Archive for the ‘Liberals’ Category

Reform Party Promising to Protect British Freedoms against the Government, the EU and Unelected Organisations

January 20, 2023

Okay, I just found a brief video on YouTube, posted eight days ago, on Nick Buckley’s channel. Buckley’s a former police officer and campaigner against knife crime, who’s appeared a couple of times on the Lotus Eater’s channel. I wasn’t surprised then, when he posted this video interviewing Richard Tice about Reform’s ‘Eight Principles’. In the video, however, he only talks about four of them. These are largely about protecting British democratic rights against the threat of the state and unelected organisations and quangos. According to Tice, Brits are aware that they’re born free and have inalienable rights unlike in the EU. Thus, Brits are able to whatever they like unless prohibited, while in the EU they can only do whatever the EU tells them to.

The irony about this is that the idea that humans are born free comes from a continental philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau has been condemned as one of the founders of totalitarianism. One Conservative American group made Rousseau’s The Social Contract one of the most evil books of all time alongside Marx and Engels’ The Communist Manifesto. The philosopher Isaiah Berlin included him among his Six Enemies of Freedom and the Lotus Eaters have also put out videos attacking him. But Rousseau’s book begins with the words, ‘Man was born free yet everywhere he is chains.’ The idea that you should be free to do whatever you want unless the law says otherwise, I think comes from John Locke a century before, and is the foundation of modern liberal ideas of freedom. However, other European philosophers also had views similar to Locke’s, that the state should be limited to the role of a night watchman, in the sense say that it should protect its citizens’ lives and property, but otherwise not interfere. This is the view expressed by the German philosopher Wilhelm von Humboldt in his Grenzen Der Wirksamkeit der Staat – ‘Limits of the Effectiveness of the State’. I don’t know what the underlying philosophy of government of the European Union is. I suspect there isn’t one beyond harmonising various trade and other regulations between member states and allowing for the movement of labour and capital. The original intention was to create a united trading bloc to preserve western European economic independence from America or communist eastern Europe. The Eurosceptic right has frequently ranted about the EU being some kind of totalitarian state with comparisons to Nazi Germany and communism, but I’ve seen no evidence to support it. And rather than limiting freedom, I think the EU believes it is actively creating and nurturing freedom in its member states. Such as when it condemns Poland and Hungary for their legislation banning homosexuality and gay rights.

Now let’s go through the principles as explained by Tice and Buckley in the video.

  1. The state is our servant not our master.

I don’t believe any believer in liberal democracy, whether of the left or right, would challenge this. The only people who would are either Fascists, following Mussolini’s pronouncements that the individual is nothing before the state, followers of Hegel’s dictum that ‘the state is the divine idea as it exists on Earth. We must therefore worship the state’ and supporters of Soviet Communism before Gorby’s brief reforms. However, in the context of Reform, a party of the right, it seems to me that this is yet another bland statement intended to justify further privatisation and the expansion of the power of private industry and the destruction of the welfare state against working people, the poor, the unemployed and disabled.

2. Lend us your power and we’ll give you back your freedom.

This could be said by just about any political party, even those which were real enemies of freedom. Hitler, in one of his rants at Nuremberg, declared ‘Everything I am, I am through you. Everything you are, you are through me’. The Nazi party anthem, the Horst Wessel song, also has lines about German freedom. Hitler also talked about preserving freedom through separating the different spheres of party and state and preserving private industry, though in practice under the Nazi regime the party and state apparatus were intermeshed and private industry ruthlessly subordinated to the state. Mussolini also made speeches about how the freedom of the individual wasn’t limited under fascism, except in certain ways, all of which was equally rubbish.

3. People are free.

This means, as he explains, that people naturally hold certain rights and liberties that should always be protected and defended. These include freedom of speech, religion and conscience. This does not mean that certain types of speech have no consequences. I interpret this as meaning that he feels that people can say what they want, but people are also free to express outrage and take action against others for offensive or dangerous speech that is not otherwise banned by law. Tice goes on to say that in practice, while people believe in this principle, they negotiate to give up a certain amount of this freedom with the state.

I think here he means particularly the legislation on hate speech, which in his view prevents proper criticism of certain protected groups in order to combat racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny and so on. He has a point, as opponents of gay rights, who have made their opposition very clear in speeches, often quoting the Biblical prohibition against it, have been arrested. In Scotland Maria Miller, a gender critical woman, was arrested for hate speech simply for putting up stickers with the slogan ‘Scots Women Won’t Wheesht’, meaning that they wouldn’t be silent, in her campaign against the proposed gender recognition legislation north of the border. In my opinion, arresting someone for saying that goes beyond a concern about stirring up hatred against trans people into active attempts to police thoughts and opinions about trans rights.

But there are good reasons behind the legislation banning hate speech. In the case of racism, it’s to prevent Nazi groups stirring up hatred against vulnerable minorities like the Jews, people of colour and gays, all of whom have been or are targets of abuse and physical assault.

4. National Sovereignty

This means protecting British traditions, institutions and culture from enemies both external and internal. The external foes include the EU. The internal threats to British tradition and democracy are unelected pressure groups and organisations. These include big tech and companies like Google, Twitter and Facebook. This is a fair point. These organisations can and do censor material posted on their platforms. The right have been complaining about their posts disappearing or the algorithms governing their availability in searches being altered so that they become invisible, but the same censorship is also inflicted on the left. If Tice and his crew get the chance, I’ve no doubt they’ll demand greater freedom of speech for their supporters while maintaining or even strengthening the censorship against their opponents on the left.

Other threats, unsurprisingly, are the European Union, while among the unelected organisations wielding power he puts the environmental groups Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth and the gay rights organisation Stonewall. Tice states that a few years ago Greenpeace published their manifesto for Yorkshire, which was a diatribe against the car, and therefore, in his view, an attack on the automobile industry in west Yorkshire. One of the accusations the extreme right is throwing at environmental groups is that they wish to ban cars and private transport as part of their plan to establish Green Communism. He also includes Stonewall and the massive influence it wields, although no-one has elected it. There is a problem with Stonewall in that the advice it has been giving to companies, the government and the civil service has been wrong. They deliberately gave a wrongful interpretation of the legislation covering trans issues which was very much what they wanted it to say, not what the law actually did. As a result, a number of groups cut their connections to the organisation.

But unelected groups like Greenpeace, Stonewall and so on acquire their power through possessing, or being perceived to express, expertise and competence in particular issues. In the case of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, it’s the environment. Amnesty International is respected because of its thorough investigation and documentation of human rights abuses, even though governments may pay no attention to its findings. Stonewall is taken notice of because it speaks, or claims to speak, for Britain’s gays and articulates their concerns and recommendations to combat prejudice.

