Archive for the ‘Electricity’ Category

Fake Labour Margaret Hodge Reveals Real Reasons for Attacking Corbyn: Thatcherism

July 1, 2019

Nearly three weeks ago Margaret Hodge, the Blairite MP for Barking, opened her mouth and let the cat out the bag, revealing the real reasons she and the rest of the Thatcherite entryists in the party want their leader gone. And it has zilch to do with anti-Semitism. The real reason she and the other Blairites loathe and detest him and his supporters is because, like the rest of the political and media establishment, they’re neoliberals. They believe utterly that socialism is dead, that there is no point challenging the right-wing media, and that there has to be more privatisation, because private enterprise is always superior to state-run industries, even when, in the case of the railways, the utilities and the NHS, it very obviously isn’t.

They also despise the working people, whom they claim to represent. Blair, Mandelson, Brown and the rest of the shabby bunch concentrated on winning over swing voters, who could also vote Tory. Hence they stole the Tories’ policies, got Murdoch and sections of the right-wing media to back them, and even tried ingratiating themselves with the Daily Heil. They believed, like the Tories, that the unions were an obstacle that had to be crushed, and that a large proportion of those claiming benefit were malingerers and scroungers. And so they inflicted the Work Capability Tests on the disabled, and continued to make signing on for unemployment benefit, or Jobseeker’s Allowance, as it’s become, as hard and humiliating as possible.

And all the while they continued to suck up to the rich, offering businessmen and senior executives places in government, in return for donations to the party.

This was, according to Blair and the rest of the establishment, a post-ideological age. By which they mean post-socialist. Thatcher’s policies had to be introduced into the Labour party for it to compete with the Tories. Because, as Thatcher herself said ad nauseam, ‘There Is No Alternative’.

And Hodge revealed she believed this nonsense absolutely when she claimed that Corbyn pledges to nationalise the railways, water and part of the electricity grid, end the privatisation of the NHS, restore the unions, and give working people greater rights at work, job security, proper wages and a strong welfare state, was simply offering them bribes. She said

“I want to lay the party that brings honesty into our politics. What we’ve got, if we do have anything, is a whole range of unrealistic promises, whether it’s on reversing all the cuts of the last decade, whether it’s on promising that we’ll do away with tuition fees, those are promises that will not be fulfilled. And that unrealism, those sorts of bribes, actually in my view, in an era of scepticism, simply against policies or politics is not the way to win election”.

In his post about this revealing outburst from Hodge, Zelo Street commented

There you have it: in Hodge world, you’re only going to get elected by shrugging your shoulders and leaving all the homeless out on the streets, leaving Universal Credit in place, leaving the NHS in an increasingly parlous state, and yes, leaving millions of poor people to their fate.

Absolutely. And it’s not just Hodge, who to my mind looks like an alien from Dr. Who with one of the bizarre hairdos Mrs. Slocombe used to sport in the classic Beeb comedy, Are You Being Served?. What she’s articulated is what passes for realism amongst the Blairites. Because Thatcher said so.

Margaret Hodge                                                  Alien

Zelo Street also mentioned that she demonstrated last year that the attacks on Corbyn had precious little to do with anti-Semitism, when the Groan reported that she “has signalled that Labour MPs critical of Jeremy Corbyn are digging in for a long struggle against his leadership as she suggested that the antisemitism row would only end if he stood aside”.

Needless to say, real Labour activists and supporters weren’t remotely impressed. The Sage of Crewe gave examples of their reaction to Hodge’s repugnant views on Twitter. Matt Turner’s comment, apparently, was typical.

“Can anyone, in all honesty, tell me why the hell Margaret Hodge is in the labour party? Sitting on her £70+k a year plus expenses and having the audacity to say reversing austerity is somehow a bribe? She’s not the one dying on the street struggling to feed her children”

And Eric the Socialist asked the reasonable question how she could still be in the Labour party campaigning on a platform in which she didn’t believe.

“Margaret Hodge has left labour. Right? Surely she can’t say her own party are trying to bribe the electorate with unrealistic policies AND still be in the Labour party?”

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/06/margaret-hodge-its-not-bribe.html

I am therefore not remotely surprised that she was one of the 118 Labour MPs, who shamefully demanded Chris Williamson’s re-suspension as an ‘anti-Semite’. This has absolutely nothing to do with real anti-Semitism, and everything to do with attacking a key Corbyn ally. Someone who actually wants to return the party to its socialist and working class roots, and do something for the people she and the rest of the Blairites despise.

And as for Hodge’s opposition to anti-Semitism, she did so little to combat the BNP in her constituency, that when they seven seats on Tower Hamlet’s council, I believe they actually sent her a bouquet of flowers.

Margaret Hodge: BNP Approved

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Examining Jeanette Winterson’s Ideas on AI and Literature

June 4, 2019

Last Saturday’s I for 1-2 June 2019 carried an interview in its ‘Culture’ section with the literary novelist, Jeanette Winterson, about her latest work, Frankissstein. This is another take on Frankenstein, with one strand of the book set in the contemporary world and exploring AI, the downloading of the human mind into computers and literature. Winterson’s the second literary novelist, following Ian McEwan, to turn to the world of robotics for their subject matter. I’ve critiqued both of them, based on reviews in the papers, because this comes across to me very much of another instance of ‘literary’ novelists appropriating Science Fiction subjects and issues, while disdaining and ignoring the genre itself.

Winterson’s interview with Max Liu was also very interesting in other respects, and worth reading. While I am not remotely inclined to read her book, and have real objections to some of her statements on philosophical grounds, I also found that there was much that she said, which I agreed with. Particularly about the exploitation of British communities under Brexit.

The Interview

The article, on page 49, was prefaced with the statement Jeanette Winterson talks to Max Liu about AI and why the novel could die if it doesn’t reinvent itself’. It ran

Jeanette Winterson would like to upload her brain to a computer. “It were possibl, I wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation to find out what it’s like to live without a body,” she says when we meet to discuss Frankissstein, her new novel about artificial intelligence. “I had a very religious upbringing, so to me, the idea that the body is just a house is normal.”

The 59-year-old wrote about her Pentecostal childhood in her semi-autobiographical debut novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1985), and her memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (2011). For the past couple of years, she has been reading about AI and robotics at the same time as thinking about Mary Shelley’s Gothic classic, Frankenstein. In her latest novel, the young Shelley appears as a character.

“I started writing about Mary in Italy at the beginning of the 19th century then worked my way to the present,” says Winterson. “There was no point setting a novel about AI in the future, because I wanted readers to realise the future is here. We don’t know how far big money has gone in developing AI, but I suspect it’s much further than we think.”

Winterson believes “we’re living in an ahistorical world where people don’t know how we got here”, the pace of change since the Industrial Revolution leaving us bewildered. “By its nature, reading slows us down,” she says,”so I’m pushing against the acceleration of modern life, creating imaginative space for readers to inhabit. Anybody who can imagine something is in control.”

