positivism has since been discredited, with Ayer himself stating that it was excellent but for a single flaw: it was almost totally wrong.

Nevertheless, it seems to describe with amazing accuracy Iain Duncan Smith’s own psychology. When he attacks disability campaigners as ‘disgraceful’, it means he finds them disgraceful, because they are clearly a threat to his continued position in government. To everyone else looking at his lies and incompetence, the true disgrace is how he was ever put in charge of it, and the millions of lives of people on benefits in the first place.

And he’d better get used to feeling threated, because the campaigners aren’t going to stop pressing for the information, nor stop trying to discredit him and the vile government he serves.

Private Eye on the Failure of the Government’s Privatisation of the Royal Mail

June 24, 2015

In its edition for last night fortnight, 12th -25th June 2015, Private Eye ran this piece about Cameron’s latest privatisation of the Royal Mail. It pointed out that the rationale for the sale of its last remaining shares in Britain’s oldest state enterprise actually contradicts the previous announcements about how transferring it all to private ownership would somehow improve service. The article states very plainly that this shows what a fraud and shambles the sell-off of the Royal Mail really is. Here it is.

Royally Screwed

George Osborne’s decision to sell the taxpayer’s remaining 30 percent share in Royal Mail defies the whole purpose of the privatisation and confirms what a rip-off the original sale was.

When the leader of the government body that ran the original privatisation in October 2013, Shareholder Executive boss Mark Russell, was questioned by a parliamentary committee a few weeks later, he explained that “one of the main reasons that we are pursuing this policy of bringing in private sector capital is we expected private sector disciplines to come in on the back of the private sector capital”, which in turn would increase the value of the company. So “the very reason we were maintaining the 30 percent shareholding was because we anticipated that over time there would be some movement of share price, and we wanted the taxpayer to gain from that.”

In fact the Royal Mail share price shot up simply because the sell-off was undervalued at 330p per share. The price hit 600p within weeks and after a year of supposed “private sector discipline” now stands at around 500p.

The further sale now is either an admission that “private sector discipline” does not work magic and there isn’t much more upside for the taxpayer to expect on his 30 percent, or a desperate grab for cash by the chancellor. Or possibly both.

PS. The same Shareholder Executive that was criticised by the National Audit Office as selling Royal Mail shares with “deep caution, the price of which was borne by the taxpayer” has now acquired UK Financial Investments, the arm of the Treasury that will soon be selling billions of pounds’ worth of bank shares – an unlikely empire expansion that the taxpayer might come to regret.

In other words, the Tories’ final privatisation of the Royal Mail is pretty much like most of the other privatisations: it is purely driven by free-market ideology and the express intention of further enriching the private investors and wealthy Tory donors, who are expected to buy into the sale. For the public, it hasn’t led to any improvement in service. In fact, if previous privatisations are any guide, we can look forward to worse service coupled with a vast increase in prices in order to finance grossly inflated pay rises for the board of directors. And, as with all such privatisations, it’s also been grossly undervalued so that the taxpayer has not seen a proper return for the sale.

It is, as Private Eye has said, a rip-off.

It’s also another privatisation that I don’t think anybody wants. I can remember when the Royal Mail’s privatisation was first mooted back in the 1990s. I’m fairly certain my next-door neighbour’s at the time were working class Tories. I can recall them being absolutely horrified by the proposal, and stating very clearly that they did not vote in the election so it could be sold off.

Public opinion, however, means nothing to this government, nor indeed to much of the political class in general. They continue to remain absolutely convinced of the rectitude of free market ideology, despite its manifest failure to provide jobs, improve quality of service, or indeed give cheaper service. Privatisation – not just of the Royal Mail, but also of the rest of the utilities, including and especially the power companies and trains – is a massive, exploitative failure and should be reversed.

