Archive for the ‘Roman Catholicism’ Category

Archbishop of Canterbury Condemns ‘Gig Economy’, Tories Go Berserk

September 15, 2018

More hypocrisy from the Tory party. This week, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, gave a long speech attacking Universal Credit and zero hours contracts. He described the ‘gig’ economy the Blairites and the Tories have created, in which workers in insecure jobs are only called in if their bosses decide there’s work for them to do, and go without pay if there isn’t, the ‘return of an ancient evil’.

He made the speech after Labour had outlined its commitment to empowering workers, which included a comprehensive attack on the gig economy. Zero hours contracts will be banned, and employment benefits like sick pay and maternity leave will be extended to cover part-time workers. The party also pledged to end the ruse in which many firms seek to dodge their obligation to provide their workers with proper rights and benefits by making them officially self-employed.

The Archbishop mentioned Labour’s John McDonnell in his speech, who in turn praised the Archbishop. McDonnell said

“The Archbishop of Canterbury has set out a bold vision for a different society, one without the evils of the gig economy, the exploitation of workers and tax dodging of the multinationals.

“I welcome his speech, and the growing movement against the failures of austerity and neoliberalism. Labour will end zero hours contracts, clamp down on the tax avoiders, and ensure everyone has access to sick pay, parental leave and protections at work.”

The Tories, however, immediately went berserk, and showed their own hypocrisy when it comes to supporting the political intervention of religious leaders. They were more than happy when the former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks claimed that Corbyn and the Labour party were anti-Semitic. However, they were outraged that the Archbishop had dared to criticize the wonderful Thatcherite capitalism they’d created.

The Tory MP, Ben Bradley, tweeted

‘Not clear to me when or how it can possibly be appropriate for the Archbishop of Canterbury to be appearing at TUC conference or parroting Labour policy.’

He added: ‘There are a diversity of views as to what is best for the economy, but [he] only seems interested in presenting John McDonnell’s point of view.’

Simon Maginn tweeted his response

Rabbi Sacks: “Jeremy Corbyn is an antisemite.”
Tories: “Listen to the holy gentleman.”
Archbishop of Canterbury: “Tories have increased poverty.”
Tories: ‘Must keep religion out of politics.”

Mike in his article notes that Archbishop Welby was unapologetic, and observed that ‘The Bible is political from one end to the other’.

Mike concludes

His intervention is to be welcomed.

The Church of England is often seen as a haven for Conservatives and it will be interesting to see what happens to those Tories’ attitudes, considering this new direction from the pulpit.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/09/13/tory-hypocrisy-over-archbishops-intervention-in-employment-politics/

This has been going on for decades. The Anglican Church has been described as ‘the Tory party at prayer’, and the Tory party itself was set up back in the 17th century by supporters of the aristocracy and established church against the more liberal Whigs.

However, the Church has also contained passionate reformers working against social evils. Archbishop Temple in his book, Christianity and the Social Order, published in 1942, pointed to reformers like William Wilberforce and the others in the ‘Clapham Sect’, who campaigned against slavery; John Howard and Elizabeth Fry and prison reform; and F.D. Maurice and the Christian Socialists in the 19th century. These latter wished to see businesses transformed into co-operatives, which would share their profits with their workers. This strand of Anglican social activism continued into the 20th century, and in 1924 the Anglican church held a conference to examine the question of how the Church should tackle the poverty and injustices of the age. Temple also pointed to the example of the pre-Reformation Church in attacking some of the economic and social abuses of the times, and particular Protestant Christian leaders and ministers, like John Wesley, after the Reformation.

He also quotes the Hebrew prophets of the Old Testament to show how property rights, while certainly existing and respected in ancient Israel, were also limited and intended to ensure that each family had their own portion of land and that great estates held by single individuals, did not develop. He writes

In the days of the Kings we find prophets denouncing such accumulations; so for example Isaiah exclaims: “Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no room, and yet be made to dwell alone in the midst of the land.” (Isaiah v.*8); and Michah: “Woe to them that devise iniquity and work evil upon their beds! When the morning is light, they practice it, because it is in the power of their hand. And they covet fields and seize them; and houses, and take them away; and they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage” (Micah ii, 1, 2). And the evil here was not primarily economic, though that may have been involved. The evil was the denial of what Tertullian (c.160-230) would call ‘fellowship in property’ – which seemed to him the natural result of unity in mind and spirit. (p. 38).

The first chapter of the book, ‘What Right has the Church to Interfere?’, gives the reasons Temple believes that the Church indeed possesses such a right. It’s too long to list all of them, but one of them is that the economic structure of society is immensely influential on the formation of its citizens’ morals. Temple writes

It is recognized on all hands that the economic system is an educative influence, for good or ill, of immense potency. Marshall, the prince of orthodox economists of the last generation, ranks it with the religion of a country as the most formative influence in the moulding of a people’s character. If so, then assuredly the Church must be concerned with it. For a primary concern of the Church is to develop in men a Christian character. When it finds by its side an educative influence so powerful it is bound to ask whether than influence is one tending to develop Christian character, and if the answer is partly or wholly negative the Chu5rch must do its utmost to secure a change in the economic system to that it may find in that system an ally and not an enemy. How far this is the situation in our country to-day we shall consider later. At present it is enough to say that the Church cannot, without betraying its own trust, omit criticism of the economic order, or fail to urge such action as may be prompted by that criticism. (P. 22)

Temple was also very much aware how some politicians resented the Church speaking out on political issues. For example, Queen Victoria’s first Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, is supposed to have said after hearing an Evangelical preacher that ‘if religion was going to interfere with the affairs of private life, things were come to a pretty pass’. Temple added

(L)ater prime ministers have felt and said the same about the interference of religion with the affairs of public life; but the interference steadily increases and will increase. (P. 15).

And the friction between the Tory party and the Anglican and other churches has been going on ever since Thatcher set foot in 10 Downing Street. She got very annoyed when the-then Archbishop, Robert Runcie, issued a report detailing the immense poverty that had been produced by her policies. Norman Tebbitt, her attack dog, made comments casting aspersions on the good clergyman’s sexuality, on the grounds that he had a sing-song voice and the slightly camp manner of many churchmen. He was soon showed to be very wrong, as Runcie had been an army chaplain, whose ferocity in battle had earned him the nickname ‘Killer Runcie’. A friend of mine remarked about him that the really hard men don’t show it.

The Church has gone on issuing reports and holding inquiries into poverty in Britain, and other social issues. And the Tory response has always been the same: to attack and criticize the Church’s interference. There have been comments of the kind that the clergy should stick to preaching the Gospel, and then they might have larger congregations.

But if Thatcher and the Tories didn’t feel that the Church had any right to interfere in politics, they definitely believed that they had the right to interfere in the church’s ministry and pastoral theology. And that this right was absolutely God-given. When Thatcher was on the steps of Number 10, she started quoted St. Francis of Assisi’s famous prayer, ‘Where there is darkness, let us bring light’ etc. She also took it upon herself to lecture the ministers of the church on the correct interpretation of scripture. I can remember her speaking to a conference of the Church of Scotland, in which she explained to the assembled ministers and faithful her own view of charity and the welfare state, based on St. Paul’s words, ‘If a man does not work, he shall not eat’. Needless to say, the guid ministers were not impressed, and showed it in the massed ranks of stony faces.

Temple was absolutely right in stating that Christians had a duty to examine and criticize the economic structure of society as the major force affecting people’s morals and character. But Thatcherism goes far beyond this. I’ve read pieces that have stated that Thatcher’s whole outlook was based on her peculiar right-wing religious ideas. Thatcherism isn’t simply an economic system. It’s a political theology. Thatcher was strongly influence by Keith Joseph, who was Jewish. It’s why she prattled about ‘Judeo-Christian values’ rather than just Christian values. I have no doubt that the Jewish readers of this blog will have their own views about proper Jewish morality, and that these may be very different from Joseph and Thatcher’s interpretation.