Her new novel’s present-day characters include Ry, a transgender doctor, and Winterson says: “One of my godchildren identifies as transgender and I’ve been reading a lot about that because I thought I needed to understand. The idea of identity being provisional fed into this novel. Much Western thought rests upon the idea that there is a core self that we can know and perfect, but probably there isn’t.

Ray falls in love with Ron, who is trying to make his fortune by designing sex dolls. Ron plans to exploit post-Brexit tax breaks by opening a factory in Wales. “I hate to see how my class has been manipulated by people who have no thought and no care for them,” says Winterson. “I’m ashamed of my country for turning its back on a European project and choosing nationalism.”

Were she to live for another 100 years, Winterson says she would retrain as a scientist. Does this mean she doesn’t see a future for the novel?

“The novel is only on its way out if it doesn’t change,” she says. “In the 80s, it was too middle-class and too male. Then Angela Carter came along and was so fresh, but she had a terrible time initially. The example of English literature’s conservatism that kills me is when Anita Brookner’s Hotel du Lac won the Booker in 1984 and Carter’s Nights at the Circus wasn’t even shortlisted. It was the year before I published Oranges and I just thought: “This is so dull.”

In Frankissstein, one character says the urge to write comes from vanity, but Mary counters that it’s about hope. Which is it from Winterson? “My writing is a message in a bottle. I won’t be here long enough to get my brain uploaded, so I’m chucking this message overboard in the hope it will move the conversation on.”

Moravec, Transhumanism and Max Headroom

It would be interesting to find out what Winterson had been reading as her research for her book. My guess it would almost certainly include Hans Moravec and the downloaders and transhumanists. They aim to upload their minds into machines. A little while ago they held a party at which they avowed their intention to meet each other on the other side of the Galaxy in a million years’ time. Which is some ambition. I think Moravec himself believes that by this middle of this century the technology should have been perfected that will allow a human brain to be read in such minute detail that its functions can be reproduced on computer. This was the premise behind the Max Headroom pilot, 20 Minutes into the Future. In this tale, broadcast on Channel 4 in the 1980s, Headroom, a computer-generated TV personality, is created when his human original, an investigative journalist in a dystopian future London, knocks himself unconscious going through a crash barrier to escape the villains. The journo’s body is retrieved, and used by a teenage computer whizzkid, Brice, who seems to spend his whole life in the bath, to create Headroom as an experiment. The character takes his name from the last thing his original sees before he goes through the barrier: a sign saying ‘Max Headroom’.

Sladek’s The Muller-Fokker Effect

I also wonder if she read any of the SF literature about downloading and cyberspace, including one of the first novels to tackle the subject, John Sladek’s The Muller-Fokker Effect, published in 1970. This is about Bob Shairp, a man reduced to date and stored on computer tape. I haven’t read it, but according to Brian Aldiss and David Wingrove in their history of Science Fiction, The Trillion Year Spree,

it is a deeply satirical book, homing in on the US Army, evangelism, newspapers and the like for its target, with an overall sense of fun reminiscent of the work of Kurt Vonnegut, Philip K. Dick and Sheckley. (p. 307).

Future Shock and the Global Rate of Change

Winterson’s comment that it was useless to set the book in the future, as the future is already here, is very similar to the remarks I heard about two decades ago by William Gibson, one of the founders of the Cyberpunk SF genre. Speaking at the Cheltenham Festival of literature, Gibson said that the future was already here, it was just wasn’t spread out the same everywhere, so there were parts of the world, such as the developing countries, where it wasn’t present to the same extent as the more advanced West. As for her comments about living in an ahistorical age, where people don’t know how we got here, and the pace of change is accelerating, this sounds very close to Alvin Toffler and his idea of future shock, where societal change is now so advanced and rapid that it is profoundly disorienting. But it is possible to exaggerate the speed of such changes. I can remember reading an article a few years ago, that argued that the impact of modern technology is vastly overestimated. The internet, for example, it was claimed, isn’t half as revolutionary as it is made out as it is only a development of earlier technologies, like the telegram. It’s a contentious claim, but in many ways the most rapid technological, social and economic changes were in the century following Queen Victoria’s coronation in 1937. That was when Britain was transformed from an agricultural, almost feudal country into a modern, industrial society. Britain’s empire expanded massively, communications improved allowed the rapid movement of information, goods and people across the globe. It was the period when new transport technologies like the railway, the automobile, the electric tram, dirigible balloons, aeroplanes and the rocket were created, along with inventions like the X-Ray, electric light, the telegram, telephone, radio and the first experiments in television, and, of course, sound recording and the cinema. Contemporary technological advances can be seen as refinements or improvements on these, rather than completely new inventions.

Transgender People and the Question of Core Personality

I also have objections to her comments about whether or not there is a core, human personality. I’ve no doubt that one argument against it is that many people would be very different if they had had a different upbringing. If they’d been born into a different class, or allowed to study a particular subject at school or university, or if they’d decided to pursue a different career. And, obviously, if they’d been born a different gender. But twin studies suggest that people do have some aspects of their character determined by their biology rather than their upbringing. And I don’t think she makes her argument by pointing to transpeople. As I understand it, many transpeople believe very strongly that they have a core personality or nature. It’s just that this is at opposition to their biological gender. Hence their desire to change. It isn’t simply that they simply decide at some point that they want to change their sex, which would be the case if it was simply the case that they had no core personality. But perhaps Winterson’s godchild is different.

Computers and the Existence of Self 

I’m also suspicious of the idea, as it sounds rather close to the ideas of Daniel Dennett and Susan Blackmoore that consciousness is an illusion and that the brain is simply a meat machine for running memes, discrete units of culture like genes are discrete units of biological information. On the other hand, when she says that existing as a disembodied entity on a computer doesn’t seem strange to her because of her religious background, she’s in agreement with Paul Davies. In his book, God and the New Physics, he stated that he’s prepared to accept that life can exist outside the body because of the way computers could be used to simulate human personalities. I can remember reading that the wife of one of the leading downloaders was a Methodist minister. He commented about this apparent contradiction between their two disciplines by saying that they were both trying to do the same thing, but by different methods.

The Manipulation of the Working Class

I do agree wholeheartedly, however, with Winterson’s comments about how her class is being manipulated by people, who give them no thought and no care for them. The idea that the creation of tax breaks for businesses after Brexit would allow an amoral entrepreneur to build a factor for sex robots in Wales is all too credible. Just as I agree with her about Britain turning it’s back on the EU, though I also have strong criticisms of the European Union. But Brexit has been and is being used by the Tory extreme right and its related movements, like UKIP and Farage’s noxious Brexit people, to manipulate the working class and exploit them. If you look at what Boris Johnson and Farage want, the privatisation of the NHS to American private healthcare firms is very much on the table.