Even in the 19th century governments had to pay attention to popular protest organisations, such as the massive abolitionist campaign against slavery, the Anti-Corn Law League set up by Cobden and Bright to have the corn laws repealed so that the price of grain would fall and working people able to feed themselves. There was also the anti-war protests against the Crimean War led by John Bright and others. There are problems with unelected groups exercising power beyond their competence or suitability, but modern governments have always had to deal with organised groups. Tice’s singling out of the environmental groups and Stonewall seems to me to be as much to do with a hatred of their views – the Brexiteers are full-scale behind the right of private industry to trash this country’s green and pleasant land – than with their supposed power outside of the formal sphere of elections. I doubt that Reform would ever go as far if they were in power, but it reminds me more than a little bit of Mussolini’s statement that there should be ‘nothing outside the state, nothing against the state’, and similar bans on private quasi-political organisations in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

But what you’ll also notice is that these principles tell you absolutely nothing about how Reform as a party intends to act on them, except by reading the lines. What does Reform intend to do about the health service? Not said. I suspect, in fact, that as a party of the right they’ll want to privatise even more of it. What about the welfare state and the scandal of millions of people using food banks? No answers there, either. I suspect, however, that in practice you’d get more mantras of encouraging people to be independent, find work and so on, coupled with rants about welfare scroungers. What about industry? Again, the reality is almost certainly that they want more deregulation. Well, we’ve had four decades of Thatcherite privatisation and deregulation, and the result is the mass poverty and failing economy we’re now experiencing. Industry should be acting for the good of society and its employees and not just shareholders and senior management. This means limiting economic freedom, but as the Liberal journalist J.A. Hobson said, in order for the mass of people to be free you need to limit the freedom of the rich. Which is obviously toxic to the Conservatives and other parties of the right.

To sum up, what Reform seems to be doing with these principles is to try to position themselves as defenders of traditional British liberties against the threat of the evil EU and pesky Green and gay groups. But this hides an illiberal ideology that views such groups as somehow subversive, would probably remove the obstacles against real, dangerous expressions of racial and other prejudice, and which would promote the interests of private industry against ordinary Brits.

We can’t afford to be taken in by sweet words hiding their true intentions.

Gladstone: There Should Be More Working Class Men in Parliament

January 11, 2023

Another piece of political wisdom from the past, this time from the great 19th century Liberal leader William Ewart Gladstone. In the 1866 debate of the extension of the franchise to part of the working class, Gladstone stated very firmly that he was in favour of it. Because working people were not adequately represented in parliament. He said

‘I am justified, then, in stating that the working classes are not adequately represented in this House. They are not, it is admitted, represented in any proportion to their numbers …. They are not represented, as I have previously shown, in accordance with their share of the income of the country. Especially after the events of the last few years, I may boldly proceed to say they are not represented in proportion to their intelligence, their virtue, or their loyalty. Finally, they are less represented now than they were thirty-six years ago, when they were less competent to exercise the franchise…. If these are not good reasons for extending the franchise at the present, I know not what reason can be good.’

In Alan Bullock and Maurice Shock, The Liberal Tradition from Fox to Keynes (Oxford: Clarendon 1956).

Unfortunately, despite the extension of the franchise to cover all adults in Britain, working people aren’t properly represented in parliament. Way back in 2014/15 or so someone worked out that 77 per cent of all the MPs in parliament were heads or senior executives of companies. And I don’t expect this to improve when Starmer gets in, as the Blairites were only too keen on admitting rich businessmen into the party and giving them government posts. The current demand for greater diversity in politics really doesn’t extend to class. It is all about increasing the number of women and ethnic minority MPs. But the class background and the economic views tend to remain the same – very middle class and neoliberal. We really need to start demanding the selection of more working people as political candidates and to challenge everywhere we can neoliberalism.

And especially in the Labour party, which was founded to represent working people and oppose unfettered capitalism.

Charles James Fox’s Denunciation of Government Attempts to Tell Brits What to Think

January 9, 2023

There are forces on both the left and right that are trying to limit and control free speech in this country. The Tories have always used the power of the right-wing press, of course, but this is coupled with laws designed to severely restrict strike and public demonstrations. This is coupled with the strong conservative bias of some internet platforms, which deliberately manipulate the algorithms governing what people searching the internet may see in order to bury left-wing blogs.

‘The great 18th century Whig politician, Charles James Fox, denounced the government’s attempts to close the various societies and clubs that supported the French Revolution and demanded constitutional change over this side of the channel, in a speech made before the house in 1792. This included the following stinging passage.

‘But what, Sir, are the doctrines that they desire to set up by this insinuation of gloom and dejection? That Englishmen are not to dare to have genuine feelings of their own; that they must not rejoice but by rule; that they must not think but by order; that no man shall dare to exercise his faculties in contemplating the objects that surround him, nor give way to the indulgence of his joy or grief in the emotions that they excite, but according to the instructions that they receive. That, in observing the events that happen to surrounding and neutral nations, he shall not dare to think whether they are favourable to the principles that contribute to the happiness of man, or the contrary; and that he must take, not merely his opinions but his sensations from his majesty’s ministers and their satellites for the time being! Sir, whenever the time shall come that the character and spirits of Englishmen are so subdued; when they shall consent to believe that everything which happens around is indifferent both to their understandings and their hearts; and when they shall be brought to rejoice and grieve just as it shall suit the taste, the caprice, or the ends of ministers, then I pronounce the constitution of this country to be extinct.’

In Alan Bullock and Maurice Shock, eds., The Liberal Tradition from Fox to Keynes (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1956) 1.

And I think Starmer could also learn a lesson from this about telling Brits what to think about events in foreign countries.

Helen Pluckrose Explains to Conservatives that the Left Is also Resisting Woke Postmodernism

August 15, 2022

Helen Pluckrose is one of the trio of academics with Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay who are determined to write about, expose and combat that woke postmodernist theories and ideologies now threatening academia and society. While James Lindsay seems to be a man of the right, with a real hatred of communism, Pluckrose is far more left-wing. She describes her values and beliefs as socialist, but has also said that she now describes herself as a liberal from determination to preserve and uphold liberalism’s essential philosophical values of free speech, logic, reason and individualism. These vital pillars underpinning modern liberal, democratic society are denied and threatened by the new postmodernist disciplines of Critical Race Theory, Queer Theory, Post-Colonial Theory and so on.