Thus in Thatcherism the free market is absolutely virtuous, and any interference in its operation is an attack on a divinely sanctioned system. But from the standpoint of a left-wing interpretation of Christianity, Thatcherite theology is like its economics, profoundly wrong, bogus and harmful. And her celebration of the free market turns it into an idol, an object of false religious worship.

More and more Christians both here and in America are turning against this idol, just as left-wing Jews are turning against right-wing politics as incompatible with the liberal politics of traditional Judaism. The Church has every right and, indeed, a duty as a moral body concerned with people’s spiritual welfare, to attack Thatcherism and its destructive legacy.

I’m very much aware that we now live in a post-Christian society, where only a minority attend Church and most people profess to have no religious beliefs. Just as there are also sizable non-Christian communities, such as Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and the various neo-Pagan groups, who also have every right to make their voices heard politically. Temple also advances other reasons why the Church should speak out on more rational, non-religious grounds, such as morality and common human sympathy for the victims of suffering. I hope, however, that regardless their religious views, people will support Welby on the issues of employment rights as an entirely justified attack on an iniquitous situation, which desperately needs to be corrected.

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Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Wants Poor and Disabled Euthanised

May 18, 2018

Here’s another report from the American left-wing news site, The Young Turks. And it tells you everything you’ve always suspected about right-wingers both in the USA and over here: they really do want to kill the poor.

The offensive posts turned up on the Facebook page of Chris Barnett, who is running to be governor of Oklahoma. After a poll on the requirements to get food stamps, Barnett then apparently stated that euthanasia would be a solution to the ‘issue’ of the poor and disabled. This really did not go down too well with large sections of the general public. One person posted that most people on food stamps were actually in work, and those that weren’t also included the elderly and disabled. This met with the reply asking why ‘we’ are required to keep them? He went on to say that ‘euthanasia is cheaper and doesn’t make you a slave to the government’.

Barnett then met with such a barrage of criticism, that he’s issued a statement blaming the posts on that old excuse: his Facebook page was hacked into. Ana Kasparian and Cenk Uygur, the two anchors reporting the story, make the point that this is unconvincing. A random member of the public wouldn’t know the codes to get into his account. He could have blamed one of his staff instead, but this would have meant throwing the staffer ‘under the bus’. Unless it was the staffer, who really did it. He then made a further statement that what he meant was the poor and disabled shouldn’t be killed, but should simply be left to starve.

They also find his excuse unconvincing, because if you look at Republican webs sites and pages, so many of them are saying exactly the same thing. It therefore looks very much like Barnett did post those comments, unbelievable as they are.

This will also corroborate what Mike, Geoffrey Davis, one of the commenters on my Blog, and so many other disabled people, carers, and disability rights activists, that the Tories over here are also engaged in a policy Mike has termed ‘chequebook euthanasia’. The Tories are throwing extremely vulnerable people with no other sources of income off benefit, through sanctions and the wretched work capability tests, in the hope that they will starve to death. A thousand or so have. Mike, Johnny Void, and Stilloaks, as well as the Angry One from Yorkshire, Another Angry Voice, have posted up the lives and biographies of those who have, or worse, committed suicide in despair. Stilloaks compiled a list of these victims, which was reblogged by the others. The last time I looked it was around the 750 mark. And that was some time ago. I expect it to be approaching a thousand now.

And Tweezer and the rest of her foul crew are still saying that these deaths have nothing to do with the benefits system, even though many of the suicides left notes declaring that it was precisely because of the benefits system that they were taking their lives.

No, no, move on, you ignorant proles! Nothing to see here. We’re totally blameless, and in the right, because we’re helping you find work with our return to the less eligibility policy of the workhouse.

The Tories and the Republicans have very strong contacts with each other, and the Tories have been taking over Republican and Libertarian policies. Like the privatised police force. That was one of Rothbard’s brilliant idea, the founder of the Libertarian party in the America. The same Libertarian party, whose members include one of the billionaire Koch brother, and which in the 1970s ran a special issue in its magazine denying the Holocaust. Ctesias, who is, like Geoffrey Davis, one of the great commenters on this blog, also pointed out that the Tories also seem to have taken over the ideas of one Canadian right-wing philosopher, Gauthier. This piece of work wrote that the poor woman starving at the gates of a rich man feasting, has no call on his wealth, especially as it would deprive him of the pleasure of feeding the crumbs to the birds. It’s a complete inversion of Our Lord’s parable of Dives and Lazarus, in which the rich man, who ignore the poor man at his gate, goes to hell after death while the poor man enters heavenly bliss with Abraham. So much for the Christian Right’s concern for true Christian values!

A little while ago Tweezer’s choice for a universities’ watchdog, to make sure democracy wasn’t being stifled by all those nasty left-wingers on campus, Toby Young, was revealed by Private Eye as having gone to a eugenics conference at University College London. Yup, Tobe’s big on eugenics. And some of the others were far more extreme than he was, connecting it to race and IQ.

I’ve commented before that the Republicans and Conservatives are Social Darwinists, just like the Nazis. They see poverty and wealthy purely in terms of biological and economic fitness. The rich are there because they’re biologically superior. And the poor should be prevented from breeding, because they’re biologically unfit and so will only spread poverty. It was one of the ideologies in the 19th and early 20th century that was used to oppose health and safety legislation for working people, and the establishment of any welfare benefits. It led to the sterilisation of the poor, disabled and mentally challenged. And these policies were taken over by the Nazis, who claimed that they had made absolutely no innovations when adopting them.

And the endpoint of that was the murder of the disabled by the SS and Nazi doctors under the infamous Aktion T4. This was abandoned after a massive public outcry, especially by Roman Catholics led by Count Galen. But the murders didn’t stop, and the programme led eventually to the wholesale gassing of the Jews in the extermination camps.

Barnett may not have posted those vile comments, but they do speak for the Republican and British Conservative mindset. A mindset that is killing the poor and disabled by starvation, all while claiming just to be reforming and making the welfare state more efficient.

They’re lying. The true attitude to the poor is shown by the number of deaths they’ve caused, and the quarter of a million more people, who’ve been thrown on to private charity in the food banks.

Get them out before more people die.

RT: Protesters Say Why They’re Against Trump’s Embassy Move to Jerusalem

May 15, 2018

Trump movement of the American embassy to Jerusalem has caused widespread protests. Palestinians in Gaza have gathered at the enclosing fence to protest. 59 of them have been killed by Israeli soldiers, and something like a further 200 injured.

In this short video from RT, the protesters state exactly why they are against the movement of the embassy. One young man says its because Jerusalem is a contested city, where 35-40 per cent of its occupants – the Palestinian Arabs – are under occupation. A young woman says that Trump is gambling with the lives of both Palestinians and Israelis, which he has no right to do. The journo then asks Ahmed Tibi, an Israeli parliamentarian, what he thinks. Tibi responds by stating that it is a licensed demonstration, but immediately it began they were attacked, he was attacked, because of the Palestinians, and they were pushed back. He states Jerusalem is occupied territory. It should be the capital of the state of Palestine. The video then shows someone pushing Tibi back, while a woman states that they have tried to arrest the head of the Palestinians in Israel. She goes on to say that they will not allow this, and goes on to insist on their right to protest.

Mike has written a superb piece about the shooting of Palestinian protesters by the Israelis, and the shameful attempts to excuse the Israeli state by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and Labour Friends of Israel. He calls out the Beeb for remaining silent and not condemning this atrocity. And he puts up Tweets from ordinary people, including those whom the Board would probably describe as ‘the wrong type of Jews’, who have condemned the Israeli armed forces. He also shows footage of Israelis also protesting the move and the IDF shooting of Palestinian protesters.

