Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

The Reverend Lionel Fanthorpe: Fortean and Paperback Writer

June 3, 2023

I can hear the Beetles’ song, ‘Paperback Writer’, going through my head as I type. One of the books I’ve been enjoying this week is Rian Hughes’ Rayguns and Rocketships: Vintage Science Fiction Book Cover Art. This reproduces the art on SF book covers from editions of Jules Verne in the 19th century, through the boy’s magazines of the 1920s and 1930s and on the paperbacks of the period up to the end of the 60s. The paperback writers were poorly paid, and tied to contracts that bound them to grind out their epics very quickly. There’s even a story about one poor soul who was more or less kept in a dungeon. He was in a small room at the end of the corridor, sleeping on a mattress covered with coats and other bits of clothing. And one of these paperback hacks was Robert Lionel Fanthorpe. Yes, I checked. This is the Reverend Lionel Fanthorpe, Church of Wales Minister, RE lecturer and the former presenter of Fortean TV in the ’90s. That Lionel Fanthorpe.

As for the quality of the good reverend’s writing, Hughes gives some grudging praise, writing

‘Some of Badger’s [Fanthorpe’s publisher] literary output is not as quite godawful as you might imagine. Though unapologetically produced at speed and without pretension, Fanthorpe often draws on literary or historical themes or digresses into page-padding philosophical discussions, and I get the impression that the Reverend could actually write well, should he choose to – which, for the most part, he didn’t. The first Badger I came across, in a local jumble sale, was Rodent Mutation. Giant beavers threaten London, so our heroes seek out the help of a certain Professor Septimus Harbottle, an expert in beaver lore. I can picture the author walking across his study , hefting the relevant volume of Encyclopedia Britannica, then proceeding to read from it verbatim, interspersing the occasional “the professor explained” or “‘I see,’ the investigator nodded” as required. This goes on for an entire chapter.’

The paperback companies had a simple formula for inspiring their writers. They’d decided on a title, commission the cover art, and then get the writers to write the story around it. Many of the paintings used on the covers were reused from other novels, sometimes from Italian and Spanish publishers, and Hughes’ provides pages of examples.

Here’s a few of the paintings that graced some of Fanthorpe’s works. You can tell he was already interested in Fortean subjects with the cover featuring a classic flying saucer.

This last looks like it was written to exploit the craze for giant ant and insect stories that appeared in SF B movies of the ’50s and ’60s.

Interestingly, one of the Fanthorpe’s novels, whose cover is collected in this book, is The Synthetic Ones. Presumably this is artificial people produced biochemically, rather than mechanical androids and robots. If that’s the case, then it prefigures the replicants of Blade Runner, who seem to be genetically engineered and artificially produced humans than straightforward machines.

Another of his is about the threat caused by bacteria that could communicate. This idea is along the same line’s as Greg Bear’s Blood Music, in which a scientist creates nano calculating machines from his own blood cells. Injecting himself with them, they develop sentience and begin changing and improving him, before breaking through the skin barrier to infect everyone else in the world, changing global human civilisation as a result. The idea of nanotechnology was decades away when Fanthorpe was writing, but the idea of intelligent bacteria is close, just as it is to stories about ‘grey goo’, when nano weapons have got loose, infecting and destroying, or at least radically changing, the organisms around them.

As for the books’ art, they vary in quality. Some are excellent, others less so. I prefer figurative art, and am not a fan of the abstract covers that came in with the sixties nor the photographic covers which were also used. Obviously the stories have dated, with the exception of the classics, but I think there’s material here to inspire future writers and artists.

Further Events at the Arise Festival of Left-Wing Ideas

June 2, 2023

I’ve already put up a piece about some of the events at this year’s Arise Festival. Yesterday I had a further email about their programme, which added these events to it.

4) NHS @ 75 – How can we repair & restore it after 13 years of austerity?


Online. Wed. June 7, 18.30. Register here // Share & Invite here // Get Festival Ticket here // Retweet here

With: Nadia Whittome MP // John Lister (Keep Our NHS Public) // John Puntis (Doctors for the NHS.) // Chloe Brooks (North West. Rep, Labour Students.) July marks 75 years of our NHS. In light of Starmer and Streeting’s recent remarks, join the discussion on how we can end the current crisis, & secure its future as a universal publicly-owned, public service for all.

Hosted by the Labour Assembly Against Austerity at Arise 2023.
 


5) Sylvia Pankhurst: Suffragette, Socialist & Scourge of Empire.


Friday June 9, 1pm, Online. Register here // Share & Invite here // Retweet here // Get festival ticket here

With Katherine Connelly – author of ‘Sylvia Pankhurst: Suffragette, Socialist and Scourge of Empire.’ Sylvia Pankhurst dedicated her life to fighting oppression & injustice. This event will look at how this courageous & inspiring campaigner is of huge relevance  today. 

Register here to get a link to join live or watch back later. Part of the ‘Socialist Ideas’ series.
 


6) People & Planet on the Brink – Socialist Solutions to Climate Catastrophe


Online, Sunday, June 11, 5.00pm. Register here // Get festival ticket here // Retweet here.

With: Olivia Blake MP // Tess Woolfenden, Debt Justice // Sam Knight, Green New Deal Rising // Sam Mason, Climate Justice Coalition trade union officer // Fraser McGuire, Young Labour. The world is on brink of five ‘disastrous’ climate tipping points, threatening the very future of humanity. Yet our Government – like many others globally – are more interested in protecting the profits of the fossil fuel giants than urgent action to tackle the climate emergency.

A Socialist Sunday session at Arise 2023.
 


7) Free Palestine – Mustafa Barghouti briefing + Q&A


Monday June 12, Online, 6.30pm.
Register here //
 Share & Invite here // Retweet here // Get festival ticket here.

In-depth briefing + Q&A with Mustafa Barghouti, Palestinian National Initiative, on the latest developments in Palestine as Israel’s far-right government steps up its aggression. With supplementary contributions from Young Labour, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign & Labour & Palestine. Chair: Louise Regan, National Education Union & PSC.

Free event but solidarity tickets & donations essential for funding Webinar & streaming. Hosted by Labour & Palestine as part of Arise.
 


8) The Case for Labour Party Democracy – for Members’ Rights & the Union Link


Online, Wednesday June 14, 6.30pm. Register here // Share & invite here // Get festival ticket here // Retweet here.

With: Jon Trickett MP // Mick Whelan, ASLEF GS//Simon Fletcher // Rachel Garnham, CLPD // Nabeela Mowlana, Young Labour. Join a vital discussion to make the case for a democratic party & movement – & to map out next steps in campaigning for members’ rights & in defence of the union-link.
 


9) What would Marx & Engels say about today’s global capitalist crisis?


Online, Friday June 16, 1.00pm. Register here // Share & invite here // Get festival ticket here // Retweet here.

With Michael Roberts – economist & author, The Great Recession – a Marxist view.

Register here to get a link to join live or watch back later. Part of the ‘Socialist Ideas’ series.
 


