Archive for the ‘Wales’ Category

Vox Political: It’s Not GPs Who Should Resign, It’s May and the Tories

January 15, 2017

Mike yesterday put up a piece reporting a statement by a deputy head of the British Medical Association, Dr. Kailash Chand, that many senior doctors were considering leaving the NHS thanks to being made scapegoats by the Tories for the current NHS crisis in England.

Mike makes the point that it is indeed the Conservative government that is responsible for the crisis. They aren’t responsible for the NHS in Ulster, Scotland or Wales, and so those nations haven’t suffered a similar crisis in their health services. May and Hunt have further tried to blame everyone but themselves for the crisis, including pensioners, who they were claiming were filling up needed seats and beds.

Mike states that this time it has gone far enough, and we should be demanding their resignation. His article concludes

Theresa May seems keen to blame anybody but herself – she tried to pin the crisis on the elderly before claiming that A&E departments are buckling because she thinks GPs are lazy.

Enough is enough.

Whenever Mrs May, Mr Hunt or any other Tory (with the exception of Dr Sarah Wollaston, who has spoken up for the NHS, thereby proving she is in the wrong political party altogether) tries to run down the NHS, its doctors, nurses, specialists, workers or users, let’s just tell them:

“No. You are to blame. Resign.”

It’s a simple message, and easy to repeat.

Put it out there a few times and even our Tory-loving mass media might get the hang of it.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/01/14/why-should-doctors-resign-because-of-the-nhscrisis-caused-by-theresa-may-and-jeremy-hunt/

Mike also asks why high profile medical leaders and politicians are not demanding May’s and Hunt’s heads. Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis have a whole chapter on the failure of the medical profession to challenge the government over their piecemeal dismantlement of the NHS in their book, NHS-SOS. This topic may well deserve a blog post to itself to examine and explain it.

But for now, I completely agree with Mike. May, Hunt, Andrew Lansley and every other Tory, who has worked to undermine and destroy the Health Service from within, should resign. Now.

And why not also politicos from New Labour and the Lib Dems, who were also so keen to destroy the NHS in the interests of their corporate paymasters? They should go too.

And the same pressure should be kept on their replacements until the political class gets the message:

Restore the NHS.

Fund it properly.

Support NHS staff properly.

Or go.

These points are not negotiable.

New Book on BBC Bias

November 18, 2016

Looking through the Cheltenham branch of Waterstone’s today I found a new book on institutional bias at the BBC. It’s Tom Miller’s The BBC and the Myth of Public Service Broadcasting. I didn’t buy it, but glancing at the blurb on the back cover, it seemed to be about how the Beeb is biased towards power, and the establishment.

This really should come as no surprise to anyone. Despite the frothings of the right, which claims that the Beeb has a liberal bias, Edinburgh, Glasgow and I think, Cardiff University have studied the Beeb’s news bias, and found that it is significantly biased towards the Right. The two Scots universities found that it was far more likely to talk to Conservative MPs and businessmen, than to Labour MPs and trade unionists. The Kushner brothers, in their book, Who Needs the Cuts? state that they were prompted to write the book because of the way the Beeb and the rest of the media automatically accepted, quite uncritically, that the cuts were needed. When trade unionists appeared on the Today programme on Radio 4, and said that the cuts weren’t needed and were harmful, he was interrupted by the presenter. And then there’s Laura Koenigsberg, who is outrageously and blatantly biased. But you mustn’t accuse her of beings so, according to the Graoniad, because if you do you are only doing so because you’re a misogynist. Rubbish. People are criticising her because she is biased, and she’s a disgrace. It has nothing to do with her gender. Another of the Beeb’s reporters, who is also flagrantly biased is Nick Robinson. Remember how Robinson and his team careful cut footage of a question and answer session with Alex Salmond, the leader of the SNP, during the Scots Referendum? Robinson asked Salmond about whether he was worried that the main Scots financial firms would move down to London if Scotland gained independence. Salmond said no, and explained why he believed they wouldn’t. The Beeb then edited the video, first to make it appear that he evaded the question, and then claimed he hadn’t answer it all. I’m not fan of the SNP and its attacks on the Labour Party, but Salmond had answered the question, calmly and fully. It was pure falsification, a lie of the type you’d expect from the state dominated media in eastern Europe under Communism, for example. But it didn’t come from a wretched totalitarian dictatorship. It came from the Beeb, which is constantly congratulating itself on how ‘impartial’ it is, and what a world leader in quality broadcasting it constitutes.

Well, it’s biased towards the right, and more and more people are waking up to that fact, as this book appears to show.

Review: The Liberal Tradition, ed. by Alan Bullock and Maurice Shock

November 6, 2016

(Oxford: OUP 1967)

liberal-tradition-pic

I picked this up in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham. I am definitely not a Liberal, but so many of the foundations of modern representative democracy, and liberal political institutions, rights and freedoms were laid down by Liberals from the 17th century Whigs onward, that this book is of immense value for the historic light it sheds on the origins of modern political thought. It is also acutely relevant, for many of the issues the great liberal philosophers, thinkers and ideologues argued over, debated and discussed in the pieces collected in it are still being fought over today. These are issues like the freedom, religious liberty and equality, democracy, anti-militarism and opposition to the armaments industry, imperialism versus anti-imperialism, devolution and home rule, laissez-faire and state intervention, and the amelioration of poverty.

Alan Bullock is an historian best known for his biography of Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, which remains the classic work on the Nazi dictator. In the 1990s he produced another book which compared Hitler’s life to that of his contemporary Soviet dictator and ultimate nemesis, Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives. The book has an introduction, tracing the development of Liberalism from its origins to the 1930s, when the authors consider that the Liberal party ceased to be an effective force in British politics. This discusses the major issues and events, with which Whig and Liberal politicians and thinkers were forced to grapple, and which in turn shaped the party and its evolving intellectual tradition.

The main part of the book consists of the major historical speeches and writings, which are treated in sections according to theme and period. These comprise

Part. Fox and the Whig Tradition

1. Civil Liberties.

Two speeches by Charles James Fox in parliament, from 1792 and 1794;
Parliamentary speech by R.B. Sheridan, 1810.
Parliamentary speech by Earl Grey, 1819.
Lord John Russell, An Essay on the History of the English Government and Constitution, 1821.
Lord John Russell, parliamentary speech, 1828.