These disciplines reject factual analysis, replacing it instead with language and discourse, and replace logic and reason with assertion and feeling. In her book with James Lindsay, Cynical Theories (Swift Press, 2021) she quotes various postmodernist writers, who make it very clear that they reject facts and logic because that’s not how Blacks and people from ethnic minorities view and interact with the world. Instead, according to these ideologues, non-Whites use instead legend and ‘lived experience’. This irrationalism is shared by White Fascism movements. The Nazis and Italian Fascists also celebrated irrationalism, particularly in the latter’s anti-positivist movement, instead proclaiming that there were certain truths that only members of the nation (Fascists) or Volk (Nazis) could know. Instead of universalism, the Fascists and Nazis also declared that the races had their own set of values, and that modern, democratic civilisation was alien to the Italian and Aryan, Germanic peoples. Despite claiming that they’re fighting racism, the supporters and ideologues responsible for Critical Race Theory repeat some of the same racism as the Fascist right, just from an anti-White quasi-Marxist postmodern perspective.

And I imagine that a number of Blacks and other people of colour are, or would be very annoyed by Critical Race Theory’s assumptions that they are somehow less rational, less capable of using logic, than Whites. This is, after all, the same assumptions White racial theorists made to justify the system of laws keeping Blacks down, in slavery and segregation.

Pluckrose has posted a long essay, ‘A Short Letter to a Misunderstanding Right’ on Lindsay’s New Discourses channel on YouTube. The right frequently claims that the left uniformly supports the postmodern, ‘Critical’ Theories. Matt Walsh does this, as do the Lotus Eaters. In her essay, Pluckrose explains how the Critical Theories have arisen and co-opted parts of standard left-wing ideologies and concerns, but attacks the attitude that the left is solidly behind them. She states that the left is a coalition of different groups, just as the right is. She explains why Communists, Socialists and pro-capitalist liberals also reject the Critical Theories because of their intolerance, their neglect of economics and abandonment of the working class. Gender critical feminists are also strongly opposed to them because they reject the reality of biological sex.

She concludes

‘Nevertheless, while most conservatives are more keenly aware of the problems with Critical Social Justice, they are slow to understand that, like on their own side of the aisle, “the left” is a coalition made up of several factions that do not agree with one another. Just as free-market libertarians cannot reasonably be blamed for the beliefs of anti-capitalist Christian conservatives, who in turn disagree strongly with anti-capitalist conservative Muslims, and center-right classical liberals and center-right social conservatives both also exist and disagree with each other and all the rest of these groups, so too is the left comprised of people with very different ideas who fully understand and consistently oppose each other. We frequently hear much confusion from some conservatives who seem to think Marxism and postmodernism are variations on the same thing and that (in the US) all of them fall into the broader category of “liberal” despite the gallons of ink spilled over the disagreement between all of these factions for decades if not centuries. Very often, we will hear: “The left is all [Critical] Social Justice (Warriors), and if it’s not, why aren’t any of the other lefties opposing them?”

In response, the Marxists, radicals, and most socialists respond with exasperation: with something like, “Are you serious? We were the first to address the issue of postmodernism. We’ve been telling you that postmodernism is a problem for half a century now. Read our critiques of it. Begin with Chomsky vs Foucault in 1971, move on to Fredric Jameson in 1991, and then have a look what the World Socialist Web Site has to say about it right now. Liberal lefties (like me) wonder what more we have to do for you to notice both our existence and our opposition to the irrationalism and illiberalism of postmodernism and Critical Social Justice. I’ve just spent five years criticizing them full-time while advocating liberalism, and yet conservatives who found me precisely because of the criticism (and who often then leave again because of the liberalism) will still ask me why the reasonable left isn’t doing anything, if it even exists. Most of “the left” rejects Critical Social Justice every bit as much as you conservatives do, and it would be both nice and wise if you would start recognizing it and get away from the factionalist power-games mindset yourselves.

So, let’s have a deal. If conservatives can agree not to blame liberals or socialists (or even the radicals, kind of!) for Critical Social Justice, which has co-opted all of our movements and efforts against our will, we on the left can agree not to blame right-leaning libertarians and classical liberals for conspiracy theorists and religiously social conservatives who try to ban teaching of evolution and who want to render homosexuals as second-class citizens again. Your side is a coalition of factions, some of which need cleaning up, and so is ours. Most of us on “the left” are realizing we need to fight those on our Critical Social Justice fringe, and we hope you’ll start to notice.’

It’s a great piece and needs to be read by anyone concerned about the way sections of the right are using these Critical Theories as a weapon to smear and discredit the left.

The essay can be read at: https://newdiscourses.com/2020/03/letter-misunderstanding-right/

Petition from Mish Rahman against Starmer’s ban on Labour MPs Joining Striking Workers

August 11, 2022

I’ve just got this email through from Mish Rahman, a left-wing Labour MP, opposing Starmer’s diktat against Labour MPs joining picket lines and the sacking of Sam Tarry for doing so.

Tell Keir Starmer – Back Workers Taking Action!


Get involved: sign here / share here / retweet me here.

Hello David
 
The recent sacking of Sam Tarry for joining an RMT picket line was a low point for Keir Starmer’s time as Labour Leader, but it’s clear that the majority of Labour members, affiliates & supporters stand with those workers taking action during the deepening cost-of-living crisis.

I’m writing to ask you to join me and over 5000 others in clearly saying that all Labour MPs must back our unions and that Sam Tarry’s sacking should be reversed. Please take 30 seconds to:

  1. Sign and tell us why here.
  2. Share here on Facebook
  3. Retweet my message here.

Yours in solidarity, 
Mish Rahman, Labour NEC member on behalf of the Labour Assembly Against Austerity.

PS: Thank you to everyone who has backed my campaign to be re-elected to Labour’s NEC. You can read my launch article here.’

Well, I’ve done so, giving as my reason the fact that the Labour party was partly founded by the unions to defend trade unions and strikes, and that the first working people elected to parliament were the Lib-Labs. They were members of the Liberal party representing the trade unions. Banning MPs from joining picket lines betrays this working class activism.

If you feel the same way, perhaps you’d also like to sign the petition.