10) The New Colonialism- resisting racism & exploitation of the global South


Online, Sunday June 18, 5.00pm. Register here // Share & invite here // Get festival ticket here // Retweet here.

With: Asad Rehman, Director, War on Want // Heidi Chow, Director, Debt Justice // Lubaba Khalid, Young Labour BAME Officer // Chair: Denis Fernando, Arise volunteer.

A Socialist Sunday session at Arise 2023.
 


11) No more Pinochets in Latin America – Stand with social progress, democracy & regional integration


Online, Monday June 19, 6.30pm. Register here // Share & invite here // Get festival ticket here // Retweet here.

With: Guillaume Long, former foreign Minister, Ecuador // Nathalia Urban, Brasil Wire // Claudia-Turbet Delof, Wiphalas Across the World, Bolivia, // Dave McKnight, UNISON NW // Gawain Little, GFTU.

Hosted by Labour Friends of Progressive Latin America at Arise 2023.
 


12) Socialist economic policies explained: the alternative to never-ending cuts


Online, Wednesday June 21, 6.30pm. Register here // Share & invite here // Get festival ticket here // Retweet here.

Richard Burgon MP // Laura Smith, Labour Councillor & co-author of the No Holding Back report // Professor Özlem Onaran, University of Greenwich // Cat Hobbs, Director of We Own It.

Ask your questions & make your contributions on socialist alternatives to ‘Austerity 2.0.’
 


13) The Paris Commune – “Glorious harbinger of a new society”


Online, Friday June 23, 1.00pm. Register here // Share & invite here // Get festival ticket here // Retweet here.

With Sandra Bloodworth. Australian labour historian & contributor to The Paris Commune, An Ode To Emancipation. The Paris Commune is still studied throughout the world as one of the first working-class attempts at emancipation, direct democracy & social change – why?

Register here to get a link to join live or watch back later. Part of the ‘Socialist Ideas’ series.
 


14) Push for peace – No to forever wars


Online, Sunday June 25, 5.00pm. Register here // Share & invite here // Get festival ticket here // Retweet here.

With: Kate Hudson (CND) // Steve Howell (author, ‘Game Changer’ & former advisor to Jeremy Corbyn) // Shadia Edwards-Dashti (Stop the War Coalition) // Chair: Logan Williiams, Arise volunteer.

A Socialist Sunday session at Arise 2023.
 


A Study of the Ideology Behind 1960s French Revolutionary Radicalism

June 1, 2023

Richard Gombin, The Origins of Modern Leftism (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1975)

The late 1960s saw a wave of radical ferment and agitation erupt in America and France. In America, the Students for a Democratic Society and other groups campaigned against the Vietnam War and for a radical reform of American society, while Black civil rights activists like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X demanded the end of segregation and improved conditions for Black Americans. This radical agitation was marked by race riots and left-wing terrorism by groups like the Weathermen. I think that most people on this side of the Atlantic are probably more familiar with the American situation than the French through the close ties between Britain and America in the Special Relationship. But France also experienced a wave a radical unrest beginning with the occupation of the Sorbonne by radical students in 1968. These then established contacts with ordinary workers, who struck in sympathy, and there was a wave of wildcat strikes. By the end of the decade and the early 1970s, sections of the radical left were turning to kidnapping and terrorism. Although the French revolutionary activism of these years may be less-well known, it has nevertheless impressed itself on British memory and culture. The left-wing French director, Jean-Paul Godard, produced a film about the agitation and unrest around Jagger and the Stones preparing to record ‘Sympathy for the Devil’. The Sex Pistol’s manager, Malcolm McLaren, spuriously claimed to have been a member of the Situationists, one of the radical groups involved in the unrest. And the ideas of ideologues like Guy Debord have found a readership and supporters among the British left. Way back in the 1980s there was a volume of revolutionary texts from 1968 published, I think, by the Socialist Workers Party. And the radical unrest and its turn to terrorism is covered by Guardian columnist Francis Wheen in his book on ‘70s paranoia.

Gombin was an academic attached to the Centre de la Recherche Scientifique. His book isn’t a history of the revolutionary movement of the late 60s in France, but an examination of its ideology. He calls this ‘Leftism’ and contrasts it with ‘extremism’, which is how he terms radical Marxism. This is the extreme left-wing Marxism, often Trotskyite, which approaches or has some of the ideas and attitudes of the Leftists, but does not go as far as them by rejecting Marxism. And ‘leftism’ itself could be described instead as post-Marxism. Gombin explains that Marxism came late to France, and as a result the gap of a quarter of century or so until French intellectuals and activists caught up with the radical experiments and revision of Marxism carried out by the German, Hungarian and other eastern European Communists and radical socialists in the council and communist revolutions of 1919 and the early 1920s. The revelations of the horrors of Stalin’s brutal dictatorship in the USSR, the gulags and the purges, came as a shock to left-wing intellectuals in France and elsewhere. The Communist party had uncritical accepted the lie that the former Soviet Union was a workers’ paradise. In response to these revelations, some Marxist intellectuals like Sartre condemned the purges and gulags, but otherwise remained faithful to the Communist party. Others went further and joined the Trotskyites. But a few others were moved to use Marx’s critical methods to examine Marxism itself, and rejected many of its central doctrines.

The revolutionary movement was led by a number of different groups, such as Socialism ou Barbarie, Rouge et Noire, the Situationists and radical trade unions like the CFDT, which had originally been set up a social Catholic organisation separate from the socialist trade unions. There seems to have been no overarching ideology, and indeed the radicals explicitly rejected any ideology that sought to dictate the course of the revolution. Nevertheless, there were a set of key ideas and attitudes shared by these groups. This rejected all hierarchies, those of modern, capitalist society, the trade union leadership and the patriarchal family, as well as the education and university system. They adopted wholeheartedly Marx’s slogan that the emancipation of the working class should be done by the working class, while also creating new ideas responding to the new welfare state and affluent society.

The viewed Marxism and trade unionism as a response to the conditions of the 19th century, when the working class had to concentrate on winning concessions from the capitalists and authorities in order to survive. However, the establishment of the welfare state had removed the threat of death and deprivation, and so the workers could now move on to the task of reforming society itself. The expanded Marx’s doctrine of alienation so that it didn’t just cover capitalism’s alienation of the worker from the goods he produced, and the latter’s fetishization, but also the alienation created by the affluent society. People’s real needs and desires were suppressed, and false needs created instead. Work should be playful, but instead the worker suffered boredom.