2. Opposition to the War against Revolutionary France

Speeches by Charles James Fox, from 1793, 1794 and 1800.

3. Foreign Policy and the Struggle for Freedom Abroad

Earl Grey, parliamentary speech, 1821;
Marquis of Lansdowne, parliamentary speech, 1821.
Extracts from Byron’s poems Sonnet on Chillon, 1816, Childe Harold, Canto IV, 1817, and Marino Faliero, 1821.

4. Parliamentary Reform

Lord John Russell, parliamentary speech, 1822.
Lord Melbourne, parliamentary speech, 1831.
T.B. Macaulay, parliamentary speech, 1831.

Part II. The Benthamites and the Political Economists, 1776-1830.

1. Individualism and Laissez-faire

Two extracts from Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, 1776.
Jeremy Bentham, A Manual of Political Economy, 1798.

2. Natural Laws and the Impossibility of Interference

T.R. Malthus, Essay on Population, 1798.
David Ricardo, The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, 1819.

3. Free Trade

Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations,
David Ricardo, Principles of Political Economy,
Petition of the London Merchants, 1820.

4. Colonies

Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations.

5. Reform

Jeremy Bentham, Plan of Parliamentary Reform, 1817.
David Ricardo, Observations on Parliamentary Reform, 1824.
Jeremy Bentham, Constitutional Code, 1830.
John Stuart Mill, Autobiography.

Part III. The Age of Cobden and Bright.

1. Free Trade and the Repeal of the Corn Laws

Petition of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce to the House of Commons, 20 December 1838.
Richard Cobden, two speeches in London, 1844.
Cobden, speech in Manchester, 1846,
Lord John Russell, Letter to the Electors of the City of London (The ‘Edinburgh Letter’) 1845.

2. Laissez-Faire

Richard Cobden, Russia, 1836.
Richard Cobden, parliamentary speech, 1846.
T.B. Macaulay, parliamentary speech, 1846.
Joseph Hume, parliamentary speech, 1847.
John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy, 1848.

Education

T.B. Macaulay, parliamentary speech 1847.
John Bright, parliamentary speech 1847.

4. Religious Liberty

T.B. Macaulay, parliamentary speech, 1833.
John Bright, two parliamentary speeches, 1851 and 1853.

5. Foreign Policy

Richard Cobden, parliamentary speech, 1849;
Viscount Palmerston, speech at Tiverton, 1847;
Richard Cobden, parliamentary speech, 1850; speech at Birmingham, 1858; speech in Glasgow, 1858;
John Bright, letter to Absalom Watkins, 1854;
W.E. Gladstone, parliamentary speech, 1857;

6. India and Ireland

T.B. Macaulay, parliamentary speech, 1833;
John Bright, four speeches in parliament, 1848, 1849,1858, 1859;
Richard Cobden, speech at Rochdale, 1863.

Part IV. The Age of Gladstone

1. The Philosophy of Liberty

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859;
John Stuart Mill, Representative Government, 1861;
Lord Acton, A Review of Goldwin smith’s ‘Irish History’, 1862;
Lord Acton, The History of Freedom in Antiquity, 1877.
Lord Acton, A Review of Sir Erskine May’s ‘Democracy in Europe’, 1878.
Lord Acton, letter to Bishop Creighton, 1887.
Lord Acton, letter to Mary Gladstone, 1881;
John Morley, On Compromise, 1874.

2. Parliamentary Reform

Richard Cobden, two speeches at Rochdale, 1859 and 1863;
John Bright, speech at Rochdale, 1863; speech at Birmingham, 1865; speech at Glasgow, 1866; speech at London, 1866;
W.E. Gladstone, speech at Chester, 1865; speech at Manchester, 1865; parliamentary speech, 1866;

3. Foreign Policy

W.E. Gladstone, two parliamentary speeches, 1877 and 1878; speech at Dalkeith, 1879; speech at Penicuik, 1880, speech at Loanhead, 1880; article in The Nineteenth Century, 1878.

4. Ireland

John Bright, speech at Dublin, 1866 and parliamentary speech, 1868.
W.E. Gladstone, two parliamentary speeches, 1886 and 1888.

Part V. The New Liberalism

1. The Philosophy of State Interference

T.H. Green, Liberal Legislation or Freedom of Contract, 1881;
Herbert Spencer, The Coming Slavery, 1884;
D.G. Ritchie, The Principles of State Interference, 1891;
J.A. Hobson, The Crisis of Liberalism, 1909;
L.T. Hobhouse, Liberalism, 1911;

2. The Extension of Democracy

Herbert Samuel, Liberalism, 1902;
Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, speech at Plymouth, 1907;
D. Lloyd George, speech at Newcastle, 1909;
H.H. Asquith, speech at the Albert Hall, 1909.
L.T. Hobhouse, Liberalism, 1911.

3. Social Reform

Joseph Chamberlain, speech at Hull, 1885, and Warrington, 1885;
W.E. Gladstone, speech at Saltney, 1889;
Lord Rosebery, speech at Chesterfield, 1901;
Winston S. Churchill, speech at Glasgow, 1906;
D. Lloyd George, speech at Swansea, 1908;
L.T. Hobhouse, Liberalism, 1911;
Manchester Guardian, leading article, 8th July 1912;

4. The Government and the National Economy

H.H. Asquith, speech at Cinderford, 1903;
Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, speech at Bolton, 1903;
D. Lloyd George, speech at Bedford, 1913, and speech at Middlesbrough, 1913;
L.T. Hobhouse, Liberalism, 1911.

5. Imperialism and the Boer War

Sir William Harcourt, speech in West Monmouthshire, 1899;
J.L. Hammond, ‘Colonial and Foreign Policy’ in Liberalism and the Empire, 1900;
J.A. Hobson, Imperialism, 1902;
Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, speech at Stirling, 1901.

6. Armaments

Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, speech at London, 1905;
William Byles, parliamentary speech, 1907;
Sir E. Grey, two parliamentary speeches from 1909 and 1911;
Sir J. Brunner, speech at the 35th Annual Meeting of the National Liberal Federation, 1913.