Dan Cruikshank on ISIS’ Attack on Ancient Monuments

June 24, 2015

Next Tuesday the Beeb is showing a programme by Dan Cruikshank on the threat posed to the great antiquities and priceless monuments of Middle East by ISIS. It’s entitled Dan Cruikshank’s Civilisation under Attack. The blurbs for it in the Radio Times state

Islamic State have declared war on some of the planet’s most important architectural sites, with jihadi fighters seemingly set on destroying the wonders of the ancient world. Dan Cruikshank charts the likely course of the militant group’s advance, investigating why it is happening. (p. 86)

and

Watching the videos here of Islamic State fighters taking sledgehammers and drills to Assyrian reliefs in Nimrud – then blowing up the whole site – is hard. Similar attacks in Mosul, Nineveh and Hatra have brought global condemnation, and now the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra lies under IS control.

Dan Cruikshank talks to Islamic scholars about the claimed rationale behind the IS actions and what, if anything, can be done to challenge it. ‘Are we prepared to use armed force to protect the cultural heritage of all humanity?’ demands one expert. But it turns out to be not nearly that simple, in a programme that can offer few answers. (p. 83.)

The programme’s on BBC 4 at 9.00 pm, if you can bear to watch the footage of this gratuitous vandalism.

Cruikshank is an architectural historian with a deep appreciation of the glories of the world’s architectural heritage, not just that of Britain. A few years ago he presented a series, in which he toured the globe’s great buildings and monuments, including those of Iraq and Afghanistan. These included either Babylon or Nineveh, where he was horrified to find how botched and tawdry the ‘restoration’ performed by Saddam Hussein had been. The monument had been partly restored using modern brick stamped with the late dictator’s own name. I’ve got a feeling this was slightly before the West’s invasion of Iraq, as he stated his own, real fears about the threat a war in the country posed to the survival of these precious antiquities. He also talked to one of the leaders of the Christian community in Iraq about the deterioration in relationships between them and their Muslim compatriots. The interview was quite strained, with ominous pauses where the bishop appeared to be thinking very carefully indeed about how to explain his people’s embattled situation. He explained that relations between Christians and Muslims had previously been quite harmonious. Tensions had increased, with members of the Christian church physically assaulted, with the threat of invasion from the West.

Alas, Cruikshank’s fears have been borne out. Christian communities throughout Iraq and the Middle East have been attacked and expelled by ISIS as part of their radical Islamisation of the territories they capture. And it’s not just been Christians that have suffered. They’ve also attacked, brutalised and enslaved the Yezidis, and have killed Muslims, whose religious views differ from and are opposed to their own. I’ve blogged before about how many Islamic clergy have been murdered and mosques demolished by ISIS, simply because they dared to have a different conception of Islam.

And in addition to destroying churches, and ancient Assyrian monuments, they’ve also destroyed historic Islamic shrines, again because they are ‘un-Islamic’, according to their twisted ideology.

All this is a deliberate attack on an ancient heritage that belongs to the world and specifically to the peoples of the countries ISIS have conquered and brutalised. These monuments are a threat, as they show just how ancient the history and culture of these peoples are. Archaeologists and historians of the ancient Near East, such as Georges Roux in his Ancient Iraq have noted, for example, that the style of housing used by the ancient Babylonians is very much the same as that traditionally used in Iraq. The forensic scientist and Egyptologist, Dr Jo-Anne Fletcher, made the same point about the type of houses built and used by modern Egyptians. This is also very similar to those built by their ancient predecessors thousands of years previously.

In language, too, there is considerable similarity and some remarkable survivals from the ancient cultures. Akkadian, the language of the Assyrian Empire, was, like Arabic and Hebrew, a Semitic language. And there are still words in modern Arabic, which are clearly derived from, if not exactly the same, as those uttered by the Assyrians. Certain customs and cultural practices have also survived down the centuries from the ancient past. In the programme about Palmyra, Cruikshank pointed to a relief, which showed a group of veiled women riding camels or mules. This, he pointed out, showed how ancient the veiling of women was in the Middle East. It certainly does. Respectable married women were required by law in ancient Assyria to veil themselves in public.