Mike explains, despite the probability that the Israel lobby and the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism will find this yet another reason to smear him, why Gaza can fairly be compared to a concentration camp. He talks about the Nakba, the Palestinian term for their persecution, massacre and ethnic cleansing when Israel was set up, and that the Israeli state is engaged in a campaign of genocide against them. And he cites and shows various Israeli politicians, who have not minced words and talked about the killing of Palestinians in very bloody terms. One of these is a female politico, who talks about not only killing terrorists and demolishing their homes, but also about killing their entire families. This has sparked condemnation from the people Mike follows on Twitter, which include not only Muslims like Aleesha and Nadim Ahmed, but also Jeremy Corbyn, Craig Murray, who compares the shooting of Palestinians by Israeli soldiers to the Yemeni kids killed by British bombs, as well as Tom London, Shlomo, David Clarke and the comic actor, David Schneider. A number of Labour and SNP MPs also stood outside Parliament in support of the Palestinians, though this is a mere handful compared to the larger number, who kept their mouths firmly shut.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews and Labour Friends of Israel both issued statements blaming Hamas for putting the people of Gaza and the Palestinians up to protesting, thus causing them to get shot. These are nasty, weasel words. Others, including Tony Greenstein, long ago despatched that nasty excuse for Israeli atrocities. Palestinian society is split between a number of political factions. Hamas doesn’t have the absolute totalitarian control to move 40,000 people to the fence enclosing Gaza. What is driving the Palestinians is the simple fact that this is another assault on them, their national identity and their right to their ancestral homes. The Board and LFI also took those statements down when they found they weren’t convincing anyone, but people have taken screenshots of them.

And those trying to defend Israel have also brought back the old excuse that ‘Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East’. There are two answers to this. The first is that it isn’t. Lebanon is also a democracy. It’s different from Israeli and Western democracy, in that the various sects and religions are also guaranteed particular places in their parliament, according to the size of their population in a system known as consociality, but it’s still a democracy. The other argument is that it may be democracy for the Israelis, but it isn’t for the Palestinians. Yes, there are Arab members of the Knesset, and an Arab party is represented, but the Palestinians themselves live under an oppressive system of apartheid. And it shouldn’t matter whether a country is a democracy or not, atrocities are atrocities and the state or government which commits them is just as guilty as any other.

Mike makes it also clear that he feels the reason why no-one in the media is condemning these atrocities, or worse, they’re actually giving their support, is because they’re afraid of being libelled as anti-Semites. He states that these cowed journos shame us all. Mike’s a journalist, who prizes fairness and integrity, for which he was greatly respected by the people in local government when he was a local hack.

And he’s right about this. Norman Finkelstein has said in one of his videos that the Israel lobby has been smearing the country’s critics as anti-Semites since the 1980s. In fact he called them ‘a machine for creating anti-Semites’. And years ago, when the Israeli state started bombarding Palestine, a book came out entitled The Political Uses of Anti-Semitism. It was a volume of essays highly critical of Israel, half of which were authored by Jews. I also remember that one of the people, who spoke out against that was the thesp Miriam Margolies, who said she spoke as ‘a proud Jew, and an ashamed Jew’.

Shlomo, one of peeps on Twitter Mike has reblogged, urges everyone not to believe that Jews are somehow enemies within, who support Netanyahu 100 per cent, and that Jews are as British as anyone else. Shlomo isn’t the only Jewish Brit, who feared that Israel and its actions would result in British Jews being suspected as dangerous foreigners in their own country. Samuel Montague, in his famous memorandum, objected to Balfour’s decision to back the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine for precisely this reason.

As for Jerusalem, the UN resolution that recognised Israel stated that it should be a free city. As al-Quds, it’s the third holiest city in Islam, and so its occupation by the Israelis was bound to be bitterly resented. More than that, the Israeli paper Haaretz published an article a years or so ago reporting that hostility by the Israeli inhabitants against Arab residents was increasing along with calls for them to be expelled. The reporter was appalled at this, and called for a little more tolerance.

Mike’s statement that the Israeli state’s campaign of persecution against the Palestinians is genocide may well draw the ire of people like the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, but he isn’t alone in describing it as such. One of those, who includes the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians with other forms of genocide is the Israeli professor at Hebrew university in Jerusalem, who wrote a whole book entitled Genocide. This includes the Holocaust, naturally, though the Israel lobby hate anybody comparing the two. I’ve got a copy of the book on my shelf.

As for the Beeb’s silence, Lobster years ago commented that the corporation ties itself in knots trying to convince itself and others that it’s biased reporting is, in fact, impartial. Peter Oborne, in his Despatches investigation into the Israel lobby stated that off the record, many of the journalists and researchers in the Beeb’s news team complained that there was considerable pressure from management not to criticise Israel. This brings to mind the case of Danny Cohen, a very senior member of BBC management, who shot off to Israel a few years ago complaining of rising levels of anti-Semitism in Europe. Jews weren’t safe, and so should move to Israel. Which is the standard line of the Israel lobby. He’s since come back to Britain, which indicates that anti-Semitism can’t be that rife in Britain.

And then there are the geopolitical reasons, which might influence the Beeb’s culpable silence. Comparisons were made between the creation of Israel and the establishment of Northern Ireland by the Ulster Protestants, and it was suggested at the time that the British government was trying to create a little Jewish enclave amongst the Arabs in the same way that one of Ulster’s cities was a little Protestant enclave amongst the Roman Catholics. Which implies that behind this lies more British imperialism. Especially as Britain’s foreign policy in the region relies on two allies, the Israelis and the Saudis. The Beeb’s the state broadcaster, and it seems to me that it’s reporting reflects long term establishment views. And so they’re not going to be critical of the Israelis, in order to avoid alienating a valuable ally in the region.

And so, despite the horror of ordinary Brits and people across the world, the mainstream media remains silent about these atrocities.

For Mike’s brilliant analysis of the media’s silence and what’s happening, go to his post at https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/05/15/heres-why-people-are-afraid-to-denounce-the-genocidal-brutality-of-the-israeli-regime/

The Social Hierarchy that Makes Prejudice towards Some Minorities More Acceptable Than Others

May 9, 2018

Way back on April 23rd, Mike also wrote an article commenting on the near complete media silence over islamophobia in the Tory party, contrasting this with the furore over the supposed anti-Semitism in Labour. Tory peer Sayeeda Warsi had appeared on Robert Peston’s programme to state that islamophobic incidents and rhetoric were almost weekly occurrences in the Tory party. The only news outlet that reported Warsi’s statement, which not even Peston himself commented on, was RT. Which shows just how much we need the Russian-owned broadcaster and supposed ‘propaganda outlet’ to correct the massive bias in our own media.

Aleesha, a Muslim female blogger and political activist, who talked about the massive increase she’d seen in Tory islamophobia, but which went unnoticed and unremarked by the media, and which no one was condemning or acting against. She discussed the vehemently islamophobic comments of the Tory MP, Bob Blackman, Zac Goldsmith’s campaign for the post of mayor of London against Sadiq Khan, and the official EU Leave campaign, which said that Europe has an ‘exploding Muslim population’.

Aleesha further asked

“Why is nobody acting? I have been blocked by Tory councillors and Tory MPs when I call islamophobia out. Why are these MPs and councillors supporting islamophobes? It makes me think that the Tory party has an actual problem with islamophobia, not to mention the dozens of times I’ve been religiously abused by Tories.