7. Foreign Policy

House of Commons debate 22nd July 1909, featuring J.M. Robertson and Arthur Ponsonby;
Sir E. Grey, two parliamentary speeches, 1911 and 1914;
House of Commons debate, 14th December 1911, featuring Josiah Wedgwood and J.G. Swift MacNeill;
Manchester Guardian, leading article, 1 August 1914;

Part VI. Liberalism after 1918

1. The End of Laissez-faire

J.M. Keynes, The End of Laissez-Faire, 1926;
Britain’s Industrial Future, the Report of the Liberal Industrial Inquiry, 1928;
J.M. Keynes and H.D. Henderson, Can Lloyd George Do It? 1929,
Sir William Beveridge, Full Employment in a Free Society, 1944.

2. The League and the Peace

Viscount Grey of Fallodon, The League of Nations, 1918;
Gilbert Murray, The League of Nations and the Democratic Idea, 1918;
Manchester Guardian, leading article, 24th June 1919;
J.M. Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace, 1919;
D. Lloyd George, speech at London, 1927;
Philip Kerr, The Outlawry of War, paper read to the R.I.I.A., 13 November 1928;
The Liberal Way, A survey of Liberal policy, published by the National Liberal Federation, 1934.

Epilogue

J.M. Keynes, Am I a Liberal? Address to the Liberal summer school at Cambridge, 1925.

In their conclusion, Bullock and Shock state that Liberal ideology is incoherent – a jumble – unless seen as an historical development, and that the Liberal party itself lasted only about seventy years from the time Gladstone joined Palmerstone’s government in 1859 to 1931, after which it was represented only by a handful of members in parliament. The Liberal tradition, by contrast, has been taken over by all political parties, is embodied in the Constitution, and has profoundly affected education – especially in the universities, the law, and the philosophy of government in the civil service. It has also inspired the transformation of the Empire into the Commonwealth. It has also profoundly affected the British character at the instinctive level, which has been given expression in the notion of ‘fair play’.

They also write about the immense importance in the Liberal tradition of freedom, and principle. They write

In the pages which follow two ideas recur again and again. The first is a belief in the value of freedom, freedom of the individual, freedom of minorities, freedom of peoples. The scope of freedom has required continual and sometimes drastic re-defining, as in the abandonment of laissez-faire or in the extension of self-government to the peoples of Asia and Africa. But each re-definition has represented a deepening and strengthening, not an attenuation, of the original faith in freedom.

The second is the belief that principle ought to count far more than power or expediency, that moral issues cannot be excluded from politics. Liberal attempts to translate moral principles into political action have rarely been successful and neglect of the factor of power is one of the most obvious criticisms of Liberal thinking about politics, especially international relations. But neglect of the factor of conscience, which is a much more likely error, is equally disastrous in the long run. The historical role of Liberalism in British history has been to prevent this, and again and again to modify policies and the exercise of power by protests in the name of conscience. (p. liv).

They finish with

We end it by pointing to the belief in freedom and the belief in conscience as the twin foundations of Liberal philosophy and the element of continuity in its historical development. Politics can never be conducted by the light of these two principles alone, but without them human society is reduced to servitude and the naked rule of force. This is the truth which the Liberal tradition has maintained from Fox to Keynes – and which still needs to be maintained in our own time. (pp. liv-lv).

It should be said that the participation of the Lib Dems was all too clearly a rejection of any enlightened concern for principle and conscience, as this was jettisoned by Clegg in order to join a highly illiberal parliament, which passed, and is still passing under its Conservative successor, Theresa May, legislation which is deliberately aimed at destroying the lives and livelihood of the very poorest in society – the working class, the disabled and the unemployed, and destroying the very foundations of British constitutional freedom in the creation of a network of universal surveillance and secret courts.

These alone are what makes the book’s contents so relevant, if only to remind us of the intense relevance of the very institutions that are under attack from today’s vile and corrupt Tory party.

Counterpunch on Udo Ulfkotte’s ‘Bought Journalists’

August 2, 2016

Today Counterpunch published a very interesting article by Thomas Harrington, ‘Europe’s “Bought Journalists”‘, on the promotion of pro-American, pro-Israel neoliberal imperialist policies in the European press, even in traditionally left-wing papers like the Groaniad, El Pais, the Suddeutsche Zeitung, Le Monde and La Reppublica, heavy weight papers with a record of supporting progressive politics. Harrington states that future historians will be amazed how a continent, with a sophisticated and critical intellectual culture, came to be dominated by American elite interests. He notes that America has always been keen to ‘manage the perceptions’ of its various allied countries as part of its Cold War campaign against Communism and the Soviet Union. It is an intrinsic part of what Donald Rumsfeld described as ‘full spectrum dominance’. This has now got to the point where American neoliberal interests now override those of Europe’s own peoples in the minds of their journalists. He compares this absolute belief in American, neoliberal cultural hegemony with religion in that this is uncritical accepted in absolute faith. He also states that when explanations are sought how this situation came about, the standard explanation is that the European population has got older, and so more conservative. But this can’t explain how Moises Naim, who was previously a member of one of South America’s corrupt governments, an arch-Zionist, former director of the World Bank, and also a former editor of Foreign Policy, which Harrington describes as the ‘in-house Bible of American imperialism’, came to be the weekend foreign policy ‘guru’ for Spain’s El Pais, a newspaper which is pro-welfare and anti-interventionist, while Spain is also generally pro-Palestinian. He suggests that it is due to the co-option of European journalists by the American secret state, and urges his readers to watch a linked interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine’s Udo Ulfkotte. The Frankfurter Allgemeine is Germany’s foremost newspaper, with a centre-right bias, rather like the Times over here. Ulfkotte in the interview describes Germany as an American colony and a ‘banana republic’ because of the way its journalists have been deeply compromised through their collaboration with the CIA and the German intelligence agency. Ulfkotte has written a book, Gekaufte Journalisten – ‘Bought Journalists’ – about this corruption. It’s a bestseller over the North Sea in the Bundesrepublik, but for some strange reason an English translation keeps being put off.