Conservatism, Sexism, Literature and Literary Snobbishness

She was also right about the conservatism and sexism of the literary world in the 1980s. Private Eye’s literary column attacked Hotel du Lac for its snobbishness at the time. And the Orange Prize for literature was set up because it was felt that women were being unfairly excluded from the main literary prizes. However, the remarkable success of women writers in winning the mainstream awards has also, in the view of Private Eye a few years ago, also called into question the reason for Orange Prize. Why have a separate prize for women when that year the lists were dominated by female writers? And as for Angela Carter, I wonder if some of the problems she had didn’t just come from her writing feminist magic realist tales and fairy stories, but also because the genre SF/Fantasy crowd liked her. Flicking through an old SF anthology I found in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham yesterday, I found a piece by her about literary theory along with pieces by other, firmly genre figures. A few years ago Terry Pratchett commented that the organisers of the Cheltenham Festival looked at him as if he was going to talk to his fans about motorcycle maintenance, and he was certainly subject to appalling snobbery by the literary critics when he started out. I think it’s therefore quite possible that Carter was disdained by those who considered themselves the guardians of serious literature because she was too genre. But I also wonder if Winterson herself, despite her deep love of Carter’s work, doesn’t also have the same attitude that sees genre fiction as somehow not proper literature, as she, Martin Amis, Ian McEwan and the others write.

I have to say that I don’t see the death of novel being anywhere near imminent. Not from looking along the shelves at Waterstone’s, and particularly not in the genre fiction, crime, horror, and SF. But it says something about the apparent lack of inspiration in literary fiction that it is turning to SF for its subjects. Winterson said some fascinating things in her interview, but to me, genre SF still did AI, robots and downloading first and better than the mainstream novelists now writing about it.

 

Black British Politico John Archer’s Address to African Progress Union

May 31, 2019

I think for most of us outside the Black anti-racist movements, this country’s Black history and its tradition of Black activism against racism, imperialism and exploitation is largely unknown. It’s overshadowed to a large extent by the inspirational American civil rights movements of the 1960s, and its heroes and heroines. Towering figures like Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Rosa Parks. A few Black British anti-slavery activists from the 18th and 19th century, like Olaudah Equiano and Mary Prince, are known to a certain extent, as well as the Crimean War nurse and heroine Mary Seacole. But that’s it. And I think for most mainstream Brits, Blacks and other non-Whites only entered politics and got elected to public office in the 1980s with Diane Abbott, Bernie Grant, Paul Boateng and others.

But Black and Asian activism goes right back to the 19th century, and Britain has had elected BAME politicians since the early 20th century. The BBC 2 series, Victorian Sensations, mentioned two in the second episode of the series broadcast Wednesday night, 29th May 2019. Victorian Sensations is about the massive scientific, social and political changes that shook Victorian society in the 1890s. Last week’s was on scientific advances in electricity and Roentgen’s discovery of X-rays, which revolutionised medicine. The pioneers of X-ray examination, however, paid a terrible price for their research in skin cancer caused by their machines. One British pioneer ended up losing the fingers on one hand, and another arm was amputated completely.

This week’s edition was on ‘Degeneration’, and the late Victorians’ fears of racial, social and imperial decline. This covered the ideas of racial decline in H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, Francis Galton and the birth of the eugenics movement, aimed at preserving and improving British biological stock; the controversy over the New Woman, liberated Victorian ladies, who dared to move out of the traditional female domestic role and pursue masculine hobbies like cycling; Hans Nordau’s book, Degeneration, Lombroso’s Criminal Man, and the fears about mental illness, which resulted in entirely blameless people banged up in lunatic asylums for the most trivial reasons, like a pathetic young man, who was incarcerated for masturbation. It also covered Oscar Wilde, the Aesthetic Movement and the Decadents, including Arthur Symonds, Havelock Ellis and the first sympathetic scientific research in homosexuality. But one of the most interesting pieces in the programme was right at the end, when presenter Paul McGann spoke to a modern Black activists about two Black British activists, who came to Britain from the West Indies, and founded pioneering Black anti-racist movements. One of them was Celeste Matthews, who became a Methodist minister, and founded a Black rights magazine attacking imperialism, Lux.

Another pioneering Black rights activist, who gained public office later in the second decade of 20th century was John Archer. He was elected Mayor of Battersea in 1913, becoming the first person of African descent to hold public office in London. In 1918 he became the first president of the African Progress Union, a post he would hold for three years. This was formed to promote ‘the general welfare of Africans and Afro peoples’ and spread knowledge of Black history. There’s an extract from the speech he gave at the Union’s first meeting in Colin Firth’s and Anthony Arnove’s great anthology of British radical writing and activism throughout history, The People Speak: Democracy Is Not A Spectator Sport (Edinburgh: Canongate 2013). This runs

The people in this country are sadly ignorant with reference to the darker races, and our object is to show to them that we have given up the idea of becoming hewers of wood and drawers of water, that we claim our rightful place within this Empire … That if we are good enough to be brought to fight the wars of the country we are good enough receive the benefits of the country … One of the objects of this association is to demand – not ask, demand; it will be ‘demand’ all the time that I am your president. I am not asking for anything, I am demanding. (p. 189).

Unfortunately we really don’t know about the great history of Black activism in this country. Victorian Sensations gave a small glimpse of this on Wednesday, and I’d like to know more. Not only is this worthwhile in itself, as a piece of British history that’s been unfairly neglected, but we also need it to combat that growing racism that’s spreading across Europe and which has resulted in Farage’s Brexit party getting 36.7 per cent of the vote in the Euro elections last week.

Majority of British Public Want Railways Nationalised

May 31, 2019

Here’s a piece of encouraging news, courtesy of Wednesday’s I for 29th May 2019. According to the article, ‘Public sector should run railways’, over half of people polled supported the nationalisation of the railways. The article ran

A majority of people believe railways would be better value if they were publicly owned. Just over half of 1,000 people surveyed supported the public sector, with only one in five backing privatisation. Lobby group  We Own It said people believed fares would be cheaper under public control.

They aren’t wrong, either, but I think some caution must be taken because, reading the article, the poll seems to have been taken by the lobby group. Nevertheless it is true that privatisation has not brought the improvements to the railways promised by John Major and the Conservatives back in the 1990s when they sold them off. Instead of bringing in more investment, the companies running the railways have consistently done as little as possible to improve services, instead cutting them back as far as possible, in order to boost their chief executives’ pay and the companies’ share value. The result has been less value for money as fare prices have increased, and the rail companies now enjoy far more public money in subsidies than they did when the rail network was nationalised under British Rail. The situation is so bad that a few years ago Ian Hislop went on a rant about how the private rail companies were running a shoddy service so that they could play at being the executives of blue chip companies instead of the minor civil servants they had been on Have I Got News For You.

One of Labour’s policies is the return of the rail network to public ownership, along with electricity and water. These policies, along with Labour’s commitment to restoring the welfare state, renationalising the NHS, strengthening workers’ rights and creating effective, powerful trade unions, are extremely popular with the electorate. Which is, no doubt, why the Tories and the Blairites have started yet another campaign of anti-Semitism smears and accusations against the party. Especially as the Tories have done very badly indeed at the elections.