“Are we just going to ignore it? When will we give these cases the rightful outrage? Islamophobia is absolutely normalised in British politics and nobody is really doing anything about it. The silence from our politicians shows their inability to act and their legitimation/endorsement of these views. Are we going to act, or are we going to do nothing and let MPs like Bob Blackman host more extremists in Parliament?”

Mike ended his article by referring back to Baroness Warsi’s comments, and concluding that the real reason islamophobia is being ignored is because the Tories love it.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/04/23/sick-of-labour-anti-semitism-lets-talk-about-tory-islamophobia-instead/

As Mike has pointed out repeatedly, racism of all types, including islamophobia, is far more prevalent amongst the Right, including the Tories, than the Left and the Labour party. But the media aren’t commenting on it, and are playing up the supposed anti-Semitism in Labour for purely political reasons. They fear Corbyn’s Labour and its programme of ending neoliberalism, renationalising the NHS, part of the electricity grid and the railways, and restoring the welfare state. The Blairites in the Labour party and their allies in the Israel lobby also despise him, not because he is an enemy of Israel, but because he demands dignity and justice for the Palestinians. This also attacks traditional geopolitics in the region, where the West has supported Israel and Saudi Arabia against Russia and the surrounding Arab nations. As a result, the Tories, the media, the Israel lobby and the Thatcherite Labour Right, the Blairites, have all seized on the spurious allegations of anti-Semitism against Corbyn and his supporters as a way of trying to unseat the Labour leader and marginalise and expel his supporters.

There are also a number of reasons why islamophobia is far also far more acceptable than other forms of racial prejudice. Colour prejudice is one factor. Most Muslims in this country are Black or Asian, and Muslims may also be seen as more foreign than other ethnic groups because historically they lay outside and beyond the European Christian mainstream. While there have been Muslim communities in parts of Europe, like Spain, the Balkans and Russia and the Baltic states since the Middle Ages, they were always marginal communities outside the European mainstream. Europe in the Middle Ages was Christendom. Muslim Spain was part of the Islamic world, as were the Muslim communities in the Balkans which were established after the region was conquered by the Muslim Turks. The Ottoman Turks were an aggressive, expansionary threat to the European Christian states up until the late 17th century. The massacres of Christians carried out by the Ottomans at the end of the 19th century, when the Greeks and Serbs fought their wars of independence, became notorious, and so contributed to this stereotype of Islam as an innately hostile threat. At the same time, the massacres carried by Christians against Muslims was little reported and did not provoke the same outrage.

There is also the legacy of British imperialism, and its conquest of part of the Dar al-Islam in the creation of negative views of Islam and its peoples, followed by the continued instability of the region after independence. The result has been that Islam and Muslims have continued to be seen as a threat completely opposed to Europe and the West. The stereotype has been reinforced by the rise of militant Islam following the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Islamist terrorism and highly emotive campaigns by some Muslims in Britain, such as the Iranian fatwa against Salman Rushdie and the controversy over the Satanic verses, and the marches and demands for Pope Benedict’s death after he quoted a medieval Byzantine emperor’s negative comments about Mohammed.

And added to all this is Huntingdon’s ‘Clash of Civilisations’ thesis, which stated that after the collapse of Communism, there would be an inevitable conflict between the West and Islam. Huntingdon’s idea has been taken up by very many on the right, from the Republicans in America to UKIP, the Fascist and Nazi right in Britain and Europe, and now, it seems, a very large part of our own Conservative party.

But a few years ago, one right-wing writer also offered his own views on why prejudice against some minorities was more acceptable than others. He wrote

‘Is there, in effect, an unofficial pack of equality Top Trumps cards? In egalitarian Britain, who has the best minority credentials? They could go something like this:’

He then laid his scheme of how these cards would look as follows:

LESBIANS AND GAYS
Media Connections 9
Victim Status 4
Rarity Value 3
Fear Factor 6
Political/financial clout 8

MUSLIMS
Media Connections 4
Victim Status 6
Rarity Value 4
Fear Factor 9
Political/financial clout 4

JEWS
Media Connections 9
Victim Status 8
Rarity Value 6
Fear Factor 5
Political/financial clout 10

DISABLED
Media Connections 2
Victim Status 9
Rarity Value 8
Fear Factor 1
Political/financial clout 2

GURKHAS
Media Connections 7
Victim Status 5
Rarity Value 6
Fear Factor 9
Political/financial clout 4

TRANSSEXUALS
Media connections 1
Victim Status 3
Rarity Value 10
Fear Factor 2
Political/financial clout 3.

So who was the terrible person, who compiled this league table of marginalised groups? Well, actually it was Daily Mail sketch writer Quentin Letts, in his book Bog Standard Britain: How Mediocrity Ruined This Great Nation (London: Constable 2009), pages 115 to 117. They’re in the chapter ‘Bum Rap’, where he comments on the way the vile homophobia of some Caribbean rap lyrics are apparently considered acceptable, when Lynette Burrows was reported to the cops for homophobia when she questioned on the BBC the right of male gay couples to adopt baby girls. He concluded on this issue that

… it is hard to escape the conclusion that the police leave rap music alone because it has more minority value than the gay people it so charmlessly attacks. Lynette Burrows was collared because she was an easy target and because she was one of the majority. The rappers are more frightening and they have the political Scotchguard of victimhood.

But you could use his grading of the comparative power and victim status of various minority groups to argue that anti-Semitism is far more unacceptable than other forms of racial prejudice, because Jews have a greater victim status and political and financial power. If this came from someone on the left now, they would almost certainly be libelled as an anti-Semite. But there has been no such outcry against Letts. And I hope there isn’t, because I don’t believe he has written anything anti-Semitic.

There is some truth in what he writes, as the majority of Westerners are acutely aware of the long history of persecution the Jews have suffered in Europe, culminating in the Holocaust. Jews are also generally more integrated than some other groups, and Brits have a more positive attitude towards them. Only 7 per cent of Brits in polls say they are anti-Semitic. Many leading businessmen and media figures are Jewish, though this certainly does not mean that the vile conspiracy theories that claims Jews control business and the media are anything but murderous lies. And the anti-Semitic smears of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, and the Jewish Leadership Council carry weight, because they are part of the Tory establishment.

Against this, there are still anti-Semitic attacks and harassment. Nazi groups, like the banned National Action in England and the Alternative Fuer Deutschland in Germany have made terrifying speeches calling for the murder and extermination of Jews. And many of those libelled by the Blairites, the Tories and the Israel lobby as anti-Semites are self-respecting Jews, whose only crime is that, like their gentile anti-racist friends and comrades, they support Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour left.

Real, murderous anti-Semitism, like other forms of racism, still exists, and Jews have given their support to other marginalised groups suffering racial abuse in the West. The ADL, the American Jewish organisation dedicated to tackling anti-Semitism, for example, also came out in support of Muslims against Donald Trump’s immigration ban.

Thus, for a variety of historical, social and economic reasons, prejudice against some minorities, such as Jews, is far less acceptable than others, such as Muslims. But racial prejudice generally is far more common in the Tory party, and the current attacks on anti-Semitism in the Labour party has far more to do with politics than real anti-Semitism, as shown by the fact that so many of those smeared are genuinely anti-racist and Jewish.

Alt Right Star Milo Yiannopolis Gets Run Out Of New York Bar

April 25, 2018

Here’s another great video from the left-wing American news site, The Young Turks. It’s a video of Milo Yiannopolis, one of the stars of the Alt Right, being run out of a New York bar. Yiannopolis is gay, half-Jewish, and with a fondness for choosing Blacks as his romantic/ sexual partners. Despite this, Yiannopolis’ own comments and remarks are vehemently racist, as well as deeply anti-feminist and, bizarrely, anti-gay, quite apart from the real racism and misogyny at the core of the Alt Right movement itself. A few years ago he caused controversy when he went on a tour of colleges and universities all over America as part of his campaign to spread the ideas of the Alt Right. Or simply to wind up the left and anyone who takes anti-racism and women’s rights seriously. He styles himself a ‘virtuous troll’, you see, which is supposed to justify him performing stunts and making comments that have absolutely no point except to cause offence. In this case, he succeeded, and Yiannopolis was very happy to talk about how intolerant leftists were on campus. Never mind the real intolerance Yiannopolis himself spouts and represents with his very White supremacist and misogynist friends in the Alt Right.