Academic Historian T.O. Lloyd on the Legalization of Homosexuality and Abortion in Britain

August 8, 2022

Homosexuality and abortion have once again become vital, controversial issues following the outrage in America and in this country against Drag Queen Story Hour and trans issues, and the US supreme court overturning the landmark ruling of Roe vs. Wade, which demanded federal legalisation of abortion in America. Lloyd in his book Empire to Welfare State: English History 1906-1986, 3rd edition, (Oxford: OUP 1986) has a paragraph about the legalization of these two issues in Britain by the Labour government of the late 60s. He writes

‘Private Members introduced two Bills, also inspired by J.S. Mill’s type of liberalism, to legalize homosexual acts between consenting adults and to allow abortion when it was justified on medical, psychological or social grounds. These Bills were handled in the previous Parliament: the government did not commit itself officially to supporting them, and issued no party whip, but it allowed enough parliamentary time to make sure that both of them were passed despite attempts to ‘talk them out’. Outside Parliament the changes seem to have been welcomed by public opinion; surveys showed majorities in favour of both pieces of legislation, and the opponents of change seemed either to be apologetic about their position or to be unreasonable-the calm, commanding central position which in the past had been held by the supporters of a restrictive morality was now held by the advocates of a libertarian approach.’ (p. 413).

This states that the legalization of homosexuality, or rather, its decriminalization, and the legalisation of abortion were both popular. This suggests that the Tories are going to have a fight on their hands if they try to remove these rights.

The Lotus Eaters Read Out Detransitioners’ Harrowing Stories of Pain and Regret

June 14, 2022

Readers and followers of this blog know very well how I feel about Sargon of Gasbag and the Lotus Eaters. He and they are arch-Conservative reactionaries, fully in support of the Brexit that has wrecked British trade and the agreement that has so far kept the fragile peace in Ulster. They’re fully behind privatisation, but refuse to believe that the Tories are selling off the NHS – even though it’s right under their noses – because they don’t see how anyone would want to buy it. They’re also strongly anti-feminist, believing in traditional sex roles and that a woman’s place is in the home. Sargon himself did much to destroy UKIP, simply by joining it under Gerald Batten’s fuhrership. When he did so, a number of local UKIP parties either disaffiliated from the national party or simply dissolved, and a large proportion of their membership, who weren’t racists, walked away. When this happened, I put up an angry video from one such Kipper who was absolutely livid about Sargon and other figures on the populist right, like Count Dankula and Paul Joseph Watson joining. I also utterly despise their attitude. I find them smug, complacent, and resent the way they continue to push the smear that Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters are anti-Semites. Corbyn wasn’t, and we’re not. Especially not the Jewish brothers and sisters who have been abused, smeared and purged simply because the fanatically pro-Israel right hates them condemning Israel’s decades-long ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. As for the Lotus Eaters’ libertarianism, all their arguments in favour of this daft ideology were answer over a century ago by writers like T.H. Green, who supported the New Liberalism of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

But I have to give Carl Benjamin and his mates credit where credit’s due. On some issues, such as the transgender debate, I think they’re right, or mostly so. Now I shall repeat: I do not support discrimination against, abuse, violence or persecution of people simply because of their sexuality or gender presentation. But there are very serious issues regarding trans ideology, the Queer Theory that informs it, and the medical-industrial complex that supports it. Quite apart from the dangers it poses to women’s sport, dignity and safety. Such as the danger to women in prisons when they are jailed with biological men, often brutal sex criminals, simply because the man identifies as a woman.

And one of the major issues is that there are powerful commercial and ideological incentives to push young people who feel dissatisfied or alienated from their birth gender towards transition. I believe that some people genuinely suffer from these issues, and have benefited from transition. My problem is not with that. My problem is with the attitude that has now emerged among gay and transgender activists that such problems are automatically a reflection of a permanent sexual identity among those suffering them. An identity which it is forbidden to question or to treat with anything but support and affirmation. According to academic research, 60%-85% of teens suffering from gender dysphoria grow out of it. The majority of them becoming gay men or women, but otherwise happy and secure in their sexual identity. And the process of transition itself also carries serious health risks. As has been admitted, puberty blockers like Lupron are not reversible, and their long term effects are unknown. The cross-gender hormones given to those making the transition can damage the heart and other organs, as well as reduce bone density. And the sex-change surgery itself may create complications that require additional surgery to correct.

Medical transition can be immensely profitable for the doctors, surgeons and clinics performing it. In Britain, I believe, there are only a small number of NHS clinics performing such treatment and so there have sprung up a number of private clinics to take over the slack. And private healthcare is all about profit. Decades ago the Beeb broadcast a documentary about the American private healthcare system, revealing the immense number of unnecessary operations that were carried out, simply because they made money for the private hospitals and surgeons. Something like this may be going on here as well.

There is a small but growing number of ‘detransitioners’. These are transpeople, who bitterly regret their decision, and are seeking as far as possible to return to their birth sex. I say small, but that’s in comparison to the people now deciding that they want to transition to the opposite gender. The online detransitioner community numbers about 20,000. Which to me is a lot.

Here Sargon and his co-host read out their stories of deep regret, and as Sargon himself says, it’s harrowing stuff. Most of the stories come from women who transitioned to men, though there is one from a man, who transitioned to a woman. They were all very young when they started to transition, some about 18 and 20 years old. One former woman says that she was 16. All the detransitioners are repelled by their new bodies and regret the loss of their natural, biological gender. One detrans woman says that she is in mourning for it. And at least one of them has serious health issues, including having to sleep for 14 hours a day, because of the treatment.

Transitioning has worked for some, but not these. This is why I strongly believe that when it comes to such radical and life-changing treatment and surgery, the greatest care should be taken to ensure that this is genuinely and absolutely appropriate for the patient.

This is why I strongly oppose the affirmation model and the attempts by trans activists to outlaw conversion therapy for trans people. Because there is the real danger that it is an attempt to ban really appropriate psychiatric treatment for people, who will be harmed, not helped, by transitioning.

A History of Racism in the Islamic Middle East

May 27, 2022

Bernard Lewis, Race and Slavery in the Middle East: An Historical Enquiry (Oxford: OUP 1990).

Bernard Lewis is a veteran scholar of Islam, and this book is an examination of the emergence and development of predominantly Muslim Arab racism in the Middle East. The book is a reworking of two previous studies from the 1970s, one of which was first published in French. It started off as part of an academic examination of intolerance, concentrating on religious bigotry. Lewis, however, believed that issue had been solved and so moved on to racial intolerance. Unfortunately, as the past fifty years have unfortunately shown, religious hatred and bigotry has certainly not died out, as shown here in Britain with the sectarian violence in Ulster.