Private Eye on ChangeUK MP Stephen Dorrell’s Role in Disastrous and Exploitative Tory Policies

May 1, 2019

This fortnight’s Private Eye, for 3rd – 16th May 2019 has an article about the major role the former Tory MP Stephen Dorrell played in creating and promoting the disastrous Tory policies of rail privatisation, the Private Finance Initiative and the privatisation of the NHS. These are policies which the magazine speculates will make him unpalatable to those centrist Labour voters that ChangeUK hopes to appeal to. The article runs

The adoption of former Tory health secretary Stephen Dorrell as a Change UK candidate in the European elections may be a Tory too far for ex-Labour voters wanting to switch to the centrist cause.

Dorrell’s Tory CV harks all the way back to the dying days of the Thatcher era when he was a whip – a supposedly “wet” Tory helping push through her ultra “dry” policies.

Under John Major, he became a Treasury minister, active in the Rail Privatisation Group behind the sale of the railways. Against expert advice, Dorrell was one who pushed for separation of responsibility between trains and track – with dire results. Railtrack, the privatised track operator, eventually collapsed after lethal crashes caused by poor maintenance.

As health secretary it was Dorrell who began the 20-year disaster of the private finance initiative (PFI) in the NHS. “I am a strong supporter of the PFI,” he told the Commons, calling PFI “the best opportunity that we have had in the history of the NHS” to “deliver the best healthcare.” It wasn’t. And it didn’t.

Dorrell launched a failed bid for the party leadership in 1997 and never held a ministerial job again. Later, under the coalition, he was seen as a critic of Andrew lansley’s NHS reforms – but not too loud a critic.

Having left parliament in 2015, he has kept up his interest in giving corporations access to the NHS, chairing Public Policy Projects, a subscription-based outfit “focused on the big issues in health and social care”. His group arranges breakfasts and receptions for businesses to meet political and NHS insiders. Recent events have included meals iwth health secretary Matt Hancock, housing and communities secretary James Brokenshire, Treasury committee chair Nicky Morgan and top NHS officials.

Dorrell has also worked as a healthcare and public services adviser to KPMG since 2014; and last year became an “associate” of Cratus Communications, a lobbyist for developers. If Change UK really wants to fix the UK’s “broken politics”, it may have to cast its net a little wider. (P. 7).

These are all very good reasons why genuine Labour voters shouldn’t vote for him. But they’re also reasons why traditional Labour voters shouldn’t vote for any of the former Labour MPs in Change UK. All of the so-called Labour ‘centrists’ are really nothing of the sort. They’re red Tories, as fanatically keen on privatisation and the dismantlement of the NHS for the profit of private healthcare firms as the Conservatives. Blair was responsible for the introduction of much of the legislation allowing the NHS to purchase services from private healthcare providers, including the operation of the health centres and polyclinics, which he hoped would be run by private firms. His health secretary, Alan Milburn, wished the NHS to become simply a kitemark for services provided by private healthcare firms.

The real centrists and moderates are Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters, who wish to renationalise the NHS, the rail companies, water and part of the national grid. These are policies both the Tories, Change UK and the Labour ‘centrists’ loathe and detest. Just as they loathe and detest his plans to renew and strengthen the welfare state and give workers back proper employment rights and powerful trade unions able to defend them.

As Mike, Zelo Street and the various other left-wing bloggers have described on their sites, Change UK and its mixture of former Tory and Blairite Labour MPs shows that there really isn’t any difference between the two.

Private Eye’s article is thus a very good reason not to vote for Dorrell personally nor his wretched party in general. And the solid support for Blair’s own privatisation and destruction of the welfare state by Change UK’s former Labour MPs and their fellows still in the Labour party also demonstrates why working people need to see a genuine socialist Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn once again in power and winning elections, from the European all the way to Westminster.

Torygraph Predicts Labour Set to Win General Election

April 16, 2019

Ho ho! An article in yesterday’s I for Monday, 15th April 2019, might explain why the Sunset Times was so keen to try another anti-Semitism smear against the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn the day before. The article, entitled ‘Labour on course to win general election’ by Cahal Milmo reported the findings of a poll by the Sunday Torygraph that in a general election, Labour would defeat the Tories, taking 59 seats from them. The article ran

The Conservative Party faces being swept from power by Jeremy Corbyn with the loss of nearly 60 seats in the event of a general election, according to new polling.

Labour would become the largest party in the House of Commons with prominent Tories, including the Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd and arch Brexiteer Iain Duncan Smith at “high risk” of losing their seats.

The Sunday Telegraph reported that the steep fall in support was being fueled by anger among Conservative voters at the party’s failure to deliver Brexit on 29th March, despite repeated promises by Theresa May that the date would not be changed.

Professor Sir John Curtice, president of the British Polling Council, told the paper that it appeared Leave voters were being drawn back to Ukip or Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.

The “poll of polls” by Electoral Calculus, based on surveys of 8,561 people between 2 and 11 April, found that in the event of an immediate general election Labour would become the largest party with 296 seats against 259 for the Tories – a net loss of 59 MPs for Mrs May’s party.

But despite such a victory, Mr Corbyn would not automatically become prime minister – he could only form a government if he secured support from other parties such as the SNP.

“The Conservatives’ failure so far to secure Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union is at risk of costing them dearly,” said Sir John. (p. 6).

While it’s refreshing to read a story that predicts Labour winning a general election, obviously it’s still incredibly biased. It comes from the Torygraph, and follows that rag’s pro-Brexit line. But while I don’t doubt that the Tories’ continued incompetence, factionalism and May’s stubborn determination to hang on to power and force through the same tired, discredited and utterly unwanted deal, there are other powerful factors that might bring about a Labour victory.

Firstly, as Mike has also pointed out this week, Remainer Tories are also being drawn towards the Tinge Group, Change UK, thus disproving their claims to be ‘centrist’ Labour. And secondly, Labour’s policies are massively popular. People want the health service renationalized and restored, electricity, water and the railways taken back into state ownership, the trade unions strengthened, workers given better employment rights and places in the boardroom, as well as the creation of a proper welfare state. All the policies that the Tories and the rest of the neoliberal establishment hate with a passion, and revile as just a return to the policies of the 1970s.

But Labour are very definitely ahead in the polls, but rather than admit that this is because the Party is genuinely popular and neoliberalism and Thatcherism are dead, zombie economics, the Torygraph is trying to spin this to discredit the ‘Remain’ camp within the Tory party. But hopefully it won’t be too long before there is a Labour election victory, and the entire Tory party is swept from power and kept out for decades.

Whistleblowers Claim that Trump Transferring Nuclear Secrets to Saudi Arabia

February 21, 2019

If this is true, then it’s frightening. It’s another step closer to midnight for the nuclear clock.