The article’s at http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/08/02/europes-bought-journalists/

I’m not surprised at Ulfkotte’s allegations, which seem only too plausible. Lobster has published several pieces over the years about the way the press has been used and manipulated to push the Atlantic alliance against the Soviet Union, and the role of particular journos in publishing disinformation and propaganda on behalf of the British intelligence agencies. Ulfkotte doesn’t mention it in his interview, but leading British journalists were also included in the British-American Project for the Successor Generation, a Reaganite project to train up pro-American future politicians, such as Tony Blair. But you won’t read much about it, because when one journo on one of the papers did – I think it was in the Times – he found the article spiked by the editor because he was another of BAP’s alumni.

As for the problem of getting a translation of Ulfkotte’s book into English, it struck me that what might be needed here is a version of the old ‘samizdat’ underground publication system for the nominally ‘free world’. Samizdat was the underground publishing system in the former Soviet Union, in which literature that had been suppressed by the Communist authorities was illegally copied and circulated. Among the works published and distributed in this way was Boris Pasternak’s Dr Zhivago. The people, who read samizdat literature described how they did so in utter secrecy. A book was often read in a single night, because it was too dangerous to keep hold of such books for very long. If a system like this is what is needed to publish book’s like Ulfkotte’s in Britain – or at least, England, if Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland go their own way after Brexit, then it will show very clearly that Jeremy Corbyn is right, and that David Cameron has created a ‘zombie democracy’. Though the credit mustn’t go just to the Tories. Tony Blair also did much to create the surveillance state and the system of secret courts that Cameron expanded, and which May will probably preserve and extend even more.

Smith Snipes at Corbyn from the Last Refuge of the Scoundrel

July 27, 2016

Smudger must be on the rocks, and seriously rattled. Mike today posted up a piece reporting that the Pontypridd Pratt was in the Mirror, claiming that Corbyn did not understand British, that is, Scots, Welsh and English patriotism. Instead, he claimed that he had a ‘liberal’, left-wing, ‘metropolitan’ perspective that is not part of the Labour tradition. By which Smiffy means that ‘nationhood, nationalism and patriotism aren’t really part of his makeup.’

Someone once said that patriotism was the last refuge of the scoundrel. And someone else declared that patriotism was the position of the man, who had nothing else to say. Corbyn is massively more popular than Smudger, and so Smiffy is revealed for what he is – an empty politico sniping at his rival from a last, desperate fallback position, trying to bang the nationalist drum to oust someone, who is both more popular and who has much more substance politically.

Corbyn’s Genuinely Patriotic Policies

Mike also points out that it’s not fair on Corbyn to claim that he’s unpatriotic, and includes a meme to show how patriotic he is. This is through real, substantial policies that will make a positive difference to the welfare of the country and its great peoples. It is not through empty gestures, like grovelling deference to the monarchy, or standing with your shoulders back, and your tie straight to sing the national anthem, as the departing, unlamented former occupant of No 10 told him.

Corbyn wants UK utilities to be owned by the British people through the British state. This is patriotic. Profits made in the UK, should be taxed for the benefit of the British people. Patriotic. British men and women should not be sent to fight in illegal wars. Hence his opposition to the bombing of Syria. This is, again, patriotic. It shows a concern for Britain’s children, her sons and daughters, who have to do the duty of fighting and dying. It is also patriotic in the sense that it is concerned with upholding morality and the British tradition of fair play. He believes in protecting British Steel. Patriotic. He does not want British companies to be taken over by US or other foreign firms. Patriotic. He wants to stop the privatisation of the NHS, so that it is run for the benefit of British patients, not US corporations. Very patriotic. And lastly, he feels that British trade should benefit us Brits, so he will veto the TTIP. Again, patriotic.

See Mike’s article at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/27/on-jeremy-corbyns-patriotism-owen-smith-has-given-himself-another-shot-in-the-foot/

Tories and the Right Unpatriotic in Selling Off Britain

Jeremy Corbyn is thus, in terms of policy, far more patriotic than the Right. Thanks to Thatcherite neoliberalism and the craze for foreign investment, our utilities are in the hands of foreign countries, as is much of our industry, including the City of London, so dear to the heart of Thatcher, Cameron and the rest of the Tories, including Tony Blair and New Labour. Cameron wanted British nuclear power stations built by the Chinese, as well as new roads. The privatisation of the health service carried out by Blair and Cameron has been at the behest and benefit of American firms such as Unum and Kaiser Medical. Atos, who administered the work capability assessment, was French. Maximus, who have replaced them, are American. And the mega rich, who make their profits over here, are squirreling them all away offshore in places like the Cayman Islands or Luxemburg.

By this standard, the neoliberal administrations Smiffy admires – Thatcher, Major, Blair and Cameron, are definitely unpatriotic. In fact, downright treasonous. But they got away with it because, following Thatcher, the Tory party became the Patriotic Party. You couldn’t get away from her and her chorus of sycophants yakking about patriotism. She was bolstered in this through her use of the symbolism surrounding Winston Churchill, the Second World War, and indeed through her unrestrained militarism. She had to be patriotic, ’cause we won the Falklands War. Well, just about, thanks to the Americans and Chileans. See, there’s another invocation of Winston Churchill, the great war leader and iconographic figure of British patriotism and pluck under foreign aggression. And then there was all the images of Spitfires racing across the skies in the 1987 general election. This was so blatant that Alan Coren dubbed it ‘the Royal Conservative Airforce’ on the News Quiz on Radio 4.

And even there, Thatcher’s patriotism was much less than it seemed. She sold off Westland Helicopters here in the West Country to the Americans. She made massive cuts to the armed forces. The Falklands War was partly caused by the ship defending the islands being recalled by her defence minister, John Nott. The Argentinians seized their chance, and invaded. Then there were the celebrations in the Tory right over 1992, and the closer integration with Europe that came about in that year. That was being celebrated and anticipated even under Thatcher. I can remember that in the late 1980s, a wine bar opened on the Promenade in Cheltenham with that very date as its name: 1992. Denis Skinner in his autobiography makes the point that Thatcher was far less Eurosceptic than she appeared to be. Skinner also supports us leaving the European Union, but for left-wing reasons, rather than those of the ‘turbo-charged’ Tories, Nigel Farage and the rest of UKIP. He points out that while she constantly wrangled with them over our contribution to the EU budget, she never actually threatened to leave. And it was Ted Heath, who took us in. And then in the 1990s there was all the fuss about ‘globalisation’, which meant that capital became international, and the nation state was to be gradually dissolved as more companies established themselves around the world.