Arab Ethnic Identity Before Colour Prejudice

Islam is viewed as an anti-racist religion, and the Qur’an states categorically that Blacks and Whites are both equal and should be treated as such. This admirable attitude was maintained by its theologians and jurists. However, with the emergence and expansion of the Islamic empires this began to change and prejudice and racism, based initially in ethnic differences and then on skin colour, emerged. The book argues that the pre-Islamic and early Islamic Arabs, like the other nations around them, had a strong sense of their own superiority against those of the surrounding peoples. This was based on ethnicity, not colour. A variety of colours were used to describe the variations in human complexion, and were used in relative rather than absolute terms. Thus the Arabs saw themselves as black compared to the ‘red’ Persians, but white compared to the Black peoples of Africa. As the new Arab ruling class intermarried with the peoples they had conquered, so there developed an attitude which saw Arabs of mixed descent as inferior, leading to dynastic conflicts between those of pure and mixed race. Muslim Arabs also saw themselves as superior to converts to Islam from the indigenous peoples of the Islamic empire, and a set of rules developed to enforce the converts’ inferior social status. At the same time, the Arabs formed various explanations based on the environment for the ethnic differences they observed among different peoples. An Iraqi writer believed that Whites had been undercooked in the womb due to the coldness of the environment they occupied. Blacks, on the other hand, were overcooked. The Iraqi people, however, were brown and mentally and physically superior to the other two races.

Development of Anti-Black Prejudice

As Islam expanded into sub-Saharan Africa anti-Black racism developed. This did not initially exist, not least because Ethiopia had been one of the major superpowers in the Arabian peninsula with a superior culture. Muslims also respected the Abyssinians for giving sanctuary to many of Mohammed’s followers during their persecution by the Meccan pagans. Over time, however, an attitude of contempt and racial superiority emerged towards Blacks. This racism even extended towards highly regarded Black Arabic poets and the governors of provinces, who were reproached and vilified for their colour by their enemies. Here Arab racist views of Blacks is nearly identical to those of White European racists. They were seen as lazy, ugly, stupid and lustful. The prurient view of Black women as boiling with sexual desire mirrors the racist attitude towards Jewish women amongst western anti-Semites. On the other hand, Blacks were also seen as strong, loyal, generous and merry. They also had excellent rhythm. Although both Whites and Blacks were enslaved, White slaves had a higher status and different terms were used to describe them. White slaves were mawlana, literally, ‘owned’. Only Black slaves were described as slaves, abid, a term that is still used to mean Black people in parts of the Arab world today.

The expansion of the European states and empires effectively cut off or severely diminished the supply of White slaves, and as a consequence the value of Black slaves began to rise. Unable to afford White slaves and concubines from Europe and the Caucasus, the peoples of the Middle East turned instead to Abyssinians and the Zanj, Black Africans from further south. Abyssinians in particular were prized for their beauty and other qualities, and its from this period that the Arab taste for the beauty of Black Africans rather than Whites developed. And as anti-Black racism developed, so Muslims scholars and authors wrote pieces defending Blacks from racism, not least because many of Mohammed’s Companions had been Black and the emergence of powerful Muslim kingdoms in Africa.

Islamic Slavery and Slave Armies

Islamic slavery was comparatively milder and more enlightened than western slavery. Although technically slaves could not own property and were disbarred from giving evidence in court, there was limitations on the punishments that could be inflicted on them. Muslims were urged to treat their slaves humanely and manumission was praised as a noble act. It was particularly recommended for the expiation of particular sins. At the same time Islam permitted contracts to be made between master and slave allowing the slave to save enough money to purchase his freedom at an agreed date. There were stories of particular Muslims who freed their slaves even in circumstances where punishment would have been expected. One master freed a female slave after she asked him why he was still alive, as she had been trying to poison him for a year. Slaves could rise to high office. The viziers and other chief dignitaries of the Ottoman empire were slaves. Slaves were used to staff Muslim armies, and there were separate regiments for White and Blacks slaves. Sometimes this resulted in battles between the two, as during the dynastic battles where one side used Black soldiers and the other White. The mamlukes, the Egyptian warriors who ruled Egypt and who expelled the Crusaders and stopped the Mongols conquering the Middle East, were White slaves. They were freed after completing their military training and their leaders preferred to purchase other slaves for training as their successors rather than pass on their position to their own children.

Islam’s acceptance and regulation of slavery, like Judaism, Christianity and other religions, as well as the views of ancient philosophers like Aristotle, also meant that there was opposition to its abolition. Muslim defenders of slavery produced the same arguments as their Christian counterparts, including the argument that Blacks and other infidels were better off enslaved as it introduced them to a superior civilisation. When a 19th century British consul inquired of the king of Morocco what steps he was taking regarding slavery and the slave trade, he was politely informed that all the legislation was based on the Qur’an and sharia and that there was no intention of banning slavery as it was permitted by Islam. Indeed, the Ottoman province of the Hijaz, the area around the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, was exempt from the Ottoman ban on slavery and the slave trade after the ulema and nobles declared it to be an attack on Islam, along with legislation allowing women to go in public without the veil. The Turks were declared to be apostates, who could be killed and their children enslaved. Many of the pilgrims to Mecca came with a number of slaves, who acted as living sources of funding. When the pilgrim needed more money, he sold one or two of them.

The Myth of Muslim Non-Racism

In the last two chapters, Lewis discusses the emergence of the view of Islam as completely non-racist and that its slavery was benign. He argues that this was largely the creation of western scholars reacting to the horrors of New World slavery during the American Civil War. Christian missionaries also contributed to this myth. They attempted to explain their failure to make converts by arguing that it was due to Black African revulsion against harsh western slavery. In fact it was due to differences of colour. Islam spread because it was promoted by Black African preachers, rather than White westerners. Particularly influential in the creation of this myth was Edward Blydon, a Black West Indian who was educated in Liberia by the missionaries. He became convinced that Islam was more suited to the needs of Black people, and his books also stressed White guilt, contrasting it with Muslim tolerance. Lewis also believes that the myth is also due to a widespread feeling of guilt among western Whites, which he sees as the modern counterpart to Kipling’s White man’s burden.

Along with the text of the book itself are extensive notes and a documentary appendix containing texts including a Muslim discussion on national character, the rights of slaves and diplomatic correspondence and observations on the 19th century slave trade.

Race and Slavery Compared with Brown’s Slavery & Islam

This book should ideally be read alongside Jonathan A.C. Brown’s Slavery & Islam, as the two present contrasting views of slavery and racism in Islam. Brown is a White, American academic and convert to Islam. While he condemns slavery totally, his book presents a much more positive view of Islamic slavery compared with western servitude and even the conditions endured by 19th century free European workers. He also extensively discusses Islamic abolition and the voices for it, while Lewis lays more stress on Muslim opposition. Brown recognises the existence of racism in the Islamic world, but also emphasises Muslim anti-racist texts like The Excellence of the Negroes. But as Lewis points out, these texts also show the opposite, that there was racism and bigotry in the Muslim world.