ISIS’ destruction of these monuments is a deliberate attempt to erase the history and cultural identity of Iraq and Syria. It’s the same totalitarian strategy pursued by Hitler and Stalin, in their brutal campaigns to remodel Nazi Germany and the Communist Soviet Union, so that no trace of their former cultures could survive to challenge the regime. And the cultural vandalism didn’t stop there, but was also imposed on the nations they conquered. Hitler, for example, had the Paris metro destroyed, as he had claimed that Berlin was the only city in the world that had such an underground railway system. This was clearly belied by the existence of the French system, and so it had to be destroyed. And as Orwell stated in 1984, that classic SF dystopia, if you want to control the future, you have to control the past. Hence the Ministry of Truth, which existed to rewrite history in order to satisfy the ideological and propaganda needs of Big Brother’s tyranny.

Orwell based his book on Stalin’s Russia. Since then, Communism has fallen, although Putin seems determined to revive some of Stalin’s reputation and his brutal methods. And ISIS have now succeeded the Nazi and Stalinist regimes as destroyers of culture and history in the pursuit of totalitarian power.

They haven’t always been able to get their own way, however. There has been the odd case where the local people have protested so strongly against their attempts to destroy one of their country’s monuments, that ISIS have been forced to retreat. One of these cases was when the locals gathered round to protect an historic minaret.

Their actions stand in stark contrast to far more enlightened approach of the early caliphs. What made medieval Islam such a powerful cultural and scientific force in global society, was its willingness to seek out, absorb, and assimilate the learning of the peoples they had conquered. This was then synthesized and built on, with the result that Muslim scholars made astonishing advances in astronomy, medicine, physics, mathematics, philosophy, chemistry, historiography – the philosophy of history – and even in areas ISIS utterly detest, such as musical theory.

ISIS, by contrast, are destroyers, and their deliberate and calculated attack on these ancient monuments has left the culture of the world and the Muslim and Arab peoples themselves badly impoverished.

Cameron Brings Back Ancient Greek Metic System for Migrant Workers

June 22, 2015

I caught on the news this morning that Cameron has just announced legislation limiting the length of time foreign citizens can stay in the UK to six years. Except, of course, for those earning over £35,000, who aren’t bound by such restrictions. Once again, it shows their xenophobia and their hatred of the poor. The rich can stay for as long as they like, never mind the social cleansing they bring with them as working class districts are gentrified and their original occupants pushed out, both traditional British and those of more settled migrant communities.

Worse, the legislation has been backdated to 2011, which means that hardworking migrants, who’ve been over here for four or five years already, are suddenly faced with the problem of having to prepare to leave the UK. This is even when many of them may have already effectively settled down, got married, had children and put money down for property here.

A friend of mine told me how one of his relatives organised protests against similar legislation when it was brought in under John Major. The government then wanted to do exactly what Cameron and co are trying to do now, and the effects on the NHS were exactly as feared by some of the spokespeople for the nurses now. Various representatives for the nurses were shown on the news, voicing their fears that this would devastate the number of nurses actually working in the Health Service. This is precisely what threatened to happen way back in the 1990s. A number of the nurses at the hospital, where my friend’s relative worked, were foreign nationals. These women and men had worked hard, and put down roots in the UK through marriage and purchasing their own homes. They were then faced with being forcibly uprooted from their jobs, families and homes. And so his relative took part in organising a series of protests on their behalf.

Cameron’s new regulations limiting the amount of time poor migrant workers can spend in the UK is basically just a revival of the metic system from ancient Greece. The metics were foreign citizens resident in the ancient Greek city states, usually merchants and traders. They were allowed to remain in the cities for six years. On the seventh year, they had to return to their countries of origin. And so with the modern metics Cameron has effectively created with this legislation. And as with most of the Tories’ policies, it’s very likely a product of their public school education. The education of the aristocracy has always been based solidly on the Classics, to the point where there was a joke about it in the satirical BBC comedies, Yes, Minister, and Yes, Prime Minister. At one point the new prime minister, Jim Hacker, formerly the Minister for Administrative Affairs, is faced with a severe financial crisis. Looking around to find anyone in the government or upper levels of the Civil Service, who might have the necessary expertise to solve the crisis, Hacker is aghast to find that none of them are economists. In exasperation he asks Sir Humphrey if, surely, the head of the Treasury studied economics at Uni. Certainly not, replies Sir Humphrey indignantly, he studied Classics. Cameron, Osborne and the rest of the Toffs now running the country into the ground may have studied more relevant subjects at Uni, but behind this there is the shadow of the British public school education system and its emphasis on the Classics.