They also considered that there was a fundamental similarity between the capitalist west and the Soviet bloc, which resulted in them calling the USSR’s brand of state socialism ‘State capitalism’ in contrast to the ideal socialism in which society would be run by the workers. Communist rule in Russia had not liberated the workers, but instead created a new governing class. Unlike western capitalism, the Communist bureaucracy did not own the properties and industries they directed, but otherwise held the same power and privilege that in the west was held by the capitalist elites and industrialists. Changes in capitalism had also resulted in a cleavage between those who owned the companies, and those who directed and managed them. As a result, the struggle in the west was between workers and directors, not workers and owners. Soviet Communism was dubbed state capitalism as it was held the bureaucratic socialism of the USSR resembled that of western capitalism, the difference being that in the Soviet bloc all industries were owned by the state rather than private capitalists. One ideologue, Burnham, considered that Fascism and Communism were both examples of ‘state collectivism’, with the difference between the two being that private industry was retained under Fascism. Burnham was a vicious anti-Semite, and had previously urged the workers to unite with the Fascists against the Jews.

The radicals also rejected critical Marxist doctrines like dialectal materialism and its claim to have produced a science of capitalist development. In his later writings, Marx had believed that he had uncovered the sociological laws that would lead capitalism inevitably to give way to socialism. The Leftists rejected this because it was removed the voluntarist element from revolutionary activity. Instead of revolutionaries deliberately setting out to overturn capitalism and usher in the new socialist society, this attitude instead that all they needed to do was wait for it all to happen on its own. In their view, this attitude was closer to the evolutionary socialism of Bernstein than the Marxism of 1848. They rejected Lenin’s doctrine of a centralised party of active revolutionaries, because the workers on their own could only attain trade union consciousness. This, according to the Leftists, had resulted in a bureaucratic class that ruled over the workers, and was certainly not the vanguard of the working class as it was declared to be by Lenin. They did, however, believe in some kind of central party or organisation, but this would only be to guide and suggest possible ideas and actions, not to dictate a revolutionary programme. And all revolutionary ideas and policies should be subjected to the rigorous test of whether they worked in practice. If they did, they were true. If not, they were ‘ideology’, used in the same sense of Marx’s ‘false consciousness’. The revolutionary could only be carried out by the conscious will of the workers, as they became aware of their mission to reform society, independent of any ideas of social progress or objective historical conditions. There was therefore a radical subjective aspect to their conception of revolutionary activism in opposition to Marx’s ideas of historical progress according to object material conditions. Some of them also challenged Marxism-Leninism’s materialism, in which consciousness arose from matter and was merely matter reflecting itself. This got them attacked as ‘Idealists’ by the Communists.

They rejected the patriarchal family as an institution which brought up and trained the worker to accept hierarchical authority and his position in society as a worker, as well as the sexual repression that resulted from the prohibition of extra- and premarital sex. In fact, the student revolt that sparked the ferment started with a question about this by a student at the Sorbonne to a visiting government minister, who come to open the university’s swimming pool. The student also queried him about the university’s rules against male students entering the women’s halls. Well, as the poet once said, sexual intercourse was invented in 1963.

As for the institutions that should be used by the workers to govern politically and manage industry, there seems to have been a difference of ideas. Some, like the Dutch astronomer and Marxist Pannekoek, argued for worker’s councils like the German Raterevolution of 1919. Others refused to speculate, except to state that they should be created by the workers in response to the conditions of the time and the situations they were faced with. Regarding the conduct of the strikes, these were carried out through workers’ meetings on the shop floor, who would then elect a strike committee that would then take their grievances and demands to management. Some observers felt that this harked back to France’s native socialist and revolutionary traditions that predated Marx. The shop floor meetings were, in their view, related to that of the sections during the French Revolution.

Apart from these political and industrial ideas and aspirations, there were also a set of revolutionary ideas about the proper reform of the arts. These looked back to the attacks on official art by the Dadaists and Surrealists, but felt that they had failed in their mission to create an anti-art. They therefore looked forward to a new, revolutionary society in which everyone would be an artist or a poet.

Well, the revolutionary agitation passed with the sixties and first years of the 1970s. Wheen seems to suggest that it ended when one group was about to bomb a millionaire’s yacht but finally drew back. Nevertheless, the terrorism carried on over this side of La Manche with the IRA in Northern Ireland and in Britain by the Angry Brigade, an anarchist group. In France the anarchists, syndicalists and Anarcho-Syndicalists were largely excluded from the revolutionary movement. Some of this was due to the antagonism between anarchists and Marxists and to the isolation of the anarchist groups themselves. By 1968 these had declined in membership and largely confined themselves to keeping the flame alive and commemorating great anarchist revolutionaries of the past, such as the Ukrainian Nestor Makhno.

The revolutionary movement of 1968 is now over fifty years in the past, overtaken in Britain and America by Reagan and Thatcherism. These two started a political counterrevolution aimed at preventing such a situation ever happening again. The right-wing, if not reactionary philosopher, Roger Scruton, said in an interview in the Spectator that he had been a socialist. But he was in France during the revolutionary movement, and was horrified by their ‘anti-civilizational rage’. The ideologues of the period still have an influence in the radical left. People are still reading and gaining inspiration from Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle, for example. I think they also exerted an influence on the anti-capitalist movement of the ‘90s and noughties. Their protests had a deliberate carnivalesque aspect, with costumed marches, puppets and so on, which seems to have drawn on the ideas of the Situationists and other revolutionaries.

I strongly believe, however, that the leftist rejection of the family has had a profoundly negative effect on western society. The Tory right loathes Roy Jenkins because of the socially liberal legislation he introduced in the late 60s Labour government. This decriminalised homosexuality and made divorce easier. Jenkins was certainly not as socially radical as the revolutionaries across the channel. In 1982 he, Shirley Williams and David Owen left the Labour party to form the SDP on the grounds that the party under Michael Foot was now too left wing. Still, the Daily Heil once denounced him as the man who had ruined Britain. Jenkins probably had completely different motives for his legislation than the Revolutionaries. In Britain the movement for the legalisation of homosexuality had started, or at least had the support, of Winston Churchill. Churchill had been worried about the danger of gay ministers, civil servants and others establishment figures being blackmailed by the Soviets because of their sexuality. As for divorce, I think this came from the humane desire to stop people being trapped in unhappy, loveless marriages, especially to brutal, violent partners. John Mortimer in his one-man show in the ‘90s recalled that before Jenkins’ reforms, the only cause for divorce was adultery. There was one man, who was so desperate to divorce his wife, that he came home in different hats so that people would think she was being unfaithful.

Unfortunately, there were radical activists, hostile to the institution of marriage and the traditional family. I can remember a pair who turned up on an edition of the lunchtime magazine programme Pebble Mill in the 1970s to present their views, much to the disgust of many of the programmes’ viewers. The result has been a rise in fatherless families. I am very much aware than many unmarried mothers have done an excellent job of raising their children, but the general picture is grim. Children from fatherless homes perform less well at school and get poorer, lower-paid jobs. They are more likely to turn to crime, do drugs and engage in promiscuous sex. Many Black activists are particularly concerned about this and the way these issues are especially acute in their community.

As for workers’ control, I would love a degree of it introduced into industry, but not to the exclusion of parliamentary democracy. And while the radicals have a point in that trade unions hierarchies have frequently acted to stifle revolutionary activism by the workers, trade unionism as a whole was tarnished by the wildcat strikes that broke out against the wishes of the union leadership. It’s resulted in the caricature of union activism presented by the Tories in which Britain was held hostage to the union barons and its economy and industry weakened by their strikes. We desperately need a revival of trade union power to protect workers, especially with Sunak and the rest of them preparing to scrap the EU legislation protecting workers’ rights.