So by the standards of economic policies and the practical effects of their ideologies, the Tories weren’t patriots. They advocated selling Britain and its people off to whoever would give them money. They convinced millions of impressionable voters that they were doing the opposite through manipulating the pageantry of the monarchy and the iconography of the Second World War.

Why Socialists Distrust Patriotism

But let’s examine the wider problems of Smiffy’s criticism of Corbyn’s alleged indifference to ‘patriotism’.

Firstly, a supposed ‘liberal’, ‘left-wing’ indifference to patriotism and nationalism is very much a part of the Labour tradition. Or at least, parts of it. In line with the rest of the European Socialist parties, many members of the Labour party opposed the wars between European powers in the 19th century, because it was felt – and not just by Marxists – that the working class of all nations had more in common with each other than with their rulers in the middle and upper classes. Socialists from all over Europe objected to the prospect of a war in Europe, because they felt that it would be carried out for the profit of the industrialists and the feudal aristocracy. This was shattered when the First World War broke out, and most of the Socialist parties showed themselves only too eager to vote war credits in support of the conflagration. But individual Socialists, including members of the Labour party, did protest against it, along with their counterparts in France and the German SPD.

Looking along the magazine racks in the newsagents in Bristol’s Temple Meads Station last Friday, I found among the current affairs magazines the New Internationalist. I can remember copies of that lying around my sixth form common room when I was at school. From what I remember, it’s another left-liberal magazine devoted to international social justice, particularly in the Developing Nations. Back in the 1980s, it was firmly behind the Greenham Women. I also seem to recall one of Paul Weller’s songs having the refrain, ‘Internationalists’, although I can’t remember which one.

British patriotism has also been intimately connected to imperialism. From the 19th century one of the holidays celebrated was ‘Empire Day’. David Dimbleby in one edition of his art history series, The Seven Ages of Britain, dug out a Victorian children’s book called, The ABC for Baby Patriots. Under ‘E’, the book had ‘Empire’, for wherever the British citizen went, they would be safe and free. Except for the indigenes, who were expected to work for us. While that book expressed the attitude of the imperialists, the Labour Party in the 1920s passed resolutions committing itself to giving the colonies their independence. I even found it discussed in the autobiography of another Labour politician from that period, called Benn, though I don’t know if there was a connection to Tony. This particular Benn made it very clear he stood for granting the peoples of the British Empire the right to run their own countries. And George Orwell came to Socialism through his hatred of imperialism.

Smiffy also claims that working class patriotism is often socially conservative. He’s right, which is why so many left-wingers have been intensely suspicious of it. The national symbols it embraces are those of the ruling classes, such as the monarchy, the stately homes of the rich and powerful, and so forth. In the 1960s there was considerable controversy over a history programme called The World We Have Lost. Or rather, over its title. Some historians objected to it because it expressed a nostalgic support for the good old days of aristocratic rule, when proles and tradesmen knew their place. This kind of patriotism is bound up with Michael Gove’s view of history – that it should all be very Conservative, patriotic, and reinforce Tory values.

And what really worries left-wingers is the racism that can lurk underneath this kind of patriotism. Alf Garnett was a parody of working class Conservatives, people with dirty, broken windows, living in poverty, for whom the Tories had done absolutely nothing, but nevertheless doggedly supported them. As well as generally reactionary and ignorant, Garnett was virulently racist. Johnny Speight, the writer, intended the character to show up and lampoon that aspect of Conservativism. But he was dismayed by the failure of many viewers to see the joke, and there were all too many ready to agree with him about non-White immigration.

London is a multicultural world city, far more so than much of the rest of the country, although many cities nevertheless may have sizable populations of ethnic minorities. I feel uneasy when Smudger attacks Corbyn for being ‘too metropolitan’, because it suggests that he thinks Labour should reflect the growing racism and xenophobia of the Brexit campaign. One of the criticisms the political scientist Guy Standing makes of New Labour in his book, A Precariat Charter, is that they did try to harness the growing resentment of immigrants by pushing policies that increasingly denied them their rights, such as to welfare benefits and employment legislation. Smudger’s a New Labour neoliberal, and it seems to me that with his attack on Corbyn for his ‘metropolitan’ attitudes to patriotism, there’s a concealed racism and determinism to inflict more precarity on refugees and asylum seekers, the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.

Patriotism and Working Class Culture

But patriotism can also include left-wing elements, which would no doubt also horrify Smiff. If you think of Wales, for example, there’s not only Owen Glendower, and medieval Welsh kings like Hywel Dda, there’s also the images of working class radicalism – the Welsh miners, and their leaders like Nye Bevan. Scotland has Red Clydeside, Devon in England the Tolpuddle Martyrs, without forgetting the Yorkshire Miners. These are also part of British nationalism and national identity, along with heroes like Tom Paine, Thomas Spence, Keir Hardie, Feargus O’Connor and the Chartists, and other heroes and heroines of working and lower middle class history. The British folk revival of the 1950s was inspired by Black American blues music, much of which had been collected by researchers as part of F.D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. British musicians and musicologists began exploring their own traditional music, to find the traditional British counterparts to this American working class music. And it exists. Paine’s The Rights of Man was celebrated in song in the 18th century, and it can be found in sheet music even now. Thomas Spence and the Chartists also composed songs to put their message across. Chumbawumba did a version of at least one of these songs a little while ago. It’s on the Net, if you care to look. This is all part of our national identity and culture, but one which I suspect Smiffy isn’t easy with, and which Thatcher and the Tories positively wanted to suppress or dismiss. But these heroes and heroines did inspire Clement Atlee’s Labour party, when they one the 1945 election, and introduced the welfare state.