In this video from the David Pakman Show, posted yesterday, 20th February 2019, Pakman and his producer, Patrick, report that whistleblowers have gone to the House Oversight Committee, which oversees the ethical conduct of the American government, with evidence that Trump has been transferring nuclear secrets to Saudi Arabia. This has been going on as recently as last week. And it’s not simply hearsay either. They have named the corporations allegedly involved, one of which is IP3. If true, Trump’s actions are possibly illegal. Under the Atomic Act, the president must have the consent of Congress before passing on information which could lead to the construction of a nuclear weapon to a foreign power.

Pakman states that this might make sense of some of the other contacts the Trump administration has had with the Saudis. For example, Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, had made numerous trips there, which may also be connected. Also Michael Flynn, Trump’s former security adviser, now convicted, also made frequent trips there, some of which were not declared, and some of them were in connection with IP3, one of the companies involved in the deal.

Pakman and Patrick also discuss the hypocrisy of the Trump administration in this. Trump accused Hillary Clinton of similarly doing a deal with a foreign power passing on uranium in a quid-pro-quo deal, which was utterly unfounded. They also point out that Trump withdrew from the nuclear treaty with Iran because the Iranian government was a viciously repressive Islamic monarchy which despised its own people. But this is also true of Saudi Arabia.

Trump is already suspected of doing some kind of secret deal with Putin and the Russians. But the House Democrats are trying to expand this to cover other countries as well. Pakman speculates that they may soon need yet another special investigator to look into these allegations.

You have to wonder how corrupt Trump can actually get. At the last count, there were 17 separate legal investigations into him. In terms of sheer corruption he makes Richard Nixon look clean, although so far he hasn’t been personally responsible for as much death and suffering across the globe.

Pakman and his producer aren’t quite right when they describe Iran as a monarchy. It isn’t. It’s a theocracy. The absolute head of state is the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. However, it does have a democratic component in an elected presidency, even if the law severely restricts the choice of candidate largely to observant Muslims, if not actual members of the ulema, the Islamic clergy.

However, Iran is in some respects more liberal than the Saudis. In Saudi Arabia, any religion other than Wahhabi Islam is illegal. In Iran, the Dhimmis, meaning those monotheist faiths tolerated by Islam since the Prophet Muhammed – Judaism, Christianity and the ancient religion of Iran, Zoroastrianism – are tolerated. Six seats are reserved for them in the majlis, the Iranian parliament. There has been another crackdown and mass arrests of political dissidents recently, and the regime is extremely repressive. Trade unions are banned, and the conditions in the workers’ camps in the oil industry have been compared to concentration camps. But nevertheless, I got the impression that Iran has a greater degree of personal freedom than Saudi Arabia.

There was justifiable alarm at the possibility that Iran may acquire nuclear weapons a few years ago because their last president, Ahmedinejad, was a millennialist. He believed that the end of the world was nigh, and that the Muslim equivalent of the final war between good and evil, similar to Christian End Times belief, was imminent. Just as others have been similarly alarmed at the Christian millennialism of past Republican American presidents, including Ronald Reagan and George ‘Dubya’ Bush, who also believed that the end of the world was coming, and they had to arm America for final battle with the Antichrist.

I haven’t heard any suggestion that the Saudis are also millennialists waiting for the final battle with the as-Salihi al-Dajjal, the figure in Islam corresponding to the Antichrist in Christianity. But5 they are a brutal, genocidal regime. We’ve seen how the Saudis are deliberately targeting and slaughtering civilians in Yemen, including women and children, simply for being Shi’a. And Shi’a Muslims in Saudi Arabia living in villages without running water or electricity, and are forbidden to practice their religion or possess their holy books. And a few years ago, one of the chief Saudi religious authorities – I don’t know whether it was the Sharif of Mecca or the Grand Mufti – declared that the Shi’a were heretics, who were ‘worthy of death’.

There is considerable evidence that the Saudis were behind 9/11, and that the responsibility for the atrocity reached right up to the highest levels. And the current king’s intelligence chief also supported, armed and funded al-Qaeda terrorists and insurgents in Iraq and Syria, not to mention Daesh before they turned on the Saudis themselves, and urged the faithful there to rise up and overthrow the monarchy.

I am as concerned about the acquisition of nuclear technology by Saudi Arabia as I am about its development by Iran. In fact more so, as I think the Iranians were genuine when they said they wanted to develop nuclear power, rather than nuclear weaponry. And if they were to develop nuclear weapons, then it might be simply to protect themselves from American and Saudi attack and invasion.

I am also reminded here of another country that illegally developed nuclear weapons in the Middle East: Israel. They weren’t, and still aren’t, supposed to have them. But the world has turned a blind eye, and the whistleblower there, Mordechai Vanunu, was arrested and has spent something like 17 years in jail. Presumably you’re a horrible anti-Semite if you raise concerns about the Israelis’ possession of a nuclear capability.

Trump should not be passing on nuclear secrets to Saudi Arabia. If this is true, then this threatens further nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, and increases the possibility of an atomic conflict. A horrendous possibility, that could lead to the absolute destruction of all life on our already imperiled, beautiful world.

Get this madman and the other Republican maniacs out of the White House!

Vox Political Right Again! May Prepares Plan for Martial Law Post-Brexit

January 28, 2019

Mike’s keen eye for the direction events are taking us has been vindicated once again. A little while ago he predicted that Tweezer was preparing legislation to declare a state of martial law in the event of serious civil disruptions following a ‘No Deal’ Brexit. These would be caused by shortages of food and medicine. As Mike reminds us, there was a commenter, who doubted whether 3,500 troops could hold down a country of 60 million people.

Now it seems Mike was exactly right. According to the Sunday Times, which Mike acknowledges is a dodgy source, and the I, Tweezer has indeed prepared a plan to declare martial law in just such an event, and quotes the relevant passage from the latter paper. Cause obviously, he doesn’t want to give money to the Mendacious Murdoch Machine.

Mike’s on something of a roll here, as he was also proved right about Brexit negatively affecting Jaguar Landrover. They’ve stopped production for an extra week because of uncertainties over Brexit. He was also right when he said that after criticizing Rachel Riley and her supporters for fake anti-Semitism claims and trolling a schoolgirl with anxiety issues, he’d also get attacked. And he was.

How bad will the situation be post-Brexit. Well, the I’s article quotes one source, who says that it will be worse than the disruption caused by volcanic ash, and would be comparable to a major Europe-wide war.

Mike concludes his article with the comment

Of course, martial law is an extreme measure that would be imposed only in dire need – or if a government is desperate to keep power in spite of the will of the people.

Do you trust Theresa May not to follow the latter path?
See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/01/27/martial-law-plan-for-post-brexit-britain-shows-this-site-was-right-again/

Well, no, I don’t trust Tweezer to put country ahead of party, or even her own personal interests. She’s never done so in the past, and won’t in the future. Ian Hislop called Gordon Brown ‘Mr Limpet’ after the 2010 election on Have I Got News For You because of Brown’s determination to hang on to power even after the losing the election. The Lib Dems claimed that they were willing to form a coalition with Labour, but only if Brown went. He refused, so they joined the Tories. Except that they’d been in talks with the Tories for weeks before, and the whole claim that they were willing to support Labour was a sham. But Tweezer surely deserves to be called ‘Mrs Limpet’ because of her determination to cling on to power, regardless of the harm her government is doing to this country and, hopefully, the future of the Tory party.