He was all set to have a book published by Simon and Schuster, I believe, until the footage went viral of him on the Joe Rogan Show apparently condoning child abuse. He was talking about his own abuse by a Roman Catholic priest, which he claimed at the time was a very positive thing, and spoke equally positively about how young boys in such relationships weren’t being abused, but were in fact being psychologically helped.

It was rubbish; vile, dangerous, rubbish. Yiannopolis got dropped by the publisher, sacked from one of his jobs and there was considerable anger within the Republican party. So Yiannopolis appeared a little while later to make a tearful speech declaring that he most certainly does not condone child abuse, and that he recognises that he was himself a victim of it.

But he’s still a racist, and no matter how much he complains about the intolerance of the Left, progressive Americans aren’t standing for it.

The clip shows the welcome Yiannopolis got when he went into a bar in New York for a drink. Unknown to him, the New York chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America were already in there for a meeting. And they let him know exactly what they thought of him by chanting ‘Racist scum get out!’ Yiannopolis took their advice and left.

He turned up on social media to complain that the Socialists wouldn’t let him go to his chair or get his bag. The video shows that he made all this up. The Socialists in the bar don’t stop him from doing anything. They just stand there and chant, until Yiannopolis and what looks like a couple of his friends make their way out.

The hosts for this video, Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian, state that the Socialists called him a racist because, when he was defining what the Alt Right stood for, he did canvas and take on board the views of White supremacists and the Klan. It’s therefore entirely accurate to describe him as a Nazi. They also make the point that this exactly what he deserves because of his racism and bigotry.

I’ve no doubt that even now various Republican hacks and shills are probably writing articles about how intolerant the Left is, and how they’re blocking free speech and democracy. Just like the Daily Mail and the rest of the right-wing press over here a little while ago was moaning that ‘political correctness’ on British university campuses, and the ‘no-platforming’ of speakers with extreme right-wing, racist, misogynist or other offensive beliefs were a threat to free speech and the democratic free exchange of ideas at university. It’s all nonsense. What they’re really afraid of is the free enquiry they claim to be defending. They resent the fact that students do have and discuss left-wing beliefs, and are active challenging Conservative dogma and policy. And as Tweezer’s despicable treatment of the Windrush generation has shown, all too many in the Tory party are racist and support the institutionally racist maltreatment of non-Whites. From this perspective, it very much looks like their denunciations of ‘left-wing intolerance’ are merely another piece of camouflage to disguise their intention to legitimise real intolerance in the form of racism and right-wing bigotry on campus. All in the name of protecting Conservative values and freedom of speech.

After the Secret Flights to Deport Windrush Migrants, No-One Is Safe in Tory Britain

April 20, 2018

Mike in his articles attacking May and her truly foul decision to destroy the evidence needed for the Windrush migrants to show their right to live in our wonderful country also mentioned that poem by Martin Niemoller. Niemoller was one of the scandalously few Christians in Nazi Germany to oppose the regime. You know the poem. It’s become something of a cliché – It opens with the various groups the Nazis came for, with the refrain ‘I did not speak out, because I was not’ whichever group was being attacked. It ends with the line that when they finally came for him, there was no-one to stand up for him. This was the reality in Nazi Germany. The Nazis attacked group after group, not just Jews, but also Gypsies, Socialists, Communists, trade unionists, the disabled, and other political and religious dissidents. And it had an effect. The Catholic Centre Party, which could have voted against the Nazi seizure of power, actually voted for it because they were afraid that the Nazis would come and attack them and the Church. It didn’t help. The Nazis had no qualms about dissolving them, along with the other political parties. The only parties that voted against the Nazis were the SPD – the German equivalent of the Labour party, and the Communists.

The victims of Nazi persecution vanished into ‘Nacht und Nebel’ – ‘Night and Fog’. They were snatched from the homes, and vanished without trace, to be tried before special courts, in secret. The secrecy was quite deliberate. It was done to create fear and deter anyone else from protesting against the Nazi regime. Or in the case of Jews, Gypsies, and the congenitally disabled, simply being. One of Hitler’s most notorious comments is his line ‘The people need fear. A healthy fear is good for them’. Torquemada, the science-fictional galactic Fascist villain of the Nemesis of the Warlock Strip in 2000AD, said the same, except he dropped the ‘healthy’ bit. I’m sure the line was a deliberate quote by the writer, Pat Mills, and shows the research he did on the Third Reich that influenced the war stories in Battle and his other strips against racism and Fascism. ‘Nemesis’ was a fantasy, but based solidly in fact and addressing a real issue.

The knock on the door in the middle of the night and arrests by secret police weren’t unique to the Nazis. It was done in Stalin’s Soviet Union, and by authoritarian regimes across the world, right up to the present day. Like Communist China and Israel’s persecution of the Palestinians, to name just two. And I wonder how long it will be before the Fascist, anti-Semitic Fidesz government in Hungary starts doing the same, after their prime minister declared a list of 200 organisations to be subversive followers of George Soros. Who is, of course, a Jewish financier, exactly like the villains of Nazi conspiracy theory.

But we can’t be complacent. Blair tried to introduce secret courts in this country, and Dave Cameron and Nick Clegg did. These are special courts for those charged with terrorism, and where public disclosure of the evidence is judged to be harmful to that old chestnut, national security. Under the legislation, these trial may be held in secret. The accused and their lawyer may not know the identity of their accuser, or the evidence against them. Or even what the charge is.

It is exactly like the perverted judicial systems of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. And once again, literature got their first. Franz Kafka described all this in his novels, The Castle and The Trial. Kafka, however, had a peculiar sense of humour. He said once that these tales are meant to be funny, in an ironic way. I can remember being told at school that irony plays a big part in the German sense of humour – OK, Kafka was a Jewish Czech, but he wrote in German, and I guess he shared their sense of humour. But it wasn’t a joke under the Nazis and the other totalitarian regimes, and it far from a joke now.

The people unfairly deported were thrown out of this country on secret flights, often shackled in contraptions like leg and hip restraints. This follows the ‘secret renditions’, in which foreign nationals accused of terrorism offences were secretly flown out of this country to others as a way of evading our laws banning torture in interrogations. The Tories clearly felt that after doing it successfully to one group, they could do it to others. So from terrorist suspects, they moved on to entirely respectable people, who came here to work and make a better life for themselves. People who endured massive racism and shouldn’t have to put up with any more of it.

If the Tories can do it to one group, they will do it to others. Food banks are another example. They started out to help asylum seekers waiting for adjudication on their right to stay in the UK, who were banned from claiming benefits. But Ian Duncan Smith and his boss, David Cameron, expanded them to cover ever person thrown off benefits under their murderous sanctions regime.

The Tories start by picking on unpopular outgroups, like terrorists and coloured immigrants. And then they push their policies into the most vulnerable groups of mainstream society.

Remember, in the 1970s large sections of the Tory party really thought that Harold Wilson was a KGB agent and the Labour party was riddled with Communists taking orders direct from Moscow. And leading members of the establishment, including Times journo Peregrine Worsthorne, wanted a coup and the internment of those judged to be dangerous radicals. This included not only politicians, but also trade unionists and journalists. You can read about it in Ken Livingstone’s 1987 book, Livingstone’s Labour.