And with an ever-growing number of people in Britain relying on food banks to stave off starvation, because the Tories have wrecked the welfare state, we’ve gone back to the early conditions of the 19th and early 20th centuries, when trade unionism and other forms of working class activism are very much a matter of survival.

On the plus side, I think the revolutionary movement has left a tradition of radical working class activism, which is no longer confined to either left or right. French working people seem much less willing to put up with government dictates than Brits, as shown in the Yellow Vest protests and the marches and riots against Macron raising the official retirement age. This has been admired by many Brits, including YouTube commenters and people on talk show phone-ins. We really need some of that spirit over this side of the Channel.

There is no doubt, from the position of democratic socialism, that the radicals went too far. Nevertheless, the continue to inspire members of the radical left with rather more moderate aims now protesting against predatory, exploitative capitalism, the exploitation of the environment, and racism, although this is not an issue that the book considers. Nevertheless, it was there, at least in the views and campaigns of post-structuralist Marxist activists.

Letter to Department of Education and Other Politicians Calling for Broader Teaching of Slavery

May 31, 2023

One of the issues that concerns me about the current debate over historic slavery is that the belief seems to have grown up that only White Europeans and Americans practised it, and only enslaved Blacks and other people of colour. Connected to this is a related belief that only Whites can be racist. There’s an image on the net of young man of colour waving a placard ‘The British invented Racism’. Neither of these ideas is true. Slavery existed in many societies across the world from ancient times. It existed in ancient Egypt, the Middle East, India, China and elsewhere. It was a feature of many Black African societies, dating back to 3000 BC, and the proportion of the enslaved population ranged from 30 to 70 per cent according to the individual peoples. Black Africans were also enslaved by the Muslim Arabs and then by the Ottoman Turks, as were White Europeans, who were also preyed upon by the Barbary pirates of Morocco, Algiers and Tunisia. The Islamic world also developed racist views of Black Africans and White Europeans, contrary to the explicit teaching of Islam. The Chinese have also developed their own racial ideologies and hierarchies. However, many people don’t understand this, and this leaves them vulnerable to woke racial ideologies, like Critical Race Theory, which view Whites as innately racist and requiring particular teaching and treatment in order to cure them of their prejudices.

I think part of the problem is that the school curriculum only teaches the transatlantic slave trade. Outside the classroom there is little discussion or mention of slavery elsewhere in the world, except in the case of ancient Egypt. As far as I am aware, there are no TV programmes about global slavery, with the exception of the occasional news item about modern slavery and people trafficking. I am also not aware of any museums which also cover the global history of slavery. This absence, I believe, is leaving people vulnerable to radical ideologies that explicitly demonise Whites and teach Blacks that they have and will always be the victims of White prejudice, maltreatment and discrimination.

Yesterday I emailed messages to Gillian Keegan, the Education Secretary, Nick Gibb, the minister for schools, and the shadow minister for education, Bridget Phillimon about this issue, recommending that the teaching of slavery in schools and universities should also mention that it was done across the world. As should museum displays about slavery and the slave trade. I doubt that I shall receive a reply from them, as the internet addresses, I used may have been solely for their constituents and MPs are forbidden to reply to anyone except them. I’ve therefore also posted the message to the Department of Education using their contact address. But I doubt I’ll get anything back from them either.

Here’s the message I sent them, which I altered a little according to the minister’s or shadow minister’s sex and official position. Please note: I am not advocating the teaching of slavery and racial prejudice in other societies in order to somehow excuse western slavery and racism. I am merely doing so to counter the very specific issue that some people seem to believe that it is unique to White Europeans.

‘Dear Madam,

I am an historian with a Ph.D. in archaeology. I writing to you to express my deep concerns about the teaching of the subject of slavery in British schools and universities and the historical falsehoods being promoted by radical left-wing ideologies such as Critical Race Theory. I understand that the school curriculum includes transatlantic slavery. This is entirely correct, and that dark page of British imperial history should be taught. However, I am concerned that the exclusive focus on British and White European and American enslavement of Black Africans is leading to the distorted view among many British young people that slavery is somehow unique to White culture and society, and is something that only Whites did to Black Africans and other peoples of colour. This is, I feel, being exploited by the advocates of Critical Race Theory to promote a distorted narrative which demonises Whites as perpetual villains while at the same time teaching Black and Asians that they are victims, who will be perpetually oppressed by White racist society.

The idea that only Whites practiced slavery is far from the truth. Slavery has existed across the world since ancient times, as was recognised by the 19th century Abolitionists and their opponents. White Britons were enslaved by the Barbary pirates of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia from the 16th century onwards. This was only ended by the French conquest of Algiers in the 1820s. The Turkish conquest of the Balkans from the 14th century onwards resulted in the White, Christian population being depressed into serfdom as well as slavery itself. Slavery in Africa existed from at least 3000 BC. It was practiced in ancient Egypt and in many Black African societies. In these latter, the proportion of the enslaved population could range from 30%-70%. Black Africans were enslaved by Muslim Arabs and later on by the Ottoman Turks. It also existed in India, where the slave class are recorded in the Vedas as the Dasyas, and in China and elsewhere.  There are some excellent books about these subjects, such as Jeremy Black’s Slavery: A New Global History (London: Constable & Robinson 2011), Robert C. Davis, Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800 (Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan 2003), and Sean Stilwell, Slavery and Slaving in African History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2014).

At the same time, the West has not been the only civilisation to develop racial prejudice and hierarchies of race. Racial prejudices against Blacks, but also White Europeans also developed in Islam, as discussed in Bernard Lewis’ Slavery and Race in Medieval Islam, and similar racial ideologies have also developed in China. But I very much regret that many young people are unaware that other, non-western cultures have also developed such practices. The result has been that some people seem to believe that racism is, once again, unique to the west. There is an image on the internet of a young man of colour bearing a placard saying, ‘Britain invented Racism’ which illustrates this very well.

I am afraid the lack of knowledge of extra-European racism and slavery is being exploited by Critical Race Theory and its supporters to promote the view that only Whites can be racist, and that racism and historical slavery is something that Whites need to be particularly reminded of and feel guilty about as part of wider radical programme to promote restorative racial justice.

I am very much aware that racism needs to be confronted and erased, but I believe this doctrine to be itself hypocritical and racist. I would therefore like to see the teaching of slavery in schools and universities, and museums exhibits about it also include the existence of slavery throughout the world, including Africa. The intention here is not to demonise other societies and their peoples, but simply to make the point that slavery has never been solely practiced by Whites. At the same time, I would also like to see any teaching in schools about racism also include the fact that this too is not simply something that Whites have done to people of colour. I believe strongly that it is through an awareness of the ubiquity of slavery and racism across the globe that a proper understanding of these issues as both part of British history and a continuing problem can be gained.