Corbyn has repeatedly been attacked because his policies of supporting the nationalization of the utilities and strong unions and workers’ rights supposedly threaten to take this country back to the 1970s.

But it’s Tweezer who’s doing that.

It’s been under watch that last week there was a terrorist bombing in Ulster, and she’s preparing to declare martial law because of civil unrest and shortages. The last time I recall this happening was during the ‘Winter of Discontent’ in 1979, when it was all blamed on the trade unions. And friends of mine in the Smoke told me they were affected by a power cut. Again, the last time I remember this happening was back in the 1970s when Ted Heath was trying to show the miners, who really ran the country. Well, as the election showed, it wasn’t him.

This is Tweezer and the Tories’ Brexit Britain: power cuts, potential shortages and martial law. And this time they can’t blame Labour nor the unions.

Get Tweezer out, and Corbyn in, before Tweezer really does turn this country into a dictatorship.

Two Books By Tony Benn

January 4, 2019

I hope everyone’s had a great Christmas and their New Year is off to a good start. May the shadow of Theresa May and her wretched Brexit be very far from you!

Yesterday I got through the post two secondhand books I’d ordered from Amazon by that redoubtable warrior for socialism and working people, Tony Benn. These were Arguments for Socialism, edited by Chris Mullin (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1979) and Fighting Back: Speaking Out For Socialism in the Eighties (London: Hutchinson 1988).

The two books differ slightly in that one is written from Benn’s perspective at the end of the ’70s, while the other was written nine years later at the end of the 1980s. In both Benn tackles the problems of the day, and lays out his radical, democratic socialist plans to revitalise the British economy and industry, strengthen and broaden democracy, and empower working people.

The blurb of Arguments for Socialism simply runs

Tony Benn, the most controversial figure in British politics, outlines a strong democratic-socialist approach to the most crucial issues in our political life over the next decade.

It has an introduction, and the following chapters, subdivided into smaller sections on particularly topics. These are

Section 1., ‘The Inheritance’, is composed of the following
The Inheritance of the Labour Movement
Christianity and Socialism
The Bridge between Christianity and Socialism
The Levellers and the English Democratic Tradition
Marxism and the Labour Party
Clause IV
The Labour Movement.

Section 2. ‘Issues of the 1970s’
Labour’s Industrial Programme
The Case for Change
Opening the Books
Planning Agreements and the NEB
Public Ownership
Industrial Democracy
The Upper Clyde Work-In
The Worker’s Co-ops
The Lessons of the Workers’ Co-ops
Democracy in the Public Sector

3. ‘Energy’
North Sea Oil
The Debate over Nuclear Energy
Windscale
The Fast Breeder
A Future for Coal
Alternative Sources of Energy
Conclusion

4 ‘The EEC’
Loss of Political Self-Determination
Loss of Control over the United Kingdom’s Industry and Trade
Unemployment and the EEC
After the Referendum

5. ‘Democracy’
Technology and Democracy
The Case for Open Government
How Secrecy Is Maintained at Present
Leaks and How They Occur
Conclusion

6. ‘Issues for the 1980s’
The Arguments
The Argument in Outline
The Present Crisis of Unemployment
Adam Smith and the Birth Capitalism
Lessons from the Pre-War Slump
Three Remedies on Offer
1. Monetarism
2. Corporatism
3. Democratic Socialism

7. ‘Jobs’
The Pension Funds
New Technology
Growth
The Trade Union Role in Planning
Workers’ Co-ops
A New Relationship between Labour and Capital

8. ‘The Common Market’
Three Criticisms of the EEC

9. Democracy
Open Government
The Unions
The Armed Forces
The Media
A New Role for Political Leaders.

Fighting Back’s blurb runs

With crisis after crisis rocking the country throughout the Eighties, the formation of new parties, divisions with in the old, mergers, reconciliations – British political life is at a watershed.

Tony Benn, in speeches on picket lines, at Conferences at home and abroad, in broadcasts, in the House of Commons, has been a consistently radical campaigning voice: for equal rights, for democracy and for peace against the increasingly brutal politics of monetarism, militarism and self-interest.

Fighting Back brings together for the first time in one volume the best of Tony Benn’s speeches from 1980 to 1988. Few poeple will have heard more than brief snippets of proceedings in the House of Commons given by television, radio and the press, so the most important debates are included here – the Falklands War, Westland helicopters, Fortress Wapping, Zircon and Spycatcher – as well as some lesser known concerns, from the ordination of women, to the politics of singer Paul Robeson.

Throughout the difficult years in Opposition, Tony Benn has played a leading role in defending and regenerating the socialist tradition. But Fighting Back is more than simply a personal testament: it is also an exciting and accessible handbook to the turbulent Eighties, whatever one’s political convictions.

After the introduction, it has the following chapters and subsections:

1. The Stalemate in British Politics
-Fifty Years of Consensus Rule
-The Party and the Government
-From Defeat to Victory
-Parliamentary Democracy and the Labour Movement

2. Prophetic Voices
-Positive Dissent
-Thomas Paine
-Karl Marx
-Paul Robeson
-R.H. Tawney
In Defence of British Dissidents

3. Fighting Back
-The Falklands War (April 1982)
-The Falklands War (April 1982)
-The Falklands War (May 1982)
-The Falklands War (December 1982)
-The Miners’ Strike (June 1984)
-The Miners’ Strike (September 1984)
-The Miners’ Strike (February 1985)
-Gay Rights
-Fortress Wapping (May 1986)
-Fortress Wapping (January 1987)
-The Irish Struggle for Freedom
-After Eniskillen
-Privatisation of Gas
-Legal Reform

4. British Foreign and Defence Policy
-The Case for Non-Alignment
-Who is Our Enemy?
-A New Agenda for the International Labour and Socialist Movements
-Some Facts about Defence
-Towards a Permanent New Forum
-Paying for Apartheid

5. Work and Health in a Green and Pleasant Land
-The Unemployment Tragedy
-Trade Unionism in the Eighties
-Full Employment: the Priority
-The Common Ownership of Land
-The Case Against Nuclear Power
-Nuclear Accidents
-The Nuclear Lobby
-Evidence Against Sizewell B

6. The Arrogance of Power
-The Case of Sir Anthony Blunt
-The Belgrano-Ponting Debate
-Westland Helicopters
-Surcharge and Disqualification of Councillors
-The Ordination of Women
-The Zircon Affair
-Spycatcher
-Protection of Official Information

7. Disestablishing the Establishment
-Power, Parliament and the People
-The Civil Service
-The Crown, the Church and Democratic Politics
-A Moral Crisis
-The Disestablishment of the Church of England
-Television in a Democracy
-Televising the House

8. Light at the End of the Tunnel
-The Radical Tradition: Past, Present and Future
-Staying True to the Workers
-Aims and Objectives of the Labour Party.