Lewis also recognises that Muslim slaves generally enjoyed good conditions and were treated well. However, the real brutality was inflicted on them during the journey from their place of capture to the Islamic heartlands. He also suggests that this relatively benign image may be due to bias in the information available. Most Muslim slaves were domestic servants, unlike the mass of slave labouring on the plantations in America. There were gangs of slaves working cotton plantations and employed in mining and public works, and these laboured in appalling conditions. It may also be that there were more slaves working in agriculture than recognised, because the majority of the information available comes from the towns, and so ignore what may have been the harsher treatment in the countryside.

He also discusses the absence of descendants of the Black slaves, except for a few pockets, in the modern Middle East. David Starkey in an interview for GB News claimed it was because the Muslim slave masters killed any babies born by their slaves. I don’t know where he got this idea. Lewis doesn’t mention such atrocities. He instead suggests that it may have been due to the castration of large numbers of boys to serve as eunuchs in the harems. The other slaves were forbidden to marry and have sex, except for female slaves purchased for that purpose. Slaves were also particularly vulnerable to disease, and so an epidemic lasting five years could carry off an entire generation.

Importance of the Book for an Examination of Contemporary Racial Politics

I was interested in reading this book because of the comparative lack of information on slavery and racism in Islam, despite the existence of books like Islam’s Black Slaves. Lewis in his introduction states that researching the issue may be difficult and dangerous, as it can be interpreted as hostility rather than a genuinely disinterested investigation. I think there needs to be more awareness of the history of Muslim slavery and Islam. For one reason, it explains the emergence of the slave markets in that part of Libya now occupied by the Islamists. It also needs to be more widely known because, I believe, the emphasis on western historic slavery and racism can present a distorted image in which the west is held to be uniquely responsible for these evils.

History Debunked on the Comparative Lack of Interest in British Asian History

December 17, 2021

This is a related video to the one I put up from Simon Webb’s History Debunked this afternoon, which discussed how the Beeb had race-swapped the characters in their adaptation of Around the World in 80 Days. Phileas Fogg’s servant, Passepartout, is now Black, but the leading lady, who is Indian in the book, is now White. ‘Cause you can’t have two non-White leads apparently. Or Blacks must be given preference over Asians when it comes to casting non-White roles. In this video Webb discusses the case of Hsien Fan Sun, a Chinese gent who worked as a librarian at the court of James II. If Sun had been Black, then knowledge of him would have been promoted as it has been about Mary Seacole and John Blank, the Black trumpeter at the Tudor court. But he isn’t, because he’s Chinese. It’s another example of how, to Webb, diversity means primarily Black people. Which left me wondering why this should be so.

Racism to and Enslavement of Asian Indentured Workers

Asians have suffered their share of western racism and enslavement. During the infamous ‘coolie trade’, Asian workers from India and China were recruited as indentured labourers to work on plantations in the Caribbean, Fiji and elsewhere to replace the Black slaves, who had been emancipated. They worked in horrendous conditions, which in many cases were worse than those endured by the Black slaves. The system was widely denounced by Indian nationalists and humanitarians, including the Anglican Church and leading politicos, as ‘A New System of Slavery’. Which is the title of an excellent book on it by Hugh Tinker, published by one of the Indian presses. There were riots against the coolie trade in India and China, and the British authorities were also keen to stamp out the enslavement of Asians. The Indian police raided warehouses where Indians were being forcibly confined after they had been kidnapped, or tricked into signing indenture papers. It was such a scandal that the government issued a series of regulations demanding that Asian labourers should have access to an interpreter and understand the terms and conditions of the contract, that there should be a minimum level of acceptable living conditions aboard ships, children should be with women rather than left with the men, and a minimum number of women should emigrate with the male workers. There should also be opportunities for correspondence home and the remittance of money. I think the Britiish government first discussed the recruitment of the Chinese in particular in 1816 or so. They wanted replacements for the Black slaves, and the Chinese were decided upon because they were hardworking and less likely to complain or rebel. The prejudice against Chinese workers continued into the 20th century, when the early Labour party at one meeting denounced the government’s ‘Chinese slavery’ and put up a picture of a Chinese man. There were anti-Chinese riots in 1909, although this was caused by British firms sacking their White employees and replacing them with Chinese during an industrial dispute.

The Asian Presence in British and European History

There isn’t a total lack of interest in the Asian presence in British history. The book Under the Imperial Carpet, whose editors were Asian, also discussed Asian British history. Before the present set of ethnic minority MPs were elected in the ’70s and ’80s, Britain had BAME MPs. Webb put up a video about an Indian rajah, who became a Conservative MP in the 19th century. Other Asians became Liberal and even Communist MPs later in the early 20th. I’m not entirely surprised by the presence of Sun at James II’s court. This was the age when Europe was expanding, not just across the Atlantic, but also into Asia. The Jesuits were establishing missions in China, and scientific and technical knowledge flowed back and forth. I think the Chinese were impressed by European clockmaking, while Europeans were impressed by the Chinese skill at making automatons. By the following century upper class Europeans were consuming tea, Chinese porcelain, decorating their homes with wallpaper and furniture with Chinese art and motifs. Chinese literature was also being translated into European languages. The great religious sceptic, David Hume, read at least one Chinese novel. What impressed him was not how different it was, but how it was comprehensible, given the difference between Chinese and European culture.

Asian Stars on British Television

There are and have been Asian actors and presenters on British TV. I’ve mentioned Anita Rani, Meera Syal, Sanjeev Bhaskar and Adil Ray in my previous post. But before them there was David Yip way back in the ’70s, who starred as The Chinese Detective. Dino Shafeek and Andy Ho appeared as the Indian and Burmese staff in the comedy It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum. The classical Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar gained widespread popularity among the Hippy crowd through his friendship with Beatle George Harrison. He’s said since that this wasn’t altogether beneficial, as you should approach classical Indian music with the same attitude you approach western classical music, rather than listen to it like pop. And were any number of western groups taking over oriental instruments, like sitars, and rhythms. This in turn led to the rise of World Music, a genre that encompasses music and its performers from across continents, and which includes both traditional and more modern forms.