I hope you as Secretary of State for Education, will consider this issue worth raising will work to introduce these ideas into the current teaching on slavery, and look forward to hearing from you about this issue.

Yours faithfully,

David -‘

JP on Whether Gays Are Abandoning Pride

May 30, 2023

Yesterday I put up a piece wondering if gay Americans and Brits were abandoning Pride and some of the mainstream gay organisations. This followed a video on YouTube of the operations manager of the group Gays Against Groomers angrily tearing apart the gay flag. Gays Against Groomers was set up to combat the gender ideology being taught to children, which they feel is a form of indoctrination and sexual predation. Instead of the Pride flag, the man pointed to the American flag as the banner which represented gays and all Americans.

Barry Wall, the EDIJester, and Clive Simpson and Dennis Kavanagh of the Queens’ Speech podcast, are gender critical gay YouTubers. They are extremely critical of the mainstream organisations for their focus on trans rights to the exclusion of ordinary gay men and women. They also feel that the trans ideology has become a new form of eugenics and gay conversion therapy by encouraging gender nonconforming young people, who in most cases would pass through their dysphoria to grow up to be ordinary gays, to transition, rather than accept their natal sexual identity. And many gays are also saying that they aren’t going to Pride marches because of the overt displays of kink and fetish.

JP, one of the great commenters on this blog, posted his perspective on this issue from across the Pond. He writes

‘Well yea, I haven’t been to a Pride parade in … over a decade. The weekend of events were drunk Allies and naked people walking streets. I imbibe and defend adult’s choosing to go to nude beaches and the like, but when those happen in public … where children are brought by their parents these parades?! Mardi Gras in New Orleans was more tame than Pride in Chicago, and Mardi Gras isn’t tauted as being a posterchild of family-friendly events. Pride events weren’t something to be proud about if the intention is to support family-friendly storytime.

Don’t be too surprised by LGBs in America not all supporting a liberal agenda. So-called Log Cabin gays have been politically active conservatives for decades. It was the Log Cabins who challenged President Clinton in court over his Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy for the US military. The irony with Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is that “liberals” went along with an anti-liberal policy. It’s another example of how liberal parties do not defend democratic freedoms. It’s good to hear that some LGBs are aware and don’t just fall in-line stereotyped gender and sexuality politics.

The problem for straights in these debates is not seeing similar politicing, like supporting so-called “family values”. Jim Crow laws defended the “family values” of banning interracial marriages in the US. Hopefully today’s straights would not fall in-line with mid-20th century politics about that.’

There’s a gay American writer and blogger, whose name escapes me at the moment, who has stated that as a demographic group, gays are largely Conservative, believe very much in fiscal responsibility and have a strong sense of loyalty to the companies that employ them. He called this ‘the Smithers Syndrome’, after Mr Burns’ intensely loyal secretary from The Simpsons. This is very different from the image of the gay milieu given by radical gay groups, such as the mock order of nuns, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, who were at the centre of controversy a day or so ago when they were disinvited from appearing with the Dodgers’ sports team.

Related to this, the American chain store Target has been forced to scale down its display of trans clothing. Part of the scandal there is that the clothes were designed by a Satanist, and included messages like ‘Satan Loves You’ and ‘Satan Loves Your Pronouns’. The stores were ordered to take this merchandise to a room a third of the planned display in size. They were afraid the controversial clothing would result in them being on the receiving end of the same kind of boycott that has knocked billions of sales off Bud Light after the brewery made the mistake of choosing transwoman Dylan Mulvaney to promote it.

The Satanism here seems to come from the Church of Satan and the Satanic Temple, neither of which believe in Satan as a real, personal force of supernatural evil. Instead they identify Satan with the promotion of the self and its desires, which they view as liberating. The Satanic Temple has been around for years performing stunts intended to infuriate Conservative Christians. After the community in one American town put up a stone inscribed with the 10 Commandments in front of their courthouse to symbolise justice, they put up a statue of Baphomet. When another American town put up a crib to celebrate Christmas, they put up one with a baby Satan. They come across as a radical atheist/secularist group determined to attack the Christian right and the public promotion of Christianity. I also wonder if the clothing’s Satanism was also partly inspired by the rapper Lil Nas. Nas is gay, and is another pop star who has cultivated a Satanic image. One of his videos has him twerking in front of Lucifer in hell. I did wonder if Target had launched the clothing hoping capture the market offered by young, edgy LGBTQ+ peeps who listen to him and similar pop artists. If so, all they’ve succeeded in doing, it seems to me, is provoke a reaction against the store, especially as it came after the controversy that erupted a few days earlier when it was revealed that several of the speakers at a Satanist convention were trans rights activists. I can understand some of this desire to insult and provoke. It’s a reaction to the splenetic homophobia in sections of the Christian right, though to be fair, the Republican party as a whole seems to have become quite pro-gay and now accept gay marriage.

As for Bill Clinton and his sort-of legalisation of homosexuality in the US armed forces, this was intensely controversial for the Christian right when it was passed. I can remember reading a passage in the book Mind Siege, which is all about the way left-wing ideas are taking over America. This accused Clinton of ‘sodomizing the American military’. This boggled my mind! What! All of them! Where did he get the energy? And what do Hillary and Monica Lewinsky have to say about it? Of course, they then explain that they mean it metaphorically, not literally. It is interesting hearing another perspective on this issue, and I hadn’t known he was challenged about it by the Log Cabin Republicans.

As for the family and family values, I very much believe that the traditional family needs strengthening. The statistics for Britain, like America, show that children from fatherless homes generally perform less well at school, progress as well economically or professionally and are more likely to become criminals, do drugs and engage in promiscuous sex. Of course, this is a general view – there are also any number of single mothers, who have done an excellent job of raising their kids. But I believe that it is possible to do this without promoting homophobia or prejudice or discrimination against gays. I recall that something similar was done a few years ago to a family values group in Yorkshire. This was reformed so that it genuinely worked to strengthen family after they’d kicked out the old guard, who had ‘some funny ideas’ and seemed to have used it as a tool for attacking gay rights.

The EDIJester in one of his videos also sharply criticised one of the trans rights activists, who appears on TickTock. This individual told his audience of young people, that if their families didn’t accept their gender identity, they should cancel them and having nothing more to do with them. The Jester was furious because young gays have been hurt by their parents disowning them, and considered this grossly irresponsible. There were gay organisations in Bristol that worked to help young gays left homeless after being thrown out by their parents. And some of the best stories from gay YouTubers have been about how young gay people were able to keep the love and support of their parents after coming out, or had succeeding in reconciling themselves and their families. Obviously, there should be more of this than victimisation and prejudice.