Its also pretty much of a piece with the other bits of legislation Cameron and his cronies have introduced. They’ve effectively reintroduced the debt slavery that Solon attempted to legislate against, and with the massive expansion of workfare are effectively reducing the poor and the young to Helots. These were state slaves at the very bottom of Spartan society. And on one day each year, it was legal for the Spartan elite to rob, beat and kill them if they so wished, just to teach them their place. It hasn’t got that bad yet, but you have to wonder if it will, given Cameron and co’s membership of the Bullingdon Club, who I think got their kicks smashing up bars.

Of course, Cameron and his cronies admire ancient Greece as the source of western culture, and the inventors of democracy. But the democracy the ancient Greeks pioneered was very limited. Only citizens, which meant property owners, who did not have to work or run businesses, but lived off their rents, had the vote. This is the concept of democracy that Aristotle celebrates and promotes in his Politics, where he recommends that such citizens have their own, separate forum to that of the rest of the populace, so they don’t have to mix with slaves, artisans, traders and similar riff-raff. And as Cameron has followed the Americans in trying to restrict the franchise to rich property-owners under the guise of rooting out electoral fraud, we can probably look forward to that coming back as well.

The Biggest Attack On Wages Yet, Sectors With High Vacancies To Get Thousands Of Workfare Workers

June 8, 2015

Johnny Void here describes the latest replacement of wage labour with cheap, workfare serfs by the government. The DWP are planning to create 100,000 workfare and ‘work academy’ jobs in those sectors of the economy with high vacancies. These will be filled by jobseekers aged 18-24. This follows Chris Grayling’s statement in 2011 that the government would be targeting workfare ‘work placements’ at precisely those sectors of the economy.

As Mr Void points out, this has got absolutely nothing to do with lowering unemployment, and everything to do with forcing wages down. If the economy is left to operate as envisaged by the original laissez-faire economists, employers would be forced to raise wages or offer better conditions to attract workers to jobs they had difficulty recruiting. By artificially filling these posts with unpaid workers, Grayling and his successors are acting to drive wages down by making paid work in those sectors much scarcer.

This action bears out the scepticism of pre-19th century workers to ability or willingness of the government to set wages to their advantage. Before the rise of trade unionism in the final years of the 18th century, working men and women generally were not in favour of the government setting wages, as it was felt that this interfered with the free bargaining between worker and employer that ideally produced higher wages than those set by the government. Now that the unions have been all but destroyed by Maggie and her successors, it’s time the old, pre-union scepticism towards government intervention on behalf of the workers should return, at least regarding the Tories.

Johnny Void also points out that it’s unclear where these jobs are going to be created, as many companies have withdrawn from the workfare schemes due to public protests. About which, there’s another one planned against B&M Stores, who in 2013 were declared to be, in Mr Void’s words, ‘workfare exploiter of the year’ by the welfare to work industry.

As for the age group at whom these non-job are aimed, this is the same group the Tories have decided should not receive housing benefit and so should either continue to live with their parents. Or, when this is impossible and they have been slung out, will be forced onto the streets as members of the rising numbers of the young homeless. These young people are, of course, the NEETS, the Not in Education, Employment or Training, who have now become the latest threat to civilised society as dole-scroungers, according to Tory ideology. Unemployed school-leavers are naturally one of the politically weakest sections of the population, and the Tories have constantly tried to exploit them with artificial non-jobs since the creation of the Youth Opportunities Programme under Thatcher.

Their demonization of this age group also shows the deep resentment of the 1960s marked in other parts of Conservatism by their hatred of the new, sexual permissiveness. The post-War years saw the emergence of the modern youth culture, and the 1960s in particular are remembered for youthfully rebelliousness as teenagers and young people explored radical philosophies and created a distinct counterculture as a direct rejection of the strictures and injustices of mainstream society. The wholesale placement of this part of the population in workfare and poverty thus looks very much like an attempt to prevent them once again taking to the streets in protest, as they did in ’60s against racism, Vietnam and in favour of a more liberal attitude towards sexuality.

the void

Join the Day of Action Against B&M Stores on June 27th. Join the Day of Action Against B&M Stores on June 27th.