The Books and their Times

Arguments for Socialism comes from a time when this country had nationalised industries, strong trade unions and an efficient and effective planning apparatus. It was also when unemployment and discontent were rising, and the country was facing the threat of Thatcher and her monetarist agenda. The speeches and articles in Fighting Back come from when Thatcher had seized power, was busy privatising everything not nailed down, smashing the unions and trying to silence any dissent. This included attempts to prosecute civil servant Clive Ponting for leaking documents showing that the Argentinian warship, the General Belgrano, was actually leaving the Falklands warzone when it was attacked and sunk. Thatcher also banned the publication of Peter Wright’s Spycatcher over here, because of the embarrassing things it had to say about MI5. This turned into a massive farce as the book was widely published elsewhere, like New Zealand, meaning that foreign readers had a better understanding of the British secret state than we Brits did. It was such a ridiculous situation that Private Eye’s Willie Rushton sent it up in a book, Spythatcher.

Benn’s Beliefs on Socialism and Democracy

Benn was genuinely radical. He believed that British socialism was in danger not because it had been too radical, but because it had not been radical enough. He wished to extend nationalisation beyond the utilities that had been taken into public ownership by Attlee, and give working people a real voice in their management through the trade unions. He also fully supported the workers of three firms, who had taken over the running of their companies when management wanted to close them down, and run them as co-ops. On matters of the constitution, he wished to expand democracy by bringing in a Freedom of Information Act, strip the Crown of its remaining constitutional powers and have them invested in parliament instead, and disestablish the Church of England. He also wanted to strip the office of Prime Minister of its powers of patronage and give more to MPs. He was also firmly against the EEC and for CND. Socially, he was on the side of grassroots movements outside parliament, fully embraced gay rights and the ordination of women within the Anglican Church.

Not the Maniac He was Portrayed by the Press

He was and still is vilified for these radical views. The press, including Ian Hislop’s mighty organ, Private Eye, presented him as a ‘swivel-eyed loon’, at best a mad visionary of hopelessly unrealistic ideals. At worst he was a Communist agent of Moscow ready to destroy this country’s ability to defend itself and hand it over to rule by the Soviets.

He was, it won’t surprise you to learn, anything like that.

He was very well respected by his constituents in my part of Bristol as a very good MP and brilliant orator, and was respected even by his opponents in the city. One of the leaders of Bristol’s chamber of commerce said that he was always rational and his opinions clearly thought out. I’m a monarchist and a member of the Anglican church, and so don’t share his views on the disestablishment of the Church of England. But his arguments there are interesting.

Disestablishment of the Anglican Church

Recent calls for disestablishment have come from atheists and secularists, and Benn does use the secularist argument that privileged position of various Anglican bishops to sit in the House of Lords is unfair to those of other faiths, Roman Catholics, Protestant Nonconformists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists. But this argument actually comes at the end of the main body of his pieces. His main points are that the bishops shouldn’t be there, because they’re unelected, and that parliament and the prime minister, who may not be Anglicans or even Christians, have no business appointing the denomination’s clergy or deciding doctrine. It’s an argument primarily from within the Anglican church, not from someone outside, jealous of its position.

The Prime Minister against the Church and Its Members

One example of how the Prime Minister abused their position to override or impose their views against the wishes of the Church itself was when Thatcher got stroppy with the-then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Robert Runcie. After the Falklands War, Runcie had preached a sermon saying that we should now meet the Argentinians in a spirit of reconciliation. This is what a Christian leader should say. It comes from the Sermon on the Mount: Blessed are the peacemakers, and all that. We’ve heard it several times since by great leaders like Nelson Mandela and South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. But Thatcher didn’t like it because she wanted something a bit more triumphalist. This section is also interesting because it has an interesting snippet you and I south of the Border have never heard of, except if you’re a member of the Church of Scotland. That august body at its synod overwhelmingly voted in favour of nuclear disarmament. I hadn’t heard anything about that before, and I doubt many other people outside Scotland had. And it obviously wasn’t an accident. The Tory media really didn’t want anyone else in Britain to know about it, in case they thought it might be a good idea.

It wasn’t just the Church of Scotland that were against nuclear weapons. So was a leading Roman Catholic prelate, Monsigner Bruce Kent, now, I believe, no longer a member of the priesthood. One of my aunts was a very Roman Catholic lady, who was also a member of CND. She found herself on one march next to a group of Franciscan friars. So kudos and respect to all the churches for their Christian witness on this issue.

CND, the Unions and Media Bias

On the subject of CND, Benn talks about the blatant bias of the press. All kinds of people were members of the Campaign, but when it was covered on television, what you got were a few shots of clergy like Monsignor Kent, before the camera zoomed in on the banner of the Revolutionary Communist party. CND were part of Russkie commie subversion! Except as I remember, they weren’t. The Russians didn’t like them either after they criticised their maneoevres in eastern Europe.

Benn states that the media’s bias is peculiar – its somewhere to the right of the Guardian, but slightly to the left of Thatcher. This was the attitude of the establishment generally. And it was extremely biased against the trade unions. He cites the work of Glasgow Media Studies unit, who looked at the language they used to describe industrial disputes. The language used of the trade unions always presented them as the aggressor. They ‘demanded’ and ‘threatened’, while management ‘offered’ and ‘pleaded’. He then asked hsi readers to turn the rhetoric around, so that a union asking for a pay rise of 8 per cent when inflation in 10 per cent is ‘pleading’.

The Ordination of Women

His stance on the ordination of women is equally interesting. He was obviously for it, but his arguments as you might expect were very well informed. He pointed out that women had been campaigning to be ordained in the Church since the 1920s, and that other Christian denominations, like the Congregationalists, already had women ministers. As did other Anglican churches abroad, like the Episcopalians in America. It was blocked here by the Anglo-Catholics, who fear it would stop re-union with Rome. But even here, he noted, this may not be an obstacle, citing movements for the ordination of women within Catholicism. Again, it’s an argument from within the Church, or from someone genuinely sympathetic to it, than from an outsider frustrated with the Church’s stubborn refusal to abide by secular social values, although that is also in there.

Government Secrecy

And back on the subject of government secrecy, the Zircon Affair was when Thatcher banned the transmission of an edition of the documentary programme, Secret State. I’ve put up that documentary series a few years ago on this blog, because it showed the extent to which Thatcher and others had been using the Official Secrets Act to suppress information that was embarrassing or uncomfortable. Like the fact that in a nuclear war, this country would suffer massive casualties and the obliteration of its major population centres.

The book actually contains any number of interesting snippets that definitely weren’t reported, or else were only given very tiny coverage, in the mainstream press. Like details of various incidents at nuclear plants that could have led to serious accidents. He also talks about the ‘Atoms for Peace’ programme. In this international project, we sent our nuclear material over to America, where, we were told, it would be used for peaceful purposes generating power in American reactors. Well, it was used in American reactors. They refined it into the plutonium, that was then put in American nuclear warheads and sent back over here to the US nuclear bases on British soil. He also pointed out that the agreements covering the use of Britain as a base by US forces in the event of a nuclear war also contravened our sovereignty.