As for the stifling of civil liberties and freedom of speech, I see this as coming from both the left and the right. In Britain the Conservatives are trying to pass laws severely limiting the freedom to protest and for workers to strike. At the same time, the hate speech laws have been expanded so that they’re severely limiting what may be said in public. Today’s news has included coverage of the case of Kathleen Stock, a lesbian and a gender critical feminist academic. She lost her place at one university due to student protests that branded her transphobic, and there were similar protests when she spoke at the Oxford Union. As a result, Oxford Student Union has cut ties with the Oxford Union. And other academics and ordinary women with similar views have also suffered similar protests and harassment. James Lindsay, who is one of a group of academics alongside Peter Boghossian and Helen Pluckrose, who are particularly active fighting woke ideology, has said that this intolerance is no accident. It comes from the ‘repressive tolerance’ advocated by the ’60s radical philosopher Herbert Marcuse. Roughly translated, it means that freedom of speech should only be extended to those on the radical left, while their critics should be silenced. Lindsay describes himself as a liberal, by which he appears to mean someone who stands up for their traditional liberal values of freedom of speech, individualism and Enlightenment rationality. He is, however, vehemently anti-Communist, though possibly not without reason. Helen Pluckrose also describes herself as a liberal and someone who believes in those values, but also has socialist beliefs. And the other day looking through the internet I found a book by a left-wing author on how the Left can fight woke.

It therefore seems to me that countering the intolerant, extremist ideologies that have been called ‘woke’ – Queer Theory, Critical Race Theory, Postcolonial Theory and so on and the attempts of their supporters to silence reasoned criticism and debate isn’t either a left-wing or right-wing issue. It’s one that concerns people on both sides of the political spectrum, who are concerned about preserving Enlightenment values of free debate, rationality and the individual.

My Email to Black Activist Shola Mos-Shogbamimu about Slavery Reparations

May 26, 2023

I gather that she’s been in today’s Guardian, where she’s written a piece about the death of Tina Turner. Turner was one of the greatest soul singers, even appearing as Auntie Entity, the ruler of Bartertown, in the film Mad Max 3, for which she also sang and performed a theme song. Shola’s piece lamented the fact that the singer had died before Blacks had received their proper compensation for their historic enslavement by White Europeans and Americans. She’s an intensely controversial figure. Some people feel that she is anti-British and I believe there was 38 Degrees petition launched by someone to stop the TV companies using her as a guest on their shows when debating racism and related topics. I feel that the issues of Black compensation for slavery raises questions about such compensation that crosses racial and national boundaries and which may affect Shola herself. Slavery was practised for millennia across the globe. Black Africans were enslaved by other African nations, as well as Muslim Arabs and Turks, as well as Indians, Persians and Afghans. Odiously, slavery still persists in Africa and the global south, and has been revived in Islamist-held Libya and Uganda. At the same time, Europeans were held in bondage as serfs until into the 19th century in parts of Europe, and were also enslaved by the invading Turks and pirates from Morocco, Algiers and Tunisia. This rises the issue that if compensations is to be paid to enslaved Blacks, then the same principle should mean that the victims of these forms of slavery should also receive compensation from those, who historically enslaved them.

I’ve therefore sent her this message via the message box on her website. I’ll let you know if I get an answer

‘Dear Shola,

I was struck by your article in today’s Guardian about the death of the great soul singer, Tina Turner, and lamenting the fact that she died before Black people had received reparations for slavery. The question of slavery reparations raises issues extending beyond western Blacks, including the complicity of African aristocracies, the enslavement of Blacks by other nations, including Islam and India, as well as indigenous White European forms of bondage and their enslavement by the Barbary pirates and the Turkish empire. As the granddaughter of an African prince, I would be particularly interested in your perspectives on these issues.

Regarding indigenous African complicity in the slave trade, I’ve doubtless no need to tell you about how generally Black Africans were captured and enslaved by other Black African peoples, who then sold them on to White Europeans and Americans. The most notorious slaving states were included Dahomey, Benin and Whydah in west Africa, while on the east coast the slaving peoples included the Yao, Marganja and the Swahili, who enslaved their victims for sale to the Sultan of Muscat to work the clove plantations on Zanzibar. They were also purchased by merchants from India, and then exported to that country, as well as Iran, Afghanistan and further east to countries like Sumatra. It has therefore been said that reparations should consist of Black Africans compensating western Blacks. Additionally, Black Africans were also enslaved by other Muslim Arabs in north Africa and then the Turkish empire. What is now South Sudan was a particular source of Black slaves and one of the causes of the Mahdi’s rebellion was outrage at the banning of slavery by the British. This raises the issue of whether Turkey, Oman, India and other north African and Asian states should also compensate the Black community for their depredations on them.

The complicity of the indigenous African chiefs in the slave trade has become an issue recently in Ghana and Nigeria. I understand that the slavery museum in Liverpool was praised by campaigners and activists from these nations for including this aspect of the slave trade. I would very much like to know your views on this matter. Forgive me if I have got this wrong, but I understand you are of the Igbo people. These also held slaves. I would also like to know if you could tell me a bit more about this, and how this may have affected your family’s history. Your grandfather was, after all, a chief, and this raises the awkward question of whether your family owned slaves. If they did, how were they manumitted and did your family give them reparations for their enslavement?

There is also the question of the enslavement of Whites both under conditions of domestic servitude and by the Muslim powers of the Turkish empire and Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. Serfdom in England died out in the 16th and 17th centuries, but it continued in European countries into the 18th and 19th centuries. Prussia only liberated its serfs in 1825 and the Russian serfs were only freed in 1860. Serfdom is considered a form of slavery under international law, as I understand. If Blacks are to be granted compensation for their enslavement, then as a general principle the descendants of White European serfs should also be compensated for their ancestors’ servitude.

In Britain, a from of serfdom continued in the Scottish and Northumbrian mining industries. Miners were bondsmen, whose contracts bound them to the mining companies and who were metal identity collars to prevent them running away exactly like slaves. I would be grateful if you would tell me whether their descendants should also receive compensation for their forefathers’ virtual enslavement.

Over a million White Europeans and Americans, mostly from southern European countries such as France, Spain and Italy, were enslave by the Barbary pirates. This only came to an end with the French conquest and occupation of Alegria. If people are to be compensated for their ancestors’ enslavement, then presumably America and Europe should also receive compensation from these nations for this. The Turkish conquest of the Balkans in the 14th century by Mehmet II resulted in the depression of the indigenous White Christian population into serfdom as well as the imposition of slavery. When Hungary was conquered, the Turks levied a tribute of a tenth of the country’s population as slaves. When one of the Greek islands revolted in the 1820s, it was put down with dreadful cruelty and the enslavement of 20,000 Greeks. Do you feel that the descendants of these enslaved Balkan Whites should also receive compensation from their former Turkish overlords?

There is also the fact that after Britain abolished the slave trade, she paid compensation to the former African slaving nations for their losses as part of a general scheme to persuade them to adopt a trade in ‘legitimate’ products. This was believed to benefit both Britain and the African nations themselves. How do you feel about the payment of such compensation? Do you feel that it is unfair, and that these nations should pay it back to us, or that they should pay it to the descendants of the people they enslaved?