You are not safe, no matter how long you’ve lived here. Even if your a tradition, White Brit. On this evidence, if the Tories continue with their arrests and secret deportations, they will eventually come round to making us vanish into their equivalent of ‘Night and Fog’. Just like the Nazis.

And if we don’t act against this and the other injustices, no-one will stand up for us. Just like no-one stood up for the Jews and the other victims of the Nazis in Niemoller’s poem and real life.

May and the Tories are a clear and present threat to democracy and the security of decent people. Racism and the persecution of immigrants is the start. Get them out, before they turn this country into something very close to Nazi Germany.

Jonathan Arkush Shouldn’t Be Immune from Criticism; the Chief Rabbi Wasn’t

April 15, 2018

Jonathan Arkush is the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, who splenetically claimed that Corbyn was ‘anti-Semitic’ to spend Passover with the left-wing Jews of Jewdas and that the organisation was a nest of anti-Semitism. It’s the standard libels and smears of the Thatcherites and the Israel lobby. Anything coming from the left which challenges the Israeli ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians or other atrocities in the Middle East is immediately declared to be anti-Semitic, along with those reporting or protesting against them. This includes genuinely anti-racist gentiles and self-respecting Jews, many of whom have been subject to real anti-Semitic abuse and assault, and did lose family in the Shoah.

And as Mike and a thousand other left-wing bloggers have pointed out, Arkush himself used an anti-Semitc trope when he attacked Jewdas. They were to him the wrong sort of Jews. I’ve discussed here how the trope has been used by paranoid conspiracy theorist to distinguish between the Jewish bankers, like the Rothschilds, who they see as being behind the global plot to create a one world Satanic Communist conspiracy, and ordinary Jews. And so make their bizarre and malign views seem less Nazi.

And yesterday I put up a piece about how Oswald Mosley apparently told Marks and Spencer, the founders of the British department store, how he intended to do the same. He was going to whip up hatred against the poor, impoverished Jewish immigrants from eastern Europe coming into the country fleeing pogroms in their homelands. But middle class, respectable Jews like Marks would be left alone. Spencer apparently had his butler politely throw Mosley, and a dam’ good thing too!

Arkush should be held responsible and criticised for using anti-Semitic tropes in his libels against decent Jews. And it shows the hypocrisy and cowed nature of the British political establishment and media that he hasn’t. But other leading Jewish establishment have been criticised for their use of similar, chilling bigoted language.

A few years ago the Chief Rabbi of the British Empire, Jonathan Sacks, caused justifiable outrage when he declared that Reform Jews were ‘enemies of the faith’. It’s horrifying bigoted words. It’s the accusation that was has been used by sectarians and religious bigots of all types through the ages to justify the persecution of rival sects and religions. Protestants and Roman Catholic Christians used it against each other during the Reformation, and the Roman Catholic church also used it to justify the persecution of the Cathar heretics in the Middle Ages. It has also been used by Christian anti-Semites to justify the persecution of the Jews.

The outrage was so great, that Sacks was forced to make some kind of apology, as he should. And so should Arkush for his use of anti-Semitic tropes against Jewdas and other left-wing Jewish groups.

It shouldn’t matter how ‘establishment’ a person is, or how respectable their organisation. If they make bigoted statements they should be held accountable and forced to apologise. If they cannot apologise, they should be removed.

Jonathan Sacks apologised for his bigotry. So should Arkush.

Andrew Marr Praises Steven Pinker’s Book on Science, Rationality and Free Markets

February 28, 2018

Mike has posted a number of pieces on his blog commenting on the right-wing bias displayed by Andrew Marr on his Sunday morning show. One recent example of this was his comment to a Tory guest, who came on immediately after he had given a hard interview to someone from the Labour Party. His interview of the Tory was softer, and at the end of it he leaned over to tell her that she had done ‘very well’. Or something like it.

I’m not surprised by this bias. Marr is a fan of the free market, the sacred ideology at the heart of Thatcherism, against which no-one is allowed to blaspheme or question. He was in the I newspaper a few weeks ago praising Steven Pinker’s new book, which argues that the world has got immensely better due to science, reason and markets. Pinker’s a neuroscientist and atheist polemicist. The book’s a successor to his previous work, The Better Angels of Our Nature. This was written to refute the claim that the 20th century was the bloodiest period in human history. This argument has been made in defence of religion, as much atheist polemic is based on the violence and bloodshed that has been generated by religion. But the 20th century is a problem, as the massacres and genocides there took place within an increasingly secular world, and in the case of the horrors committed by Communist regimes, were perpetrated by aggressively atheist regimes. And in the case of the Fascist regimes, it’s questionable how religious they were. General Franco in Spain believed that he was defending Christianity from secularism and materialism when he launched his attack on the Republican government, and horrifically many Christians did support the Fascist regimes against the supposed threats of Communism and Socialism. I’m well aware that Hitler claimed that he was doing ‘the Lord’s work’ in persecuting the Jews in Mein Kampf, but in his Table Talk he has nothing but contempt for Christianity, and wants astronomical observatories set up near schools as part of a scientific campaign against the religion. Hitler’s own religious beliefs seem to have been a kind of monistic pantheism, possibly not that far removed from those of the Monist League, who also sported the swastika as their symbol. As for Mussolini, the Italian dictated signed the Lateran Accords with the papacy, in which the Pope finally recognised Italy’s existence as a state in return for Roman Catholic religious education in schools. But il Duce had started out as a radical socialist, and many members of the Fascist party still were vehemently atheist. Much depended on the religious opinions of the local Fascist ras whether Roman Catholic religious education was taught in the schools in his area. I don’t wish to go into this argument now, whether these regimes were really atheist or not, or if the 20th century really was the bloodiest period in human history. I just wish to make the point that this was the issue at the heart of Pinker’s previous book.

Pinker’s new book apparently tells us that everything’s getting better, including the environment, and Pinker marshals an impressive arrays of facts. But all this said to me was that people and governments have become more ecologically conscious. It does not mean that we aren’t facing the devastating loss of an extraordinary number of this planet’s animal and plant species, or that we face catastrophic global warming which may make the Middle East uninhabitable.

But even more questionable is Pinker’s and Marr’s assertion that modern, post-Enlightenment society has been immensely improved thanks to the science, reason and markets. In the case of science and reason, at one level the statement is obviously true. Human life has benefited immensely from scientific advance, particularly in medicine. But the view that science and reason didn’t exist before then is one that many Medieval scholars would strenuously reject. In contrast to the stereotypes, the Middle Ages actually wasn’t anti-science. There are poems from the 12th-13th centuries celebrating it, and the new knowledge that was flooding into Europe from the Islamic world. The 15th century English poem, The Court of Sapience, lists the various branches of knowledge known to the medieval world, and celebrates them as the area of ‘Dame Sapience’, an idealised personification of wisdom. As for superstition and the occult, historians have also pointed out that the Middle Ages were also an age of scepticism as well as faith. Medieval theologians wrote texts arguing that visions of demons were more likely caused by a full stomach interfering with the correct functioning of the nerves, and so causing bad dreams. Others doubted whether the seers, who claimed to be able to identify thieves through peering in bowls of water or other reflecting surfaces, had any such powers, and were simply using common knowledge to put the blame on notorious thieves. And in contrast to what Marr apparently thinks, free market capitalism did not suddenly emerge in the 18th century with the French Physiocrats and then Adam Smith. In fact, some Christian theologians were arguing for free trade as far back as the thirteenth century.