Conclusion

Smith’s comments about Jeremy Corbyn and patriotism are therefore both wrong, and potentially dangerous. Corbyn is patriotic in the matter that counts – doing your political duty to improve the lives of one’s fellow citizens. Thatcher and the neoliberals betrayed the British people, plunging them into poverty and selling off Britain, all while maintaining the illusion of British imperial power, and maintaining and expanding their class privileges. And Britain also has a rich, working class traditional culture, that also forms part of our national identity, in opposition to the approved culture promoted by Gove. And when Labour members and supporters were critical and uncomfortable with nationalism and patriotism, it’s because it all too often leads to imperialism and racism. A racism that it seems Smudger would like to harness once again, as part of New Labour policy.

A few years ago, Lobster published a unique and fascinating article by a southern Irish Roman Catholic Ulster Unionist. This particular contributor wanted working class radicals from both the Roman Catholic and Protestant communities to unite to do something positive for the working people of Northern Ireland as a whole, regardless of their faith or national loyalties. The piece also criticised Tony Blair for embracing the politics of culture. The author explained that this was dangerous, because in Ireland it usually meant there was a man with a gun behind it. It was a danger then, and I don’t think the danger has disappeared in the decade or so since that piece was written. And it shows how dangerous nationalism and patriotism can be at their most extreme.

Counterpunch Article on Israel’s Fear of Arab Jews

June 30, 2016

Earlier this evening I put up a piece about John Newsinger’s article on Labour and the anti-Semitism allegation in Lobster. Newsinger quotes a Jewish historian of the Holocaust, a passionate Zionist, to show that Livingstone was correct about the Zionists’ cooperation with the Nazis to encourage European Jews to emigrate to Israel to escape Nazi persecution. Newsinger also goes beyond this, to show how several of the great Zionist founders, Chaim Weizmann and David Ben Gurion, had nothing but contempt for the many incredibly courageous German Jews, who were determined not to give in to Hitler and his hordes. These included patriots, who had fought for their country in the carnage of the First World War, who formed the Reichsbund judischer Frontsoldaten. (Literally, ‘Imperial League of Jewish Soldiers of the Front’. These ex-servicemen were particularly awkward for Adolf’s goons, as in no way could they be reasonably accused of being ‘unpatriotic’.

A few days ago, the American radical Left magazine and website, Counterpunch, put up a piece by Jonathan Cook about Israel’s distrust of the Mizrahim. These are Jews from the surrounding Arab nations. Initially, the Israelis didn’t want to encourage them to immigrate, as they were afraid they would dilute the culturally superior Western element and so retard the country’s progress and acceptance as an equal by the Western nations. They were only allowed in because the Holocaust meant that there was a shortage of Ashkenazi and Western Jews to provide the new country with labour. One of the ways the Mizrahim were recruited to Israel was through false flag attacks on their homes in the Arab countries, for which their gentile compatriots were blamed. Inside Israel, they were segregated, and forced to attend separate schools. Like the British schools in Wales and Scotland, which penalised pupils for speaking the indigenous languages of Welsh and Gaelic, the Mizrahi pupils were forbidden to speak Arabic. And once again, David Ben Gurion showed that he was disgustingly bigoted and racist towards them, too, as well as those Jews, who wanted to continue to be Europeans. He called the Mizrahim ‘human dust’ and ‘rabble’. Cook notes that these Israelis have internalised the hatred of Western Jews towards them, and are as bitterly anti-Arab as they are. Indeed, they often provide solid support for Likud and the parties of the Israeli religious Right.

These issues came to the fore as Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister, banned Mohammad Madani, an official close to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, from entering Israel, accusing him of terrorism and other offences. Madani had been trying to establish contact with Israeli Jews, but had made the cardinal sin of contacting the Mizrahim, rather than the ruling Ashkenazim. For Cook, Madani’s ‘crimes, as defined by Lieberman, are worth pondering. They suggest that Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians is rooted less in security issues and more in European colonialism.’

See:http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/06/23/israels-fear-of-the-arab-jews-in-its-midst/

This is the reason behind liberal anti-Zionism. Left-wing critics of Israel don’t criticise it and document its misdeeds and atrocities from an animosity towards the Jews, but because they view it as a European-American settler state. And this affair certainly shows that there is much to this analysis. It seems to show the fear and distrust of a European ruling elite to the indigenous peoples of the region, even if they are other Jews.

Hatewatch on the Links between the American National Alliance and British Neo-Nazis

June 26, 2016

Thomas Mair, the suspect for the murder of the Labour politician Jo Cox, was a long-time members of the extreme Right, who had ordered about $600 worth of books on how to build home-made guns and ammunition from National Vanguard Books, the publishing arm of the National Alliance, the main American neo-Nazi organisation.

Michelle, one of the many great contributors to this blog, sent me this link to an article on Hatewatch, the magazine of the Southern Poverty Law Centre that documents the activities of right-wing extremists: https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2016/06/21/thomas-mair-brexit-and-us-uk-neo-nazi-connection. The Southern Poverty Law Centre has been around for decades. In the 1990s its leader, Maurice Dees, published a book on the threat of the Militias, independent, private armies of right-wing survivalists, bitterly alienated from the federal government, entitled Gathering Storm. The above article by Heidi Beirich, their intelligence director, describes the links to the National Alliance and other American Nazi organisations not just of Thomas Mair, but also Zack Davies, who carried out a brutal attack on a Sikh doctor in Mold in North Wales; Mark Cotterill, a former BNP member, who recruits for the National Alliance in Britain through his Heritage and Destiny website, Andrew Lovie, a former member of UKIP, and BNP stormtrooper, who has posted on the neo-Nazi website, Stormfront, in America. Among merchandising Lovie ordered from the National Alliance was a video game, ‘Ethnic Cleansing’, where the player goes around shooting Blacks and Jews. As grotesque and incredible as this sounds, it is all too plausible. When I was at College thirty years ago, the German Republican Party had got into the news and very hot water because of a computer game they launched, in which the player took the part of a the commandant of a concentration camp and had to prevent Jews, gays and leftists escaping. The article also describes the activities of two Brexit advocates, Andrew Tait and Matthew Tait, and Arthur Kemp. Andrew Tait ran a pro-Brexit website, ‘Vote Leave Take Control’, while Matthew Tait was a former BNP activist, who has spoken several times at conferences by American Renaissance, a racist outfit on the other side of the Pond. Tait also has his own website, Western Spring, in which he posted a pro-Brexit piece arguing that the EU was a Communist organisation to destroy the White race. Kemp’s a racist South African, who was a former officer of the BNP, and was at one time the media director of the National Alliance. Kemp also has a racist website, the New Observer Online, in which he calls immigrants ‘invaders’ and ‘rapefugees’.