The Government is claiming that up to 100,000 unpaid jobs are set to be created over the next year in a hand out to the corporate sector worth up to a billion pounds.  Astonishing some of these work experience positions will be targeted in areas which already have high numbers job vacancies making a mockery of the claim that these schemes are intended to reduce unemployment.

According to a recently updated document, produced to explain the various workfare schemes to the first victims of Universal Credit, the DWP are claiming that “An extra 100,000 work experience and sector-based work academy places have been made available between April 2015 and March 2016 for 18 to 24 year old jobseekers.” 

These are the corporate workfare schemes which have already seen almost half a million young people bullied into working for…

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Black Cap Occupied, Camden Is Rising, Thank Fuck For The Fuck Parade

June 7, 2015

Mr Void here reports the plans for yet another demonstration, this time against the gentrification of working class and marginalised, ‘bohemian’ areas in London, which are forcing out their historic, traditional residents. It’s based on the ‘F*ck Parade’ in Berlin, which was a mass protest against the social cleansing in that great city of its poor and marginal residents in favour of the rich. Class War are holding a similar even in Camden on July 11th. Mr Void also states that this protest is intended to be fun, as it is through this that the necessary energy and enthusiasm can be retained to carry on the protests and demonstrations against the government and its cuts.

the void

camden-fuck-parade

Politics doesn’t have to be boring.  It doesn’t have to be endless A to B marches, dreary rallies full of power-hungry hasbeens or soulless celebrity benefit gigs that cost half a giro just for a ticket.

That’s not to say it’s always going to a barrel of fucking laughs.  Standing outside a Maximus assessment centre with a banner in the freezing cold or getting up at 5am to join a picket line is desperately important.  But a political movement that does not inspire or exhilarate will eventually run out of steam.  And the bastards are not going away any time soon.  We must not run out of steam.

Sometimes, by defying their rules, and acting collectively, we get to see a glimpse of what our lives could really be like – and that is a world worth fighting for.  We should chase those moments because they provide the strength to…

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Iain Duncan Smith’s First Re-Education Centre To Open In Streatham Jobcentre

June 7, 2015

Johnny Void here describes the latest stage in this country’s descent into an Orwellian nightmare dystopia, courtesy of the Tories. Streatham Jobcentre now has a ‘Living Well Community Hub’, where, as he say in his very first paragraph, psychiatrists, social workers, voluntary sector charity workers and jobcentre staff will bully the unemployed back to work. He makes a good point when he states that this represents the end of mental health care that the mentally unwell can actually trust, as it has been co-opted into the system of benefit sanctions. He also points out the way the medicalization of poverty and homelessness has been used to put the blame for these conditions not on the state of the economy, but on the mental health of the poor and homeless themselves.

As for as the complicity of charities and the voluntary sector in this new phase of politicised medicine goes, he finds it complete unsurprising that Thamesreach, a charity that is ostensibly for the homeless, fully supports it and has invited Iain Duncan Smith to visit their new operations centre. Thamesreach’s campaign to end homelessness has basically consisted of their harassment, coupled with attempts to end private giving to the homeless in the streets, and their feeding by local authorities, as this apparently only goes to support their drug addictions and other problems.

Mr Void also here gives notice that the Mental Health Resistance Network are planning a demonstration against the Jobcentre. They’re planning to march on it on Friday, 26th June. Mr Void’s article contains a link to the Facebook page giving further details.

This latest development bears out an observation J.G. Ballard made a few years ago on future forms of totalitarianism. He said that whereas in the past totalitarian states made little pretence at being about anything other than command and control, in the future they would claim to be about serving the public. Ballard was a high Tory, who believed that modern society had become too safe and so had become suffocating and stifling. Hence novels like ‘Supercannes’ and ‘Cocaine Nights’ described closed, gate societies developing cults of extreme violence, or else were stalked by crazed psychopaths, as a means of restoring excitement, vitality and a sense of community amongst the bored, valium-sodden denizens. His observation was probably meant to be a description of the future of form of the ‘nanny state’ about which the Tories so often howl, in order to justify the next round of cuts and the further destruction of the welfare state. But it does accurately describe this form of politicised psychiatry. This isn’t about punishment, according to its architects; it’s about helping people. They’re to be cured of their mental illness by being sent off to work. Who could possibly argue with that?