Finally, slavery still persists today in parts of Africa and has even revived. The Islamist terror groups that have seized control of half of the former Libya have opened slave markets dealing in the desperate migrants from further south, who have made their way to the country in the attempt to find sanctuary in Europe. At the same time, slave markets have also opened in Uganda. Slavery is very much alive around the world today. I would be greatly interested in your perspectives on this issue, which is affecting people of colour in the global south. How do you feel it should be tackled? Are you working with anti-slavery organisations, such as Anti-Slavery International and the various organisations by former African slaves to combat this? If not, I would be very grateful if you could tell me why not, when you are obviously motivated by a human outrage at the plight of the historic victims of western slavery.

I hope you will be able to provide me with answers to these questions, and very much look forward to receiving your reply.

Yours sincerely,

David Sivier

Parliamentary Report on Underprivileged Working Class Whites Recommends Against Teaching White Privilege

May 26, 2023

Part of the debate about race and racism in Britain today surrounds the poor academic and professional performance of White working class boys.

On average, White working-class children, and particularly boys, defined by those receiving free school meals, perform less well at school than other demographic groups. They’re less like to go to university than Blacks and Asians and less socially mobile. Their lack of achievement contradicts the view that only certain ethnic minorities, principally Blacks and Muslims, suffer from this. It has been used by the Conservative right to suggest that racism is not the reason behind the poor social and economic performance of these ethnic minorities and has led to sharp criticism of racial policies that concentrate on uplifting these groups while ignoring poor Whites suffering from the same deprivation and lack of opportunities.

I found the page on the parliament website giving a precis of the report and links to it, ‘‘Forgotten’ White Working-Class Pupils Let Down by Decades of Neglect, MPs Say’, put up on 22nd June 2021. Going through it, the report’s summary seems eminently sensible. It notes that such children are the victims of an anti-intellectual culture in the working class, as well as strong social prejudices against aspiration and moving upwards out of the class. It also notes that they are particularly affected by deindustrialisation, as for generations there was an expectation in their communities that they would find work in the traditional heavy industries that have now closed down. Like Black families, the parents of such White children say they often don’t know where they are and there is similar pressures to join gangs. Unlike ethnic minorities, however, there is no empowering narrative of coming from overseas and succeeding here despite opposition.

The report and its summary also include a number of recommendations, one of which particularly stood out to me: that was that when it came to issues like social deprivation, White privilege should not be taught in schools. This was recommendation 5, which urged

‘Find a better way to talk about racial disparities. The committee agreed with the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, that the discourse around the term ‘white privilege’ can be divisive, and that disadvantages should be discussed without pitting different groups against each other. Schools should consider whether the promotion of politically controversial terminology, including white privilege, is consistent with their duties under the Equality Act 2010. The Department should issue clear guidance for schools and other department-affiliated organisations receiving grants from the department on how to deliver teaching on these complex issues in an age-appropriate way.

See: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/203/education-committee/news/156024/forgotten-white-workingclass-pupils-let-down-by-decades-of-neglect-mps-say/

This is a sensible approach. It is clearly nonsensical to teach that Whites enjoy a special social and economic privilege when a section of the White population suffers similar deprivation or worse. And the same recommendation should counteract the Conservative tactic of trying to divide the working class by getting Blacks and Whites to hate each other. Although it has to be said that in the case of Critical Race Theory, much of this racism comes from the left.

Policy Exchange Claims White Flight from Inner Cities Has Halted and May Even Be Reversing

May 25, 2023

Policy Exchange is one of those wretched right-wing think tanks that has been poisoning British politics for decades. I think apart from the Tories they were also a force influencing New Labour policies. But this is interesting, nonetheless. I found an article from them on their website, ‘White Departure from Inner City Britain Halting’, which cites their research showing that Britain is slowly becoming less segregated. Some of this is from Blacks and other ethnic minorities moving out of the inner cities to the suburbs. But it also shows that the ‘White Flight’ from the inner cities has stopped has stopped and may actually be reversing. This is an important issue. One of the factors behind the Oldham race riots a few years ago was that the very strong separation between White and ethnic minority communities. They lived in separate areas and had little contact with each other, which allowed for the extreme right to spread their noxious ideas. Much of the article comes from interviews with senior politicians done by the widower of Jo Cox, the Labour MP assassinated by a White supremacist. Nevertheless, it also notes that just under two-fifths of Brits say they feel like foreigners in their own country. This has been a strong influence in Whites leaving multiracial and multicultural areas, in some cases along with hostility from the ethnic minority population. A little while ago the New Culture Forum as part of their ‘Heresies’ series posted an interview on YouTube with the author of the book The Demonization of the White Working Class. He stated that working class Whites were being squeezed out of large cities like London by ethnic minorities and the new global rich. The influx of Whites to Black and Asian areas is causing a different set of problems, however. The extract below states that it’s professional White moving into areas like Brixton. This gentrification has provoked Black and Asian resentment as those minorities become priced out of their home areas by these wealthy incomers. The extract I’ve posted here also discusses the implications these demographic changes have for both Tories and Labour. The article, which is part of a longer report against the politicisation of the courts, How and Why to Constrain Interveners and Depoliticise Our Courts, begins:

‘The decline of the White British population in inner city Britain appears to have halted and may even have reversed, according to a new report on ethnic integration and segregation.

The new demographic analysis for Policy Exchange by the Webber Phillips data analytics group confirms that neighbourhood segregation has been slowly declining for most ethnic minority groups as they spread out from inner city heartlands into the suburbs but it also finds that the level of mixing between ethnic minorities taken as a whole and the White British majority is barely moving at all. It is a similar story in schools, with over 40% of ethnic minority pupils attending a school that is less than 25% White British.

This confirms previous trends, but what is new is the stabilisation of the White British population in big cities like London, Birmingham and Manchester. And in some parts of inner city Britain there appears to have been an actual increase in the White British as white young professionals move in and poorer minority residents are driven out by higher rents, think Brixton in south London.

Brendan Cox, the widower of Jo Cox the MP murdered by a white identity extremist and now a campaigner for more cohesive communities, argues that “Britain is on the verge of a diversity boom” yet the issue of integration has been a political orphan with no consistent lobby for it and with neither of the main political parties having a strong incentive to pursue it.

Cox’s analysis is based on anonymised conversations with politicians of all parties including former prime ministers David Cameron and Tony Blair, five former Home Secretaries (Amber Rudd, Charles Clarke, David Blunkett, Jack Straw, Jacqui Smith) and other experts and leaders of ethnic minority organisations.  A full list of those interviewed can be found in the report.

One of the former PMs is quoted as saying, “Later in my term I started to feel this was one of the most important issues, that there was nothing more important… The tough questions are schools, housing, immigration, you start with wild enthusiasm then look at the policies that stem from it and say ‘oh christ do I really need to do that.’”

And a former Home Secretary is quoted as saying: “It feels like a poisoned chalice. Long timelines, multi departmental approach and lack of definition about what we mean and controversial policy areas, are all real brakes on strategic action. It’s seen as unclear, potentially messy and with indeterminate benefits.”