Other Nazi assassins elsewhere in Europe also have contacts with American Nazi organisations. These include Anders Breivik, who was a member of Stormfront, Peter Mangs, another National Alliance member, who killed three people in Sweden, and Maxime Brunerie, a French Fascist, who tried to kill the-then president, Jacques Chirac. David Copeland, the infamous Nazi, who killed a number of people in a bombing campaign in London targeting gays, Blacks and Asians, was partly inspired by the Turner Diaries, a work of fiction describing a future extreme-right coup in America, sold by the National Alliance. And then there’s Frank S., a German skinhead, who stabbed Henriette Reker, a mayoral candidate for Cologne. He also was active online. The current Chairman of the National Alliance, Will Williams, is also living on welfare due to psychological problems, and has a history of victimising women. He celebrated the death of Jo Cox, stating that she had placed a target on her back.

Politically, the membership of extreme right-wing organisations in Britain is very low, but they are extremely violent, and as this article shows, several of the most vicious have transatlantic contacts. And there is a real danger that this violence will be spread and encouraged by Brexit. As one of my brother’s foreign friends has found, the amount of racism has increased and become very personal.

Brexit: A Catastrophe, with Some Positive Aspects

June 25, 2016

Like very many people, the Brexit vote on Friday left me depressed. I thought it might be a narrow vote to remain like a number of other people I knew, including some who were actually in favour of it. The result, unfortunately, has been a very narrow vote to leave. I have to say that I think the relatively small majority involved means that there should have been a minimum number of votes established for the motion to succeed. This is a major constitutional change, and so I think something like the two-thirds majority many nations demand for changes to their constitutions should have been the minimum number of votes the Brexiters should have needed to win. This has not happened, and I can the rancour and division arising from the vote and the fact that it was so narrowly passed continuing for several years yet. And especially once the negative effects of the vote kicks in.

Cameron Has Destroyed Britain

Let’s start with the fact that Cameron has destroyed the United Kingdom. Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay in the EU. As a result of England and Wales voting ‘Leave’, Nicola Sturgeon is now pressing for yet another referendum on Scottish independence. This time the SNP may well succeed. Even if they don’t, it will still lead to considerable constitutional friction as the desires of the Scots to remain in the EU clashes with the English and Welsh vote to leave. The result is going to be more division and acrimony.

And in Northern Ireland, that could be deadly. Despite the Good Friday Agreement and the peace initiative, there’s still very much sectarian tension in Ulster, and there is the threat anyway of a renewed terrorism campaign by dissident Irish nationalists. My own feeling is that the open border with Eire has had some effect in calming the political situation by giving the Irish Nationalists the opportunity for free contacts with the south, even if Ulster itself still remains a province of the UK. Very many people, including Mike over at Vox Political, have pointed out that the ‘Leave’ vote could cause further violence as the common membership of the EU was at the heart of the Good Friday agreement. That’s gone, and the treaty with Eire and the different parties at Stormont will have to be negotiated all over again. And if a referendum is called for the province becoming part of a united Ireland, the result could be further violence, especially from the radical sections of the loyalist community, who passionately wish to be part of the UK.

The referendum, so far, has done little except seriously to imperil the centuries-old union between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

More Attacks on Workers, More Austerity, More Racism

There are many good left-wing reasons for leaving the EU. However, the ‘Leave’ campaign was orchestrated by the Tory extreme right – Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Priti Patel and Gisela Stuart. Their main concern was to get Britain out of Europe so they could undermine further what few remaining rights workers have in this country, and so return Britain to the sweatshop conditions of the 19th century. People have died and seen their mental health made much worse already through benefit sanctions. Johnson, Gove and Patel will want to destroy the minimal welfare state that’s been left, including the NHS. The result will be further poverty.

And at the heart of this campaign has been terrible xenophobia, particularly directed against Muslims. Indeed, Farage criticised the early ‘Leave’ campaign because it was based on economic performance and the negative effects staying in Europe had on British business and the welfare state. Now the Brexit crew have admitted that their statement about the £350 million a year or so they claimed was going to Brussels, would go instead to the NHS, was a lie. Some people are going to feel betrayed. They should. But more likely this frustration and anger will be directed at the immigrants, who will continue to be blamed for taking British jobs and welfare benefits, even though this too has been exposed several times over as a lie. The result of this will be that Britain moves closer to the American far right, with Farage or Boris assuming the role of a British Donald Trump. Mike pointed out in an article on Thursday that Brexit will not substantially affect the number of immigrants coming to Britain. Over half of them are university students, another few more are coming to fill jobs where no British workers are available, and the refugees coming to Europe are covered by the international legislation on refugees, established in the 1950s, not by European law. I doubt if there will be a rise in membership of the Fascist right, as this has collapsed since it reached its peak a few years ago. What will happen is that probably more people will join UKIP, and there will be increased racist violence against Blacks and Asians. And you can guarantee that it will be stoked by papers like the Daily Heil, the Scum and the Express.

More Poverty, as Foreign Firms Pull Out

Mike over at Vox Political also put up a piece yesterday stating that Britain is likely to lose a number of foreign firms, such as the various American, Chinese and Japanese companies, that have set up business here so that they can have access to the European market. Honda in Swindon have been one, and there have been others across Britain, in places like Sunderland, which voted to leave. Now that Britain is about to leave the single market, and tariffs may be imposed on goods from Britain exported to Europe, there’s no advantage for these firms to remain here. So many will consider leaving.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/06/24/euref-the-fairy-tale-is-over-and-the-ending-wont-be-happy/

A Few Small Reasons for Hope

I don’t think that, as appalling as the Brexit is, it’s necessarily entirely bad. It gives a little more space to save the NHS and renationalise some of the industries privatised by Maggie. One of the reasons why the defenders of the NHS against privatisation, such as the authors of the book NHS SOS have been so insistent on taking action as quickly as possible, is that neoliberalism is written into the EU’s constitution and particularly its laws on competition. These state that once an industry or state concern has been privatised, it may not be renationalised, and other countries’ firms should be allowed to compete with it. This was due to come into force this year, when foreign firms were to be allowed to compete to run the railways. This piece of legislation locks in privatisation, and would mean that under the current EU legislation, we could not renationalise the NHS when Cameron, Osborne and Hunt finally privatised it.