And there is an interest in recovering an Asian, as well as Black British past. The Black rights and history organisation with whom I briefly corresponded when I was working at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum was the Black and Asian Studies Association. Researchers on Islam in Britain, when I was studying the religion at College in the 1980s, were particularly interested in the discovery of tombs with inscription in Arabic dating from the 17th century in Yorkshire. A more recent programme on the Barbary Pirates on Radio 4 in the early part of this century suggested instead that they may have been the graves of indigenous White Brits, who had been captured by the north African pirates and forcibly converted to Islam before either escaping or being ransomed. And a year or so ago there was a programme on Radio 3 about the Muslim servant of one of the ministers responsible for carrying through the Reformation over here. There have also been history books written about ‘The Muslim Discovery of Europe’. With the rise of capitalism, the stock exchange and the nascent consumer culture in the 18th century came popular ballads celebrating how people of all races and creeds, Jew, Christian and Turk, were all united in the peaceful work of making money. I don’t think there’s any shortage of material. My great-grandfather was a docker, and I can remember my grandmother telling me about the lascar and Chinese sailors that came into Bristol docks. But in general Webb is right: as a rule diversity means Blacks rather than Asians. Why is this?

Blacks More Determined than Asians to Be A Part of Mainstream British Culture?

I think some of it may be that Blacks have a greater determination to be a conspicuous part of western culture than Asians. Blacks have certainly formed a large part of the British and American entertainment industries since White youth started tuning into Jazz in the 1920s. There were Black screen actors, although quite often the roles they were given were demeaning before Sidney Poitier revolutionised the portrayal of Blacks on screen, paving the way for contemporary Black leading men. But then, so did Bruce Lee and stars of Chinese martial arts cinema like Jackie Chan and Jet Li. And some of us still remember the TV adaptations of the Chinese classics The Water Margin and Monkey, the latter based on Wu Cheng-en’s epic novel.

I wonder if some of it may be that some Asian cultures are more inward looking, and likely to look more toward their homelands and its culture for their roots and identity than Britain. Please note: I am certainly not suggesting that they are somehow less British than the rest of us. But I can remember coming across an academic, ethnographic study British Asians entitled The Myth of Return. This probably took its title from the initial conviction among many Asian immigrants that they were coming here only to make enough money so that they could afford to retire back to their home countries in comfort. This aspiration certainly wasn’t confined to them. Many Black West Indians also shared it, as did the Irish correspondent to the Groan whose letter began, ‘Sir, I am an Irishman, who came to Britain to make enough money to go back to Ireland again.’ In the ’70s there was a difference in integration between Muslim and Christian Pakistanis. Both groups were equally Pakistani in their culture at home, but the Christians were far more integrated into wider British culture. For example, their children mixed at school with the White children. By contrast ethnographers found that the Muslims took their children straight to school and straight back, and really didn’t allow them to share the same afterschool activities as their White classmates. This might explain why there were Islamist segregationists, who wanted there to be self-governing Muslim enclaves in Britain and Belgium, with Arabic as the official language, governed by shariah law. I hasten to add that things are rather different now. There was a Big Iftar around the country, a giant feast marking the end of Ramadan, celebrated by the Muslim community, who also invited their non-Muslim neighbours to partake. And polls have shown that only five percent of British Muslims want shariah law. But I think the Asian community may be more likely to get their entertainment from their ancestral countries through the Internet, satellite TV and video and DVD.

Asians More Culturally Confident?

I also wonder if part of the answer is that Asians, and specifically Indians and Chinese, may be more culturally confident than western Blacks. India and China were highly advanced, literate civilisations with histories going back millennia. A glance through books on the history of inventions and mathematics shows any number of works and innovations by Arab, Persian, Indian and Chinese scholars. The first instance of plastic surgery, for example, comes from 8-9th century India, when one of the leading surgeons repaired the nose of a Indian princes. Muslim mathematicians and scientists studied astronomy, alchemy, medicine. And the Chinese had printing – though not with movable type, that was definitely Gutenberg’s invention – gunpowder, rockets, paper money and toilet paper, to name but a few. Sometimes this cultural confidence has formed the basis for humour. One of the characters on Goodness, Gracious Me – or was it the Kumars at No. 42? was a father, who was excessively proud of his home country’s achievements. He shouted out ‘India!’ every time various inventions were mentioned. I also remember one episode of Lovejoy in which the dodgy antique dealer was in negotiations with a Hong Kong businessman. This man was also conscious of how his country had led the world in science and invention for centuries, to the point where he believed the Chinese had more or less invented everything. At one point this is too much for his interpreter, who says to him, ‘Oh no, Mr -, I don’t think we invented motorcycles’.

Black African Cultures Less Well-Known and Admired

This is in contrast to Africa, whose great civilisations and monuments are less appreciated. Ancient Egypt has been claimed as Black civilisation by the Afro-Centrists, but this is controversial and they could well be wrong. Nubia and Meroe in what is now the Sudan died out centuries ago. Christian Nubia was conquered by the Muslims. It’s predecessors in the Sudan unfortunately spoke languages that are now extinct. The Nubians took over the culture and alphabet of the Ancient Egyptians. Frustratingly, we can read their inscriptions but have no idea what they mean until the appearance of a Rosetta Stone that will give us the key to translating them. Abyssinia was a literate, Christian empire while the Kiswahili were also an advanced Islamic civilisation. As was Mali and other states in northwest Africa. But I think these have been seen as the exceptions rather than the rule. Although many of the civilisations of north and Saharan Africa were capable of building large structures, like house and mosques from mud brick, I suspect the popular image of Africa remains that of mud huts. And until the introduction of Islam and Christianity on the continent, many of these peoples were illiterate. The result has been that the attitude of many western scholars towards African civilisation was wholly negative. The book Colour and Colour Prejudice, by the last British governor of Ghana, has page after page of quotes from various western scholars, almost all of whom declare that African culture is worthless and that the continent’s people have discovered nothing. Obvious this has been and is being challenged by Black activists and scholars.