As for free market capitalism benefiting humanity, the evidence today is that it really doesn’t. The neoliberalism ushered in by Thatcher and Reagan has done nothing but make the lives of the poor much poorer across the world, and in so doing has increased international tension and political violence. The Korean economist, Ha-Joon Chang in his book 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, shows how the strong economies of the world’s developed nations were all created, not by free trade, but by protectionism.

This is very clearly not something any true-blue Thatcherite wants to hear. But it also shows the strange, cult-like nature of the ideology of free trade capitalism. A number of writers have pointed out the apparently illogical, absolute belief its supporters have, even when they are shown the plentiful evidence to the contrary. They still go on believing and demanding free market solutions, even when it is abundantly clear to everyone else that not only do they not work, they are even causing immense harm. And Marr is clearly one of these true believers. He also seems to have uncritically accepted the view that science, reason and free market capitalism were all products of the Enlightenment, when academic historians have been pushing the origins of science and capitalism further back to the Middle Ages, and demonstrated that the Age of Faith was also one of Reason, however irrational it now seems to us.

Marr’s praise of the book and its promotion of the free market also gives more than an indication of his own political beliefs, and why he is much less sympathetic to left-wing guests on his show than those from the right. He’s another member of the cult of neoliberal market capitalism, and this has to be protected at all costs from unbelievers. Even when he and the Beeb swear impartiality.

John Wycliff’s Arguments for Pacifism

February 18, 2018

Last Sunday I put up a piece about the Lollard sermon, The Perversion of the Works of Mercy. The Lollards were the late fourteenth-early fifteenth century followers of the English theologian and reformer, John Wycliffe. Wycliffe was a kind of proto-Protestant, who denounced the corruption of the church, rejected the papacy and maintained that the Bible should be the sole authority for Christian doctrine. The Perversion of the Works of Mercy attacks the way people have turned away from performing their Christian obligations to feed, clothe, give drink to the poor, visit and care for the sick and prisoners, and instead do this all for the rich and powerful. It’s a powerful message for today, when the Tories’ official policy is to increase the tax burden of the poor, in order to give massive tax cuts to the rich. The Tories are also cutting benefits to the poor, unemployed, sick and disabled as part of this programme of making the rich even richer, while at the same time claiming that the destruction of the welfare state is all for the benefit of the poor themselves. It’s saving them from ‘welfare dependency’, and is encouraging them, in the notorious words of Norman Tebbit, to get on their bikes and look for work. It’s all part of the Tory and Thatcherite embrace of the Victorian attitude of ‘less eligibility’, which stated that conditions of state aid should be as harsh as possible in order to deter people from taking it up, and encourage them to take any job, no matter how low paid or exploitative.

Wycliffe was also a pacifist. I also blogged a month or so ago about a book I found on his pacifism in the Oxbow Bargain Book Catalogue. Wycliffe’s pacifism is also discussed by Basil Cottle in his The Triumph of English 1350-1400 (London: Blandford Press 1969). Here’s the passage where he discusses Wycliffe’s rejection of war, quoting the medieval theologian himself:

In each particular, Wyclif’s views are revolutionary, and his treatment of of war is typical of this: those who go to war cannot with justice say the Lord’s Prayer. ‘And before the seven axingis that Crist techith in the Pater Noster meneth … algatis to axe in charite, and thefore men that liven in werre ben unable to have their axinge; but thei axen ther owne dampnynge in the fifte peticioun, for ther thei axen that God for3yve hem ther dettis that thei owen to Hym, ri3t as thei for3yven men that ben dettours unto hem.’ [And for this reason the seven askings that Christ teaches in the Lord’s Prayer mean… at all events to ask in charity, and therefore men that live in war are unable to have what they ask; but they ask for their own damnation in the fifth petition, because there they ask that God may forgive them their debts that they owe to Him, even as the forgive men that are debtors to them.] But what was the situation in which the divided Church now found herself?-the Pope offering indulgences t6o those who would fight against the antipope (a subject extensively treated in a sermon on Martyrs) , and Bishop Despenser of Norwich leading his beastly and futile ‘crusade’ of 1383 against Flanders: ‘now men seyen that thei shulden, bi lore of ther feith, werre upon Cristen men, and turnen hem to the Pope, and slee ther persones, ther wyves, and ther children, and reve hem ther goodis, and thus chastise hem. But certis this came nevere of chastyment of Crist, sith Crist seith He cam not to lese lyves bu save hem. And hefore this is chastyment of the fiend, and never chastyment of Crist, that uside pacience and myraclis.’ [Now men say that they should, by the teaching of their faith, war upon Christian men, and win them over to the Pope, and kill their persons, their wivs, and their children, and rob them of their goods, and thus punish them. But certainly this kinid of punishment never came from Christ, since Christ says He came not to destroy llives to save them. And for this reason this is a punishment from the dreadful fiend, and never a punishment from Christ, who used patience and miracles.] Yet ‘blynde heretikes wanten witt as ydiotis, whan thei seien that Petre synnede not in smytynge of Malcus ere, but 3af ensaumple to preestis to fi3t’ [blind heretics lack understanding, like idiots, when they say that Peter did not sin in striking off Maclhus’s ear, but set an example for priests to fight]-though Christ prevented him from fighting further. ‘Lord, where this Pope Urbane hadde Goddis charite dwelling in him, whan he stired men to fi3te and slee many thousaund men, to venge him on the tother People and of men that holden with him?’ [Lord, did this Pope Urban have ~God’s charity dwelling in him, when he incited men to fight and kill many thousand men, to avenge himself on the other Pope and on men who belong to his side?] The friars, says Wyclif, preach to a bellicose text- that the English must get in first with their attacks on their enemies in other countries, for fear they do the same and sin be increased on both sides; a hideous doctrine of sinning so as to good.)

Cottle goes on to observe that ‘This new pacifism may have distasteful to readers who still enjoyed the memory of Crecy and Poitiers and to the old soldiers who must have figure among the 1381 malcontents’ (the Peasant’s Revolt). (pp. 235-6).

This hatred of war was shared by Sir John Clanvowe, soldier, diplomat, courtier, poet, crusader, and the author of the Boke of Cupide. This was so similar to Chaucer’s works, that for a time it was accepted as that great poet’s own composition. Clanvowe himself died in a village near Constantinople. Clanvowe wrote

‘The world holt hem worshipful that been greet werryours and fi3teres, and that distroyen and wynnen manye londis, and waasten and 3even muche good to hem that haan ynou3, and that dispenden oultrageously in mete, in drynke, in clothing, in building, and in lyuyng in eese, slouthe, and many oothere synnes.’ [The world considers them honourable who are great warriors and fighters and destroy and conquer many lands, and waste and give much property to them that have plenty, and spend outrageously on food, drink, clothing, building, and living in ease, sloth, and many other sins.] (Cottle, op. cit., p. 253).

Cottle himself says of this passage that ‘the attack here is almost on rank, and Clanvowe is disgusted that it is of these proud and vengeful people that ‘men maken books and soonges, and reeden and singen of hem for to hoolde the mynde of here deedes the lengere here vpon erth’. [Men make books and songs, and recite and sing of them so as to keep the memor of their deeds the longer here on earth.] (p. 254).

As I said with my earlier post about the Perversion of the Works of Mercy, I’m not putting this up to attack Roman Catholicism. I despise religious intolerance and don’t want to provoke any more sectarian religious hatred. I’m also deeply impressed with the various Roman Catholic organisations, clergy and lay people that genuinely work for the poor and those in the needy, and radical groups like Doris Day’s Catholic Workers. My point here is to show merely that religious radicals, like Wycliffe and Clanvowe, despised the way the poor were ignored and treated by the rich, and condemned war as fundamentally unchristian.