Integration only tends to surface in response to terrorism or immigration crises, says Cox, and both of the main Westminster parties have historic legacies or ideological baggage that directs them away from the issue. For the Conservatives, argues Cox, “when it comes to integration and minority communities it’s not simply about fears of being seen as a nasty party but a racist one .”

For Labour, according to MPs interviewed for this report, “the political challenge comes from a political reliance on minority voters in particular areas of the country.” Cox says in theory this might incentivise engagement in integration given high levels of support from minority voters but many community leaders, especially in Muslim areas, are either ambivalent about integration or see it purely through a discrimination and anti-racism lens.

In other words parts of the left still view integration mainly as a problem of inequality, while the right avoids it out of fear of being branded racist. Cox, however, argues that there are some grounds for optimism. This is partly because the issue of integration and segregation has ceased to be an “us and them” issue and has evolved into an “everyone” issue. A 2021 YouGov poll found that 38% of British people agreed with the proposition that: “Sometimes I feel like a stranger in my own country.” And more than a fifth of people in England say they are always or sometimes lonely.’

See: https://policyexchange.org.uk/news/white-departure-from-inner-city-britain-halted/#:~:text=The%20decline%20of%20the%20White%20British%20population%20in,a%20new%20report%20on%20ethnic%20integration%20and%20segregation.

Now The Tories Are Coming for Those on Sickness Benefits

May 25, 2023

Earlier this week the Spectator published a noxious piece by its noxious editor, Fraser Nelson. Nelson was complaining about the numbers receiving sickness benefit while businesses in Britain are struggling to recruit workers. This included, he said, army officers with a beginning salary of £35,000. From what I could gather, the thrust of his article was that the people on sick leave and benefits should be taken off them and then forced to go into one of these vacant jobs. This has been followed by various other right-wing politicians declaring that they intend to retrain the long-term sick to fill these vacancies. The implication here is the old Blairite assumption about people on disability benefits that a certain proportion of them, at least, must be malingerers. It’s why the work capability assessment was set up to find a certain percentage of claimants fit for work, whether they were or not, and the consequent scandals of genuinely critical disabled and terminally ill people being thrown off benefits and told to get a job. It’s the attitude behind the New Labour and the Tories’ wretched benefit reforms, which not only demands claimants look for work and have their searches checked by the staff, but also has them thrown off benefits and sanctioned on the slightest pretext. If they’re starting on the long term sick, it probably indicates that they’ve gone as far as they can demonising and humiliating the unemployed and have been forced to start demonising and humiliating the sick. It’s also based on the unsympathetic attitude that working is good for you and will get you back on your feet. This was the attitude a few years ago when Dave Cameron’s coalition government came to power, and disability campaigners tore into that, showing that this simply wasn’t the case. There seems to be no awareness that some people are sick because of their jobs and working conditions. As for the mental health crisis hitting Britain, it isn’t due to Gary Lineker spreading fears about climate change, as Richard Tice has declared. It’s far more to do with the cost of living crisis caused by rising inflation, stagnant wages kept below the rate of inflation, as well as job insecurity caused by zero hours contracts and the gig economy and the detrimental effects of Brexit. But Reform and the Conservatives can’t admit that, as they believe that this has all been a splendid success and will make us all wealthier and business more secure and prosperous in the long run.

Behind this, I suspect, is the need to get British workers to take the jobs that were originally filled by immigrants and migrant workers now that immigration has become such a hot topic and the Tories are announcing their intention to cut it. It’s basically a return to the calls for Brits to work a fruit pickers instead of migrant workers a few years. That was met by complaints from people who had tried, but were turned down as the farmers preferred to employ migrants.

As for retraining the unemployed to fill certain jobs, there are obvious problems with this. Not everyone has the strength or temperament, let alone the academic qualifications for certain jobs. Army officers are an example of this. Membership of the armed forces demands physical and mental toughness as well as the ability to kill while observing the laws of war. In the case of the officer corps, it also demands intelligence, the jokes about military intelligence being a contradiction in terms aside. Those are very exacting standards and not everyone is able to fill them. There are other problems matching people to jobs. I was given grief when I tried signing on after gaining my archaeology Ph.D. nearly ten years ago by the clerks at the Job Centre. They were annoyed that I spent my time looking for jobs as an archaeologist, particularly in academia. I was told at my last meeting with them, where the supervising girl basically told me not to bother signing on any more, that I should really have been looking for menial jobs like cleaning before trying to find the work I was qualified to do. It shows the way the Job Centre staff aren’t interesting in making sure the right people find the right jobs but simply getting people off their books. But the problem with this is that employers of such jobs probably aren’t interested in taking on graduates, who are obviously overqualified. And some of the jobs that need to be filled require years of training and experience. Our favourite internet non-historian the other day put up a piece asking why this country needed to import architects and archaeologists from overseas. With archaeologists I think he may have a point, as I think there may be surplus of qualified archaeologists compared to the number of jobs. The profession was expanding a decade ago, but that seems to have passed and the number of archaeology firms set up in the boom time may have shrunk. I don’t know about architects. Assuming that there is a shortage of British architects – and I’m not sure there is – the problem here is that it takes years of study and training to qualify as one. It’s not a profession where someone can be retrained and fit to work in a few weeks.

The demands for people on sickness benefit to be retrained to fill these job vacancies then is just more right-wing Tory ideology about benefit scroungers and malingerers, which ignores the real reasons behind their sickness and the problem the unemployed face finding jobs they can actually do. But as the government and business faces increased difficulty recruiting foreign workers because of Brexit and the controversy over immigration, we can expect these demands to get worse.

Megaphone Petition Against Redundancies at London Southbank University

May 25, 2023

Just had this internet petition come through from the internet campaigning department of the TUC against the university’s plans to lay of 60 workers and outsource their jobs.

‘David,

London Southbank University want to cut over 60 jobs next month and outsource low paid workers in Estates and Facilities to private companies by August.

The University’s website says it is rooted in the South London community and strives to positively impact society, but these plans will only make lives worse. In the worst cost of living crisis in memory, they want to leave workers without an income to support their families or at the mercy of profit driven private companies.

Southbank University workers are organising through their union UNISON to protect their jobs and terms and conditions.

Can you add your name and support UNISON members at Southbank University?
Join the campaign – sign the petition

University management want to carry out their attacks on jobs, terms and conditions without anybody noticing. We need to show them that the South London community stands with these workers.

A big public campaign will make Southbank management think twice about the reputational damage layoffs and outsourcing will do to the University’s image.

And it will show the workers that their community has their back and give them extra strength in their fight.

Join the campaign – sign the petition

Something else Southbank says on it’s website is they ‘understand that people are always stronger together’.

So do the workers they are attacking. That’s why they are fighting back together through their union.

So do we. That’s why we are coming together to say ‘no’ to job cuts and outsourcing.

Daniel,

Megaphone UK’

I’ve signed it, and I’ve put it up here in case any of my readers also wants to sign it.