In fact, as Johnny Void points out, they don’t help people. They bully them, and seek to dominate and control every aspect their lives. Mr Void has called Streatham Jobcentre a ‘re-education centre’. It’s something of an exaggeration, but only just. It is about re-education, and the psychological destruction of the individual, just like the re-education centres that sprang up throughout the Communist bloc, and which exist even today in the new, capitalist China.

It also recalls the politicised psychiatry in the Soviet Union. There, obedient psychiatrists serving the regime provided them with a new weapon to intern dissidents, who otherwise could be not be easily prosecuted by the regime. As the Soviet Union was the perfect state, only the mentally ill could possibly oppose the state and its version of the Marxist utopia. Hence they declared that a whole range of dissidents, from religious believers to troublesome old Bolsheviks, who took seriously the state’s avowed raison d’etre to serve the workers, were duly locked up as mentally ill. Iain Duncan Smith hasn’t gone that far yet, but the thinking behind the medicalization of poverty is dangerously similar.

It also shows how insightful Orwell was, when he described the way language was perverted to mean its exact opposite in ‘1984’. ‘War is peace’, ‘Slavery is Freedom’ were the oxymoronic slogans of the regime. He based it on the Stalinist abuse of language, but it applies to Iain Duncan Smith’s re-education centre here. All the rhetoric surrounding the DWP is supposed to lead you to believe that it is somehow a caring, institution. You even have a contract with the jobcentre itself. In actual fact, that contract is merely a demonstration of their power over you through a list of obligations, and the DWP and its minions are just bullies. But the whole vocabulary used to describe the process of victimisation and control is there to suggest it is anything but.

And you are expected to internalise this indoctrination, just as the Chinese victims of Mao’s Cultural Revolution were supposed to through ‘self-criticism’, the term the regime gave to their forced confessions of their failings and self-humiliation on behalf of the totalitarian state.

Unlike the Communist bloc, the forms of psychological coercion and control are more subtle. The political indoctrination carried out by the Jobcentre, and their political medicine, is made more plausible by the fact that it is not explicitly linked to the state. No-one is being arrested and interned for ‘anti-Soviet activity’. Instead, the Conservatives are merely claiming to be helping people in accordance to an impartial ideology that is self-evidently true, and not their explicit invention. Some people have mental health problems that prevent them from holding down a job or having a roof over their head. They must be helped and re-educated to make them a proper, responsible member of society. When they have their benefits cut, or are sanctioned, or put on workfare, this is because they have failed to keep their side of the bargain, not because they are guilty of ‘anti-Tory activity’. As the Tories see themselves as the party of business, and the natural party of government, that, however, is exactly what it is.

Despite the rhetoric of liberal capitalism standing for personal freedom, the Tories have learned some of the techniques of control and domination from the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. They’ve just refined them and made them slightly more subtle. And Streatham Jobcentre is just part of the new, subtle, kinder and friendlier authoritarianism.

the void

my-jobStreatham Jobcentre is to become the home of Iain Duncan Smith’s first Re-Education Centre where teams of gormless Jobcentre workers, psychiatrists, social workers and voluntary sector busy-bodies will team up to bully people with a mental health condition into low paid shit jobs as part of their ‘recovery’.

The South London Jobcentre already contains a Living Well Community Hub* where specialist mental health services operating alongside Jobcentre Plus staff are working together towards a common goal of improving health and well-being and helping people to get back to, or stay in, work.”  This is to be joined by a new Increased Access to Psychological Therapy (IAPT) team who, along with Jobcentre staff, will attempt to fix unemployed people with Cognitive Behavior Therapy and when that doesn’t work probably just stop their benefits.

With forced psychological treatment already threatened for those claiming social security, and moves to increase information…

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