Ted Heath and the EU

Loss of sovereignty was also a major part of his opposition to the EU. But he also makes the point that our entry into the Common Market was also undemocratic. Ted Heath simply decided the country was going in. Parliament was not consulted and did not vote on the issue. I do remember that there was a referendum afterwards, however.

Intelligence Agencies Smearing Labour MPs

The intelligence agencies are another threat to British democracy. He cites Peter Wright’s Spycatcher memoir on how MI5 was spreading rumours smearing the then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, as a KGB spy. This, like much of the rest of the material in the books, has not dated. The problem of the security services smearing left-wing politicians is still very much with us, as we’ve seen from the Integrity Initiative. They’ve smeared Jeremy Corbyn as a Russian spy.

Books Still Relevant in 21st Century

I’ve only really skimmed the books so far, just reading the odd chapter, but so much of it is directly relevant now. I think if he were alive today, Benn probably would have voted ‘Leave’, but his arrangements for leaving the EU would have been far more sensible and beneficial to this country’s ordinary folk than that of Tweezer and her band of profiteers. And he is absolutely right when he writes about expanding democracy in industry. He states that the workers’ co-ops on the Clydeside and elsewhere were attacked in the press, because suddenly the British capitalist establishment were terrified because it showed that there was a genuine alternative to capitalism, and that workers could run companies.

The individual sections in these books chapters are short, and the arguments clear. He also gives point by point party programmes on particular issues, such as making this country more democratic.

Benn Democrat, Not Authoritarian Communist

And it’s this concern for democracy that most definitely marks Benn out as being a democratic socialist, not a Trotskyite or Communist. Those parties and their various sects were run according to Lenin’s principle of ‘democratic centralism’. Put simply, this meant that the party would hold some kind of open debate on issues until a decision was made. After that, the issue was closed. Anybody still holding or promoting their own opinions faced official censure or expulsion. And the Communist parties of eastern Europe would have been as frightened of Benn’s championing of democracy as the British establishment.

Conclusion

As I said, I take issue with Benn on certain issues. But his reasoning is always clear and rational, his points well argued and based in fact. Furthermore, he is impressed with the British radical tradition and how much British socialism is squarely based within it. We lost one of our greatest parliamentarians with his death.

His ideas, however, are still very relevant, and have been vindicated with time. He was right about monetarism and corporatism, about unemployment, about the need for unions, about media bias. His support of women priests and gay rights were ahead of their time, and have now become almost a commonplace, accepted by all except a few die-hard reactionaries. And he’s right about nationalisation and worker empowerment.

These are books I intend to use for my blog and its attack on Tweezer and the Tories. And I won’t be short of useful material.

Bakunin on Class Oppression, Poverty and Suicide

December 23, 2018

Mikhail Bakunin was one of the towering figures of 19th century anarchism. A Russian aristocrat, he rebelled against tsarism after becoming a member of literary circle studying Hegelian philosophy, and threw himself passionately behind the worker’s struggle. He took part in many worker’s uprisings, and was captured when one of them, in eastern Germany, was put down. He was then sent back in chains to Russia, where he was goaled and exiled to Siberia. He escaped, took a ship to Japan, from whence he sailed to America. And from America he crossed the Atlantic to England, to call in at the home of his fellow Russian expatriate and anarchist, Peter Kropotkin. Although he is notorious for advocating violent revolution, particularly in a pamphlet he wrote with Nechaev, in some of his other writings he seems to believe that the revolution, which will overthrow capitalism, the state and the bourgeoisie, which will essentially peaceful. In one of his writings from the period 1869-1871 he argues for such a situation, and states that if there is violence, it will only be because the bourgeoisie want there to be.

He was bitterly critical of poverty that capitalism and the class structure of society and the state had created. And some of his descriptions of this poverty, and the despair and misery it caused, are still relevant today under Tweezer and the Tories. I found this passage in Mikhail Bakunin, From Out of the Dustbin, Bakunin’s Basic Writings 1869-1871, ed. and trans. by Robert M. Cutler (Ann Arbor: Ardis 1985):

This wealth, concentrated in an ever smaller number of hands and sloughing off the lower strata of the middle class, the petite bourgeoisie, into the proletariat, is wholly exclusive and becomes more so every day, growing in direct proportion to the increasing poverty of the working masses. Fro9m this it follows that the abyss which already divides the wealthy and privileged minority from the millions of workers whose physical labour supports them, is always widening, and that the wealthier the exploiters of the people’s labour get, the poorer the workers get. Simply juxtapose the extraordinary affluence of the great aristocratic, financial, commercial and industrial world of England to the wretched predicament of the workers of that country. Simply read once more the unpretentious, heartrending letter recently written by an intelligent, honest London goldsmith, Walter Dugan, who voluntarily poisoned himself, his wife, and his six children just to escape the humiliations, the poverty, and the tortures of hunger. You will have to acknowledge that from the material standpoint this vaunted civilization means only oppression and ruination to the people. (p. 112).

Dugan’s killing of himself and his children is truly horrific, and is probably better described as a murder-suicide, the type of crime that unfortunately appears every so often on the news. But as various left-wing bloggers like Stilloaks, Pride’s Purge and Mike over at Vox Political have shown, all too many people have died through misery and starvation due to the Tories’ destruction of the economy and the welfare state. Thousands of disabled people have been thrown off the benefits they need due to the Tories’ and New Labour’s fitness to work tests, and thousands of the unemployed have been left without money due to benefit sanctions. Thousands of people have died in starvation and misery, and some, like Dugan, have committed suicide. We have a quarter of a million people using food banks to save themselves from starvation. Something like 549 homeless people have died this year, including a Hungarian man, Gyula Remes, who died outside the House of Parliament. Mr. Remes had a job, but it didn’t pay enough for him to be able to afford accommodation. Meanwhile, Chris Skidmore, the Tory MP from Kingswood in Bristol, who said that austerity couldn’t be too bad because people weren’t lying dead in the street, has said nothing. Probably because he doesn’t want to remind even more people about his wretched comment, and can’t think of anything to say that wouldn’t put him deeper into trouble.

He’s only one of the Tories, who’ve made vile, sneering comments about the truly poor and desperate. I can remember another Tory a few years ago rhetorically asking who the homeless were, and replying that they were the people you stepped over coming out of the opera. And there are many others like him.

You don’t have to be an anarchist to want these people out of office. You just have to want a better Britain for working people, one that will give them proper rights at work, a living wage, a decent welfare system and a renationalized NHS and utilities industries that will safeguard and treat their health, and supply them with water, electricity and transport on the railways at proper prices, rather than exploiting them for the profit of private industry.

Get Tweezer and her profiteers out, and Jeremy Corbyn in!