This is an attitude that attacks and refutes the vicious opinions of the religious right, with their prosperity gospel – that Christ wants everyone to be rich, and if you’re poor, it’s your fault – and is solidly behind the wars in the Middle East and elsewhere. These wars aren’t being fought to protect America, Israel or anyone else. They’re fought purely for the profit of immensely rich multinational corporations, who hope to profit from the theft of these nations’ state industries and oil reserves. As the above texts show, they would have been thoroughly condemned by Wycliffe and Clanvowe.

May’s Speech to Rich Tory Donors: This Is What the Lollards Warned You About

February 11, 2018

Sunday is the Christian holy day, so I thought I’d include here a particularly relevant piece of radical Christian polemic against the rich and powerful and their neglect and oppression of the poor from the 15th century.

A few days ago Mike put up a piece reporting Theresa May’s speech at a fundraising banquet for rich Tory donors. To get in, you had to pay £15,000 for a ticket. The long reign of Thatcherite neoliberalism in this country has led to a massive transfer of wealth from the poorer sections of society – the working and lower middle classes – upwards to the extremely rich. Thatcher, and her fanboys and -girls – have cut and privatised benefits and services to the poor, with the specific intention of making the bloated rich even richer, though tax cuts, massive subsidies, and exploiting the very state industries, that they have privatised and sold to them.

The Lollards were a proto-Protestant sect of the late fourteenth and early fifteenth century, who followed the teachings of the Yorkshire priest and reformer, John Wycliffe. Wycliffe was disgusted by the corruption of the church and society in his day. He advocated the Bible in English, holy scripture as the only source for religious authority, clerical marriage and proper concern for the poor. And he and his followers were bitterly critical of the friars, as they were generally perceived to have neglected their vocation of teaching and preaching Christianity to focus on serving the rich for their own material gain.

The text here is ‘The Perversion of the Works of Mercy’, which inveighs against the way Christ’s commandment to feed, give drink, and clothe poor people, and visit those in prison, as well as other holy works, have been so corrupted so that those, who feign moral rectitude and Christian charity now spend their time doing this for the rich and powerful instead. Here’s an extract. You should be able to understand the late medieval spelling and vocabulary.

Hou Sathanas [Satan] and his children turnen werkis of mercy upsodoun and discyven men therinne and in here five wyttis.

First Crist comaundith men of power to fede hungry pore men. The fiend and his techen to make costy festis and waste many goodis on lordis and riche men and so suffer pore men sterve and perishe for hunger and other myschevys. Ye, men that feynen hem [them] ful of charite and religion gadren proper goodis to hemselven and festen dlicatly lordis and laides and riche men and suffer here pore brethren begge for meschef and fare ful harde.

Crist comaundith to yeve drynk to thrusty [thirsty] [men] and wymmen. The fiend and his techen to puveye high wyn and spised ale and strong for riche men and lordis to make hem drunken and chide and fighte and foryete God and his lawe, and to suffer pore, that han nought of hore owene and may not labore for febilnesse or sikenesse and blyndenesse drynke water and falle in feveris or ellis perische.

Crist comaundith to clothe nakyd men and wymmen whanne thei han noght of here owene. Thereto the fend and his techen to yeve costly clothis and manye to riche men and mynstralis and shavaldours {Northern slang for robbers] for worldly name and suffer pore men have nakid sidis and schakynge lippis and hondis for cold that woo is hemwith the lif. Ye, prelatis and men singular religion, that taken the charge to ben procuratouris and dispenderis of pore mennus liflode, clothen fatte horsis with gaie sadlies and bridles and mytris and croceris with gold and silver and precious stonys, and suffren pore men and children perische for cold. And yit these prelatis and newe religious comen in staat of Cristis povert and his apostlis, and techen and crien that whatever thei han is pore mennus goode. Yit riche men closen dede stockis and stonys with precious clothis, with gold and silver and perlis and gaynesse to the world, and suffren pore men goo sore acold and at moche meschefe.

Crist trechith to herberwe [harbour, accommodate] pore men that han non houses ne penby to peye for here innys [inns, lodging]. The fend and his techen to herberwe riche men and lordis with grete cost and deyitte for worldly worschipe and suffer pore men wander in stormys and slepe with the swyn and many tymes suffer not hem come withinne here yatis, and so to fynde many excusacions and coloure this doynge, Ye, ypocritis of privat religion maken grete houses and costy and gaily peyntid more than kyngis and lordis bi sotil beggynge and confessions and trentalise and mayntenynge of synne, and herberwe lordis and riche men, and namely ladies, and suffer more men lie withouten or geten houslewth at pore men or ellis perische for wedris and cold.

Crist techeth to visite sike men and counforte hem and helpe hem of sustenaunce. The fend and his techen to visiten riche me, lordis and ladies in here prosperite and lykynge to be holden kynde [high born] and curteis, and to comforte eche other in synne and to have lustis of glottonye, lecherie and other schrewidnessis; but of pore men that ben beddrede and couchen in muk or dust is litel thought on or noght. Yit ypocritis of feyned religion vistien not fadirles children and modirles [motherless] and widewise in here tribulacion, and kepe not hemself unbleckid fro this world as Seynt James techith; but visite off riche men and wymmen and namely riche widewis [widows] for to gete world muk by false deceitis and carien it home to Caymes’ {Cain’s] castelis and Anticristis covent [convents] and Sathanas children and marteris [martyrs] of glotonye.

Crist techith to visit men in prison and helpe to delyvere hem in good manere and counforte hem bi almes-yevinge. The fend and his prresonen pore men for dette whanne thi ben not at power to paie and traveil night and day and liven ful harde and toylen with trewthe and susteynen wif and children…

From Middle English Religious Prose, edited by N.F. Blake (London: Edward Arnold 1972) pp. 239-41.

Clearly, this is a piece of sectarian polemic, and isn’t entirely fair. Historians have pointed out that the church was suffering serious poverty and neglect the time, which affected many of the lower clergy and monastic institutions, so that they simply weren’t in any position to perform their Christian duties of aiding the poor themselves.

And my point here is not to attack the Roman Catholic church, as I know many ordinary Catholics and Roman Catholic clergy are deeply involved in caring for the poor. But simply to make the point that the issues the Lollards inveighed against are still present and embodied in the Tory party and people like Tweezer. In the Middle Ages, it was the church that had the function of providing whatever welfare services there were to the poor, as well as the personal charity of great lords. But since Thatcher, public institutions and the welfare state – the modern, secular equivalents of these religious institutions, have been run down for the profit of the rich.

And there’s also a distinct religious parallel here too, though it’s with the evangelical Christian Right and their prosperity gospel. Tweezer is a vicar’s daughter, who claims that when she was a child she was a ‘goody two-shoes’. Lobster has pointed out just how many right-wing Christians gathered around IDS and now Damian Greene in the DWP. The evangelical Right in America believe that God doesn’t want you to be poor, for whom they have nothing but contempt. One particularly self-righteous Republican politico – it might have been Ted Cruz – even declared that the poor should be taxed more. ‘Because it’s what Christ would have wanted’. No, and this moron should read the Gospels before opening his mouth.

And I’m still furious at the way a large number of right-wing pastors made it clear that they didn’t care if one Republican candidate was guilty of molesting underage girls. He stood for their values, which were for the rich, and against the poor. And, of course, gays. Which shows how selective their concern over changes and violation of traditional sexual morality is.

These hypocrites have done as much harm to Christianity as Dawkins and the militant atheists. Many of the atheist polemicists are socially conscious people, whose rejection of religion is partly based on the way the religious don’t live up to their ideals. And as history has shown, and these pratts continue to show, all too often the atheists have been right in this criticism.

And in there moral condemnation of the fawning over the rich at the expense of the poor, the Lollards were right. And this text from six hundred years ago shows up the Tory party and its hypocritical supporters in the Christian religious right as it is today.