Now Mike rightly points out that the squalid Brexit crew will want to lock in privatisation, especially with the Transatlantic Trade Partnership the Tories are so keen to sign. This needs to be very strongly resisted. Nevertheless, I don’t think the Brexit vote has been entirely bad, if England and Wales can use the opportunity it’s provided to stop the completion of the process of privatisation. But this is going to demand a considerable amount of work, and will be blocked not just by the Tories, but also by the Blairites in the Labour party.

The Sneering Attitude of the Yorkshire Frackers

May 24, 2016

The news was released yesterday that North Yorkshire council have given its permission to Third Energy begin fracking in Ryedale, despite widespread opposite from local people. The Independent reported that only 36 people wrote letters of support, compared with 4,376 letters opposing the plan. The anti-fracking organisation, Frack Off has said that this is thin end of a very large wedge, as there are many other schemes to begin fracking in other places across the rest of Yorkshire and England, with the consequent environmental problems of laying the pipes, and pollution. Wales and Scotland have had the good sense at least to place a moratorium on it. The Tories in England, however, want to begin fracking as quickly as possible to line their own bulging pockets with corporate cash.

Mike’s article about it can be read at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/23/north-yorkshire-council-tells-ryedale-get-fracked/

There is also an anti-group in the North Yorkshire region, which you can support. They’re at http://frackfreeryedale.org. The link is also on Mike’s blog.

What I found has infuriated a lot of people is the dismissive attitude of the fracking company towards their opponents. I know people, who were deeply offended by the sneering, dismissive attitude of one of the company execs or local councillors, who appeared on the news to defend the decision. When asked about the number of letters written opposing the plan, he waived the question aside with the statement that ‘they were all form letters’, or something similar.
He felt the objections of the thousands of people, who wrote into complain, could be dismissed because of the way they wrote to voice their opposition. Those I spoke to about it felt that this particular character was sneering at his opponents, because many of them were not as articulate or as well-educated as he thought he was.

It’s a nasty, arrogant attitude, which is, in itself, profoundly ignorant. Certainly, many people will have used the form letters, because they may not have, or may feel that they do not have, the ability to put into suitable words their opposition to fracking. That doesn’t mean that they are wrong, or that they don’t have genuine objections and compelling reasons for their opposition to the process. And it ill behoves a person in authority to sneer at those, who haven’t had the same educational advantages or aren’t as intelligent as they believe they are. Whatever a person’s intellectual or educational attainments, they should be treated with the same courtesy as everyone else. This might seem self-evident, but apparently it’s beyond the meagre intelligences of those raised in the Yuppie culture of the 1980s, and the smug, self-satisfied milieu of the rich and middle class.

Also, using a form letter does not mean automatically mean that someone’s stupid. Quite often the people who provide the form letters on the internet petitioning sites and so on are able to put the issue in precisely the right terms, which it’s difficult to improve on. I’ve used some of the form letters, because of this. They can be particularly useful if you’re tired and pressed for time, such as when you’re looking at your email at the end of a long day. Some internet petitions come almost at the last moment, when the government has suddenly moved a controversial or unpopular decision forwards and there is only a few days for the public to voice its opposition or desires. In these situations, I’ve used the form letter because I’ve considered that I really don’t have the time to waste trying to think of my own way of putting things, and just wanted to add my voice to others as quickly as possible so that there are enough people on the petition to make a difference.

The personally sneering attitude of the frackers shows that not only is the process objectionable, so are they. It also shows the absolute contempt they have for ordinary people. They think they’re better than everyone else, and so have a right to sweep them aside in the name of corporate profit. They need to be stopped, and taught some of the manners and proper respect for people that their expensive educations haven’t given them.

Hope Not Hate on UKIP’s Non-Breakthrough at the Elections

May 7, 2016

Yesterday I got this message from Nick Lowles and his team at the anti-racist, anti-religious extremism organisation, Hope Not Hate, putting UKIP’s performance at the council elections into perspective and showing that, whatever UKIP claim, it definitely was not an electoral breakthrough.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage has taken to the airwaves over the last 15 hours to declare that these elections have been a great “breakthrough” for his party. The media, by and large, has accepted and run with this narrative.

The only problem is that the 2016 elections have not been the breakthrough that Farage had confidently announced. Sure, UKIP won seven seats on the Welsh Assembly (out of 60) and became the equal largest party on Thurrock council – but beyond that UKIP’s results were underwhelming.

In fact, nationally, UKIP only won 55 council wards and given the fact that it was defending some seats, this meant a net gain of just 26.

This compares with 140 council gains in 2013, 163 in 2014 and 202 in 2015.

UKIP did not breakthrough in any new areas and in almost all of the local authorities it won seats, it did far less well than in previous years.

While there is no room for complacency and there is still a huge amount of work to do, let’s not allow Farage to talk up UKIP’s limited success.

We have produced a map to show UKIP’s limited gains.

Even in Wales, where UKIP gained seven seats on the Welsh Assembly, this was below expectations.

And hopefully our own campaign had an impact. In Wales alone, our supporters put out almost 500,000 leaflets, knocked on thousands of doors and had hundreds of conversations with people keen to help.

In Rotherham, we worked intensively in the five highest risk wards in the last couple of weeks. In Oldham, Hyndburn and Bradford we helped ensure that UKIP candidates failed in seats they had been widely expected to win.

While Thurrock was clearly a set-back, our local HOPE not hate teams played their part in ensuring UKIP had its worst election in Essex in since 2012.

Over the next few days we will be analysing the results in more detail and sketching out a plan to continue our work in these communities, but for now I just want to say thank you. Thank you to the hundreds of people who came out campaigning the 2,136 people whose donations made it all possible.

And thank you to you – our supporters – without whom HOPE not hate would not be what it is.

The message is also repeated on Nick’s blog, which has the maps and stats of UKIP’s performance over the past few years, so see

http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/blog/nick/the-breakthrough-that-wasn-t-4879

for full information.