Blacks and Affirmative Action

Much of the promotion of Blacks as a specific group has come from concern at the poor conditions of the Black community in America and Britain. Other groups have also suffered racism. I can remember one of my uncles telling me with disgust about the horrible ‘jokes’ the other White workers played on an Indian comrade. As a rule, I think Blacks are at the bottom of the racial hierarchy when it comes to academic performance and employment. Above them, but still disadvantaged, are Muslims. Indians are about the same level as Whites, or just below, while Chinese actually outperform us. Black history as a specific subject in schools is being promoted as the solution to the problems of the Black community. If Black people were aware of their achievements and presence in American and British history, then they would develop the self-respect and confidence to perform better at school, and challenge the racism that still sees them as outsiders and foreigners. Unfortunately, this has led to Black activists claiming the credit for Blacks for scientific achievements that came from others. I think the entertainment industry is part of this drive for Black empowerment too. I have a feeling that some of roles created for Black performers are intended to provide positive images of Blacks as just as urbane and middle class as everyone else. Or proper, respectable working class. I’ve no doubt its done to challenge the negative racist stereotypes Whites may hold, while at the same time hold up positive role models to the Black community. To show that Black people also live in families with fathers, where the parents are respectable, upstanding citizens who work to support their children and give them the best life they can. I’m not aware that family breakdown is the same issue in Asian communities as it is amongst Blacks and the White poor, so some of the issues that have led to a specific emphasis on Blacks in diversity may simply not be as pressing. It thus seems to me that, in general, Asians may be so much more confident in their culture that they don’t see the same urgency in establishing and insisting on their historic presence in Europe.

Blacks More Vociferous and Forceful in Attacking Racism

I also think it may also come from Blacks complaining the most forcefully about racism. One of the key events in the introduction of positive discrimination in Britain were the 1980s/81 race riots, where Black communities in Bristol, Brixton in London and Toxteth erupted in rioting. It led to various official reports, which recommended affirmative action programmes to give greater opportunities to Blacks, as was being done at the same time in America. There have been protests in the Asian community, and interethnic violence between Asians and Whites, along with Asian anti-racist activism. But I don’t recall the Asians rioting in the same way Black Brits did. And the protests held by Britain’s Muslims seem to be about specifically Islamic issues, like the publication of the Satanic Verses, the Charlie Hebdo cartoons and general Islamophobia, rather than issues like employment or education although those have also been present. As a result, I think it’s probably true that Asians are less represented than Blacks in moves for ethnic diversity, although it should be stressed that they aren’t completely absent.

But these are just my ideas based on my own impressions. I may be wrong, and there may be other factors involved. I’d be interested to know what others think about it.

As an example of a TV series with an Asian leading man, here’s the titles to the Chinese Detective, starring David Yip, which I found on Robert Telfer’s channel on YouTube. Since then we’ve had Luther, starring the awesome Idris Elba as a Black detective. I like Elba – I think he’s a great actor, who could easily play Bond. I haven’t watched Luther, however, as the crimes he investigates all seem too grim and ‘orrible, like the serial killers tracked by Linda La Plante’s heroines. But perhaps it might be time once again for an Asian detective.

Is Starmer Trying to Manufacture a Rupture with the Unions?

September 29, 2021

Mike put up a piece this morning reporting that the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union had disaffiliated from the Labour party following the party’s threat to expel their lead, Ian Hodson. Hodson’s crime was to have dealings with one of the organisations Starmer has expelled on the trumped up charge of anti-Semitism, Labour Against the Witch-Hunt. LAW was founded to support Labour members, who had been unfairly accused of anti-Semitism and expelled. However, Labour Against the Witch-Hunt was perfectly acceptable when Hodson dealt with it. The expulsion is yet another example of Starmer’s retroactive justice, which has always been the mark of the tyrant. BFAWU is one of the founding members of the Labour party, and Keir Starmer is the first Labour leader to have driven such a union away. This is yet another first in his long list of disgrace and treachery. BFAWU planned their vote to coincide with Starmer’s speech but it was moved forward to the day before. They also released a statement criticising the bargain basement Stalin for ignoring Tory inflicted poverty to carry on a factional campaign against the left.

The statement, as quoted by Mike, ran

“We need footballers to campaign to ensure our schoolchildren get a hot meal. Workers in our sector, who keep the nation fed, are relying on charity and good will from family and friends to put food on their tables. They rely on help to feed their families, with 7.5% relying on food banks, according to our recent survey.

“But instead of concentrating on these issues we have a factional internal war led by the leadership. We have a real crisis in the country and instead of leadership, the party’s leader  chooses to divide the trade unions and the membership by proposing changes to the way elections for his successor will take place.

“We don’t see that as a political party with any expectations of winning an election. It’s just the leader trying to secure the right wing faction’s chosen successor.

“The decision taken by our delegates doesn’t mean we are leaving the political scene; it means we will become more political and we will ensure our members’ political voice is heard as we did when we started the campaign for £10 per hour in 2014.

“Today we want to see £15 per hour for all workers, the abolition of zero hours contracts and ending discrimination of young people by dispensing with youth rates.

The BFAWU will not be bullied by bosses or politicians. When you pick on one of us you take on all of us. That’s what solidarity means.”

(Boldings Mike’s)

The campaign for a minimum wage is yet another cause Stalin has betrayed. He initially supported it, but now has turned against it, presumably because it’ll upset the Tory businessmen and right-wing media he’s trying to impress.

I wonder if Stalin is trying to manufacture a break with the unions, or at least those that threaten the dominance of the right. The Tories, as the party of the rich and business, hate the unions with a passion and have done everything they reasonably could to destroy them or at least severely curtail their power. The unions are blamed for the industrial unrest of the 1970s, and there have been a series of attempts by the Tories to stop the union levy to the Labour party. And one refrain used by the Tories over and over again is that the Labour party is the puppet of its trade union bosses. In fact Labour was partly founded to represent the trade unions, developing from the ‘Lib-Labs’ – the union representatives who sat in parliament as members of the Liberal party in the late 19th century and the Labour representation committee. Blair’s New Labour remodelled itself on the Conservatives following the example of Bill Clinton’s New Democrats, who embraced Republican policies in order to appeal to Repeal voters. Starmer is doing the same, trying to purge the party of socialists and rejecting the socialist policies of the last manifesto, policies that he planned to support, in order to appeal to Tory voters and businessmen. Starmer seems to follow Blair in wishing for donations from business to be the main source of party income, rather than subscriptions from the party’s members and funding from the unions. Essentially the New Labour project was a capitulation to Tory criticism. And right at the beginning of his leadership, Tory Tony threatened to cut all ties with unions if they didn’t support his reforms of the party.

This is why I think Keef Stalin may be trying to engineer a split with the unions in his campaign to remodel the party fully into a clone of the Tories.

Stalin’s driving away of BFAWU is an attack on the essential character of the party and its history as a genuinely working class organisation.

And I am afraid that unless he and his clique are stopped, it will just be the first of many such anti-union attacks.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2021/09/28/founding-union-splits-from-labour-in-disgust-at-starmer-hours-before-his-